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“Last night, at Robin Hood’s annual benefit to support poverty-fighting efforts in New York City, Robin Hood, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian announced the formation of a $100 million Child Care Quality & Innovation Initiative for New York City. The initiative includes $50 million from Robin Hood – including a $25 million donation from Alexis Ohanian’s 776 Foundation – and a $50 million commitment from New York City.”

“The Child Care Quality & Innovation Initiative will seek to make high-quality, affordable child care more accessible while improving the quality of care provided to New York children. This new funding will go towards expanding access in child care deserts – neighborhoods without enough licensed child care providers – and provide options beyond traditional working hours to accommodate parents with atypical schedules. Additionally, it will oversee the creation of a single online portal to streamline the application process for vouchers and integrate them with existing benefits. Finally, the initiative will support workforce development programs that help drive quality across New York City, including encouraging models that compensate providers more fairly, reducing turnover, and creating opportunities for growth within the sector.

“ ‘We need to get New Yorkers back to work while uplifting families, lowering the cost of child care while increasing options to remove obstacles that are holding too many parents back. Investing in child care is a down payment on progress and the future of our kids,’ said New York Mayor Eric Adams.”

“Robin Hood, Mayor Eric Adams, and Alexis Ohanian Announce $100 Million Initiative for Child Care Quality & Innovation at Robin Hood’s Annual Benefit,” Robin Hood press release, May 10, 2022

State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee released its $49.68 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

This budget includes several key provisions for early education and care, which are outlined in Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues’ executive summary.

Highlights include:

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, a previously, federally-funded program that has helped stabilize the early education and care field during the pandemic

• $25 million for a new Early Education and Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape

• $25 million in a rate increase for early educators, and

• $15 million for preschool expansion through the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative.

The Boston Globe covers the budget story here. And MassLive covers it here.

Visit our website to see comparisons of budget line items over time, including the FY23 House budget.

While the Senate budget would allocate more early education and care funding overall than the House budget, most notably through C3 grants, the Senate’s proposal differs from the House’s in a few ways. The Senate budget calls for a smaller sized rate increase and does not fund the workforce development initiative (which is allotted $10 million in the House budget).

Senators have until 1 p.m. on Friday, May 13, 2022, to file budget amendments, and they will begin debating these amendments on May 24.

Join the 9:30 Call tomorrow, Thursday, May 12, 2022, (at, yes, 9:30 a.m.) to hear a budget update from Ashley White, senior policy researcher at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Click here to get more information and Zoom link.

If you have questions or need additional information, contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org.

The Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is having a meeting today at 1 p.m., the first meeting with Acting Commissioner Amy Kershaw, who was appointed in March.

You can watch the meeting live by clicking here. Afterwards, a recording of the meeting can be found here.

The three items that will be discussed are:

• Early Learnings and Proposed Framework for Strategic Action Plan Implementation

Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3)

                      • Stabilization Grants Update & Preliminary Outcomes

                      • Workforce Bonus Funds, and

• a Market Rate Study

Please tune in! Watching the board meeting is a great way to hear directly from state-level policymakers!

As Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, says, “This is not a time to slow down or stall. It is a time to continue the important work of EEC, to ensure a stable early education and care field.”

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Screenshot: Facebook page, New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department

“Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced Thursday that New Mexico will cover the costs of child care for most residents through June 2023. The benefit, which covers families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, makes New Mexico the first state to offer no-cost care over such a broad range of incomes, officials said.

“ ‘It’s free, no more co-pays, no more waiting,’ Lujan Grisham said to a crowd of preschoolers at East Gate Kids Learning Center in Albuquerque. ‘This is the road to a universal child-care system.’ ”

“The state recently expanded a federal child-care subsidy to middle-class families. On Thursday, Lujan Grisham said it would eliminate co-pays for them, too. Officials estimate both changes will make child care free for a total of 30,000 families.”

“New Mexico to offer a year of free child care to most residents,” by Casey Parks, The Washington Post, April 28, 2022.

 

Also check out: ”New Mexico leads the nation as Governor Lujan Grisham makes childcare free for most families,” Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, April 28, 2022

 

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Screenshot: Community Change Action website

On Monday, May 9, 2022, “child care providers, parents, and families across the country are hosting A Day Without Child Care: A National Day of Action.”

It’s a one-day initiative to support:

• living wages for child care providers

• an equitable child care system built on racial justice, and

• affordable child care for all families

As the initiative’s website explains, “For generations, we have been fighting for equitable access to affordable child care and better pay and working conditions for providers but our needs are still not being met.”

The pandemic has also boosted public awareness about the importance of child care, but the country has not yet invested in building a better early education and care system.

To highlight these unmet needs, some providers are choosing to participate in this day of action by closing for the day or by opening late. Other providers will stay open and raise awareness. Massachusetts providers can share their plans by filling out this form.

As the National Day of Action website says: 

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Screenshot: Strategies for Children website

As the pandemic recedes, all of us at Strategies for Children are looking forward to building on the country’s deeper understanding of how important early education and care is for children, parents, and the economy. As we do this work, we’re happy to be joined by new colleagues.

