Kidango has existed for more than 40 years and embraces a holistic approach to supporting children, families, and educators. Last November, they announced that all of its staff will receive a living wage of at least $26.92 per hour, which is the baseline livable wage in the Bay Area, in addition to its middle and upper management receiving pay increases. This has been a journey for Kidango, one that current CEO Scott Moore shared about in a recent interview with Early Edge California.
In 2015, Kidango had a minimum wage of $11 per hour. Within the next five years, that number rose to $20. The increase in California state funding towards child care in 2021 inspired Moore and other leadership at Kidango to reflect on their commitment to providing a living, and not just a competitive, wage. “We wanted to be leaders in teacher compensation in early childhood, and we wanted to be equitable and transparent in how we pay people,” Moore emphasized in his description of how the conversations began after the state budget increase. So, with additional encouragement from its funder Tipping Point, Kidango committed to identifying and providing a living wage for its employees as a value and began the process of identifying what the hard number was.
Kidango’s increased wages began with a discussion of whether the organization could afford it. Through a partnership with an external consulting group, Edgility Consulting, Kidango assessed how much of its staff was below the living wage and what it would cost to meet that need. Kidango relied on the Living Wage Calculator developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to determine the living wage for Californians living in the Bay Area. In 2021, as the cost of living in the Bay Area skyrocketed, the rate for child care subsidies rose with it. There was also an increase in the state infant-toddler child care factor, as well as an increase in Head Start funding during the pandemic. The estimated cost, they found, could be covered by these increased funding streams. It is important to note that Kidango’s early childhood education salaries are funded by the California Department of Education, the California Department of Social Services, and the federal Office of Head Start. They do not tie these salaries to large donations or philanthropic support. Instead, the increase of available public funds is what provided the necessary financial resources for Kidango to stand by its value of a living wage.
“As important as it is, the value of the work of educators is not reflected in their compensation,” Moore emphasized. “We need to raise the monetary value of the teaching profession overall, especially in early childhood, because it’s not equitable to ask teachers to sacrifice their financial well-being for them to continue this incredible work.” With the education workforce, particularly the Early Learning workforce, being predominantly women of color, the direct connection between increasing wages and equity is clear. Moreover, Moore emphasized the “generational sacrifice” that is being made by educators, both current and “would-have-been,” those who would like to become an Early Learning educator but cannot afford to due to the low wages. Current educators are sacrificing their financial security; would-have-been educators are sacrificing their passions in order to have financial security.
Conversations around the teacher shortage must intersect with conversations about raising the living wage and, to Moore’s point, begin with discussions about a professional wage. Kidango developed what it calls a “compensation philosophy” in the process of creating a living wage for its staff. The philosophy, comprised of 4 tenets, centers Kidango’s core values, which are rooted in equity, to guide compensation decisions now and in the future. Learn more about this philosophy and the compensation model that they have created.