Paige McKay Kubik lost a third of her staff at preschools and daycares she runs through the Frazer Center in Atlanta after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Months later, she found it nearly impossible to hire new teachers – mostly due to competition from better-paying, less stressful jobs behind a cash register.

“Frankly, you could work for Target or Walmart and clock out when you’re done rather than have the stress of caring for young children,” Kubik told State Affairs. “We were losing people to those opportunities and new people weren’t coming in to fill it.”

Georgia’s preschools have lost hundreds of teachers to better-paying jobs before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many children less prepared to start kindergarten and fewer daycare options for thousands of parents to send their kids while they work.

Across the state, child-care workforce numbers have fallen by 20% over the past few years, largely due to low pay that hasn’t kept pace with other industries’ wage hikes, according to local teachers and advocates. They’re worried about what comes next for Georgia’s preschools and daycares after leaning on federal pandemic relief to prop up classrooms – money that’s set to run out in 2024.

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