New data reflect the enormous amount of hiring that schools would have to do to accomplish Biden's idea of universal pre-K in the United States.
According to an estimate from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, between 40,000 and 50,000 new teachers would be needed to enroll 70% of the U.S. 's 3- and 4-year-old population. School districts nationwide would have to hire an estimated 5,000 teachers a year to satisfy these demands within the following 10 years.
Hiring alone is not the only obstacle facing teachers. "A larger problem is that about half the teachers of the 5 million children currently enrolled need some additional education to complete a B.A. degree with specialized training in early childhood, about 125,000 teachers," NIEER claims in its fact sheet.
Based on the average spending of $12,500 per child per year, the cost to employ these teachers would end up at roughly 70 billion annually, reports NIEER. That is $50 billion more than the federal government spends on students currently.
School districts across the U.S. are canceling school days due to teachers undergoing exhaustion. There are further reports of teacher shortages, a problem that existed before the COVID pandemic strained most school systems.
Hiring so many teachers and staff is going to take time. Some states and localities that currently fund some form of public preschool, like West Virginia and Washington, DC, already report teacher shortages. According to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the average number of college graduates who completed teacher preparation programs fell 24% between the 2009-10 and 2018-19 academic years.
Furthermore, some K-12 districts are struggling to fill open positions, varying from teachers to substitutes and bus drivers -- a trend that predates the pandemic.
"We don't really have a pipeline of early childhood educators who are sitting idle," announced Chad Aldeman, policy director at Edunomics Lab, a research center at Georgetown University.
"If the federal dollars boost up pre-K enrollment overall, that could lead to a hiring crunch, potentially leading to shortages and a surge of novice and uncertified teachers, especially in low-income communities," he went on.
While some states like New Jersey have started enacting their universal pre-K programs, President Joe Biden has pushed for universal pre-K through his 1.9 trillion dollar American Families Plan in April. The proposed plan proceeds to struggle to gain momentum in Congress.
NIERR estimates that 6% of 3-year-olds and 36% of 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded program throughout the 2019-20 school year. While 44 states have some form of state-funded pre-k education programming, they are usually limited in space due to funding problems.