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Kristina DiMaria

“My mother was the secretary of the K-to-4 principal at the Malden public schools, so I was always around education,” Kristina DiMaria says of her childhood. “It was amazing. My mother knew the children, their families, their grandparents on a first name basis. And she wouldn’t leave for the day until the last child left.” 

“But what really made me an early educator was when I was at Pope John for high school. I had to do community service my senior year, so I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom.” 

DiMaria fell in love with the volunteer job, but at age 18, she didn’t think she could make a career out of working with children. 

So DiMaria went to Bay State College and earned a two-year degree in fashion merchandising. But she also kept her connection to her mother’s school, volunteering and working in summer programs. And she continued her own education, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she majored in English, minored in psychology, and took several early education classes.

Earning this degree was bittersweet, a personal achievement and something DiMaria did to honor her father who had passed away, but always emphasized the importance of going to college. 

Eventually, DiMaria took a job as a kindergarten teacher at a private school, Independence Route. The curriculum included STEM activities and “purposeful play.” 

“It became my passion, and I learned so much about teaching.”  Continue Reading »


 
As they steer Massachusetts through the pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have released a new report on the future of work. It’s an economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy that includes new plans for child care.

Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had a thriving economy with a conventional “look” that included commuters traveling by car or public transportation to offices in busy commercial areas.

But now — in the wake of layoffs, less business travel, and more Zoom meetings – Massachusetts could see less demand for office spaces, shifts in employment, and the worsening of pre-existing social inequities.

To address these challenges, the report explores “what work could look like… in both the near term (to 2025) and the longer term (to 2030),” across the state’s “regions, economic sectors, commercial centers, local downtowns, transportation, and public spaces.”

Among the top eight insights in the report: Continue Reading »

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Photo: mentatdgt from Pexels

 
Massachusetts child care providers – get ready to apply for a federal COVID-19 relief fund grant!

The funds are coming soon, and they will help providers emerge from the pandemic and rebuild.

Based on feedback from the field, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is committed to creating an “accessible application process.”
 

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Strategies for Children

 
There are a number of ways that you can learn more about these grants before the application is released. Continue Reading »

“Child care is a workforce issue, and prioritizing investment in the following ways will help to overcome this barrier:

• Investments in the child care workforce. In the short term, states can offer incentives such as signing bonuses for child care workers to return to work, and retention bonuses for established early childhood educators. In the long term, continued education grants and apprenticeship programs to support early childhood educators can meet the incredible demand for quality child care.

• Supporting working parents. States can and should invest in their data infrastructure. By creating databases that monitor the type and supply of child care available to communities, families and child care providers both benefit.

• Investing in the business side of child care. Stabilizing and growing the child care industry is a must. Grant and loan programs to stabilize existing child care programs and launch new, quality options will prevent child care deserts from growing, promote innovation from providers, and increase options for families.

“Many states are already leading by example.

“Arizona channeled $300 million in federal resources into return-to-work incentive programs that include $2,000 bonuses for those who return to the workforce, three months of child care assistance for people with children who return to work after collecting unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.”
 

“States taking the boldest actions on child care should be national models,” by Cheryl Oldham, Opinion Contributor, The Hill, July 15, 2021

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Photo: Eren Li from Pexels

 

In a new article, David Jacobson praises federal investments in early education and care. But, he writes, one “critically important” issue that receives less attention is partnerships.

Specifically, he asks, “how can elementary schools, early childhood programs, and health and social service agencies work together to improve quality and coordination across entire neighborhoods and communities and thus create the most positive overall environments possible for children and families?”

The article — “A game-changing opportunity: Rethinking how communities serve children and families” – appears on the website of Yale Medical School’s Partnership for Early Education Research (PEER).

Jacobson has been a longtime advocate of partnerships. He is the Principal Technical Advisor, Education Development Center, Inc., (EDC). And he also leads “EDC’s First 10 initiative, which supports school-early childhood-community partnerships to improve outcomes for children ages birth through 10 and their families.”

As he writes in the article: Continue Reading »

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Screenshot: Child Care Aware

 
How can the federal government’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) help rebuild child care? Child Care Aware has listed answers on a comprehensive webpage with infographics and other tools.

“As an advocate, it is important that your voice is heard on how states use the funds from the ARP Act,” Child Care Aware says. “You know what policies implemented during the pandemic helped stabilize child care and what policies can help build a better system moving forward. It is important to ensure that funds are administered in an equitable, efficient and transparent manner.”

The goal for advocates: encourage states to use the federal relief funds in wise, strategic ways.

“Advocates will need to bring a list of policy suggestions for the state to consider supporting. One way to highlight the need for specific policies is through sharing stories collected from child care providers and families. They can use their own words to talk about the hardships they faced during the pandemic and which temporary policies helped them the most.” Continue Reading »

State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Thank you for advocating for high-quality early education and care in the Massachusetts state budget. 

Your advocacy has paid off! 

All $44 million at stake for early education and care was included in the conference committee’s FY22 budget, released last Thursday and passed by the Legislature on Friday. 

For early education and care, all line items received the higher funding amount between House and Senate budgets. This includes $20 million for a rate increase for center-based early educator salaries, $8.95 million for the Department of Early Education and Care’s parent fee sliding scale reserve, $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies, $10 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative, and more.

View our state budget webpage for details.

While we applaud recent federal stimulus investments in child care, and proposals for further investment in the American Families Plan, it is critical that our state leaders continue to invest state dollars into high-quality early education and care. 

Our early educators, young children, and families are all counting on us to help Massachusetts fully recover from the pandemic and build a stronger, more sustainable, more equitable early education and care system.

The budget has been sent to Governor Charlie Baker who has 10 days to sign it into law. He can also choose to make line item vetoes.

 Encourage Governor Baker to sign the budget into law and thank him for investing in early education and care. 

And please visit strategiesforchildren.org for more news, budget updates, and advocacy resources. 

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Photo: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Tune in today: PBS NewsHour is launching a five-part series called “Raising the Future: America’s Child Care Dilemma.”

“The struggle to find affordable, quality child care has always been one of the biggest issues for American families and Covid-19 only exacerbated the problem,” a press release says.

“This series examines the current state of the American child care system, its history, and the new movement for long-term reform in the post-Covid era.”

The series will look at the “fractured child care system and its impact on women, children, people