Challenges and Opportunities in Early Education in Tehama County

By Kathy Garcia and Heidi Mendenhall

For Tehama County, most industries faced challenges during the pandemic. Supply chain issues, safety measures and controlling costs were priorities, but finding talent was and remains the number one challenge overall. One of the hardest hit sectors continues to be education. With retirements, a weak pipeline of job seekers and a reputation for being stressful, now more than ever, school districts are feeling the pressure. On any given day, over 400 job vacancies, from bus drivers to teachers to coaches, are available in Tehama County alone.

The districts are not the only ones feeling the pinch. Childcare facilities and preschools are also greatly affected and more are needed.

According to First 5 Tehama, the county has early childcare spots for just 31% of children ages 0-5. This includes preschools like Head Start, State preschool and private childcare centers. Without consistent, quality childcare and preschool options, many parents, primarily women, cannot return to the workforce. Over the last two years it has been common for administrators to be working in classrooms up to two days a week due to the lack of preschool teachers and qualified substitute preschool teachers..

How Tehama County responds to this overall need is not up to one organization or one strategy. The High Schools, Shasta College, Chico State University, Job Training Center, Expect More Tehama and the Tehama County Department of Education are studying the pipeline and working through multiple tactics. Can high school students graduate with early childhood education credits? With an industry recognized credential that bridges right into the ECE world? Can working adults work on their degrees and teaching credentials without leaving the county? Can we recruit more diversity within education? Can we build on the existing strengths of the early childhood field that already includes culturally and linguistically diverse staff? How can we best support our education system?

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