Nebraska’s early child care providers face low compensation, high stress and a lack of health and retirement benefits, according to the results of a survey by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute and the University of Nebraska.

The survey received more than 1,600 responses from child care providers and teachers across four settings — licensed home-based child care programs, licensed center-based programs, public pre-kindergarten programs and elementary programs serving children in kindergarten through third grade.

Among the findings:

» Center-based teachers’ median annual salary of $18,700 is nearly $7,800 below the poverty line for a family of four.

» Less than half of all center-based teachers receive health insurance, paid maternity leave and retirement benefits.

» One fifth of pre-K and K-3 teachers hold second jobs.

» More than one-fourth of home-based child care providers and one-fifth of center-based teachers receive public assistance.

» Less than half of home-based providers and center-based teachers have a bachelor’s degree.

» More than one-fourth of teachers and child care providers did not feel well-prepared to teach at the beginning of their careers.

» 8 to 11 percent of all early childhood educators report clinically significant depressive symptoms.

However, despite the low wages and high stress, child care workers in Nebraska have an average of 12 years of experience.

Thelma Sims, owner and director of Element Learning Center in north Omaha, has more than 30 years of experience in child care.

After reading the results of the study, Sims said it validated her own experiences and those she sees her 30 employees face.

“It really can be a struggle for us,” she said. “It’s about time we start thinking about the health and well-being of the people taking care of our kids.”

Samuel Meisels, the Buffett Institute’s founding executive director, said the survey’s findings will inform the institute’s work in the future.

“These are the people who we look to and expect to support our children,” Meisels said. “But it’s clear we need to do better in supporting them.”

mara.klecker@owh.com, 402-444-1276

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