Underpaid but Choosing to Stay: Compensation Inequity in Kentucky Public Preschool

Victoria Sherif, Kathryn Chapman, Beth Rous

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The success of preschool programs is largely dependent upon a high-quality teaching workforce. Preschool educators are critical in supporting a child’s socio-emotional development, motivation, school readiness, achievement, and overall learning. While expected to be professionally prepared similarly to their colleagues from elementary and secondary education, public preschool teachers face substantial underpayment and a higher workload. This study, which was part of a larger study focused on the Kentucky early childhood workforce, presents fndings on compensation inequity for teachers and teaching assistants working with children aged three to fve years in public preschool programs. The average public preschool teacher reported having a college degree with 11 years of experience in their current position and 12 years of experience in public preschool. The average teaching assistant reported having some college credits or a Child Development Associate degree with six years of experience in their current position and nearly nine years of preschool-based experience. Teachers and teaching assistants reported low wages in comparison with similarly qualifed teaching staf at kindergarten through high school levels, with some having to work secondary jobs. Despite the wage gap, teaching preschool was a career choice for most respondents. To keep high-quality teachers and teaching assistants in public preschool classrooms, it is necessary to pay them a higher wage and provide support for their ongoing professional development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-73
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Education Human Resources
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© University of Toronto Press, 2023.


  • compensation
  • equity
  • public preschool
  • retention
  • workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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