As Amy O’Leary, Strategies executive director says, “We are excited to grow our team and build our capacity to achieve our mission.”

Here’s more information about our newest staff members.

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Diagneris “Nery” García is the new director of communications for Strategies for Children. She is leading the charge on internal and external communications to promote our mission, values, and priorities. Her goal is to raise awareness and amplify the diverse voices that support policy and advocacy for accessible, high-quality early education and care programs that enroll children from birth to age 5 across Massachusetts. In her work, Nery will leverage existing tools for sharing information and engaging the field and the public, collaborate with our team and with our partners, and create new intentional and inclusive strategies.

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Screenshot: Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report

“The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report on Thursday that outlines the detrimental impacts the childcare shortage is having on the state’s economy. Among the eye-popping stats: Inadequate childcare cost businesses in Massachusetts an estimated $97 million a month last summer and fall, or more than $1 billion a year — largely because of employees who have left jobs to care for their kids and the disruption that turnover caused.”

“Massachusetts has the most expensive childcare costs of any state in the US — an average of roughly $21,000 per slot, for infants, and $15,000 for toddlers — so employers recognized this was an issue even before the pandemic.

“However, Eastern Bank chief executive Bob Rivers said the pandemic drove home the problem for executives. Rivers said he worries about the impact on the state’s competitiveness, particularly given the high cost of housing here, too. He began building a coalition to address the issue in 2019, but gained far more traction among other companies after the pandemic hit. By the time Eastern Bank’s foundation launched the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education in February 2021, more than 70 employers were on board.

“ ‘When the pandemic hit, and the childcare system was obliterated, all of a sudden it’s like “Oh yeah, it’s a real issue,” ’ Rivers said.”

“It’s not just about public policy. Rivers said he hopes the new report will help spur private-sector employers to improve their childcare benefits.”

“ ‘Businesses are starting to learn from each other,’ Rivers said. ‘We can’t just look to government to solve all this entirely.’ ”

“The bill to companies for ‘inadequate’ daycare in Mass.: $1 billion-plus a year,” by Jon Chesto, The Boston Globe, April 28, 2022

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Photo: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

What happens when a foster parent learns about an early learning center that’s willing to try a new approach?

Progress.

That’s the story Kate Audette tells about a child placed in her care by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), the state’s child welfare agency.

It was 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and after George Floyd was murdered, when Audette, who has been a licensed foster care provider since 2017, accepted the placement of an infant whom we’ll call Jordan to protect the child’s privacy. 

Audette was working from home at the time and planned to keep the baby home “until it felt safe for them to go to school.”

But she did take the baby to a neighborhood rally in support of George Floyd. The event was organized by Dorchester People for Peace. It was outside. Everyone wore masks. It felt safe.

It also turned out to be life changing.

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Screenshot: National Women’s Law Center report

The pandemic is receding, but its effects have taken a dire economic toll on women, a new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) explains.

The report — Resilient But Not Recovered: After Two Years of the COVID-19 Crisis, Women Are Still Struggling — draws on polling data and on “federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau… to reveal how women are really faring at work and in their lives after two years of a punishing pandemic,” NWLC says on its website

The results are grim. Women – especially women of color – have experienced more job loss than men, and they are earning lower wages than men.

The report’s specific findings include:

• “more than two-thirds of the net jobs lost since the pandemic began are women’s jobs”

• “while men have returned to their pre-pandemic labor force size, over 1.1 million fewer women are in the labor force today than in February of 2020”

• “Latinas’ unemployment rate was still 4.8 percent in February 2022, 1.6 times the rate for white men (3.0 percent)”

• “Black women’s unemployment was still 6.1 percent in February 2022, more than double the rate for white men (3.0 percent) and more than a full percentage point above Black women’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate in February 2020 (4.8 percent),” and

• “58 percent of women overall—including 75 percent of women who lost or quit a job during the pandemic, and 63 percent of women in low-paid jobs—said that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health”

The child care profession has also been hit hard, losing “one in nine jobs (11.7%)” since the start of the pandemic.

The report also includes women’s voices, among them:

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“With the signing of today’s agreement, we’re making $10‑a‑day child care a reality for families across the country. Today’s announcement will save Ontario families thousands of dollars each year – with fee reductions starting as of Friday this week – while creating jobs, growing the middle class, and giving our kids the best start in life.”

– Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“Since last summer, the Government of Canada reached similar agreements with the governments of British ColumbiaNova ScotiaYukonPrince Edward IslandNewfoundland and LabradorManitobaSaskatchewanAlbertaNew Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. The governments of Canada and Quebec also reached an asymmetric agreement to strengthen the early learning and child care system in the province.”

“In total, the Government of Canada is aiming to create approximately 250,000 new child care spaces through Canada-wide agreements with provinces and territories… These new spaces will be predominantly among licensed not-for-profit, public, and family-based child care providers.”

“$10-a-day child care for families in Ontario,” News Release from Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, March 28, 2022

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