Georgia had a shaky track record of hiring and retaining child-care workers before the pandemic forced preschools and daycares to close in March 2020. The state’s preschools for four-year-old children lost around 34% of their workforce between 2017 and 2020, according to state Department of Labor data. Daycare programs serving children from infancy to three-years-old faced an even worse trend, with a 40% drop in staff numbers from 2014 to 2020.
Overall, Georgia lost more than 6,000 preschool and daycare workers from 2017 through 2020 – a 20% decline, state labor data shows. With fewer teachers, local preschools can’t enroll as many four-year-old children as they would like since the state caps classroom sizes at 22 kids. The nonprofit Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Student (GEEARS) estimated child-care enrollment fell 22% between March 2020 and mid-2021. Wait lists have grown for preschools like the Bells Ferry Learning Center that have children ready to enroll but not enough teachers to meet class-size requirements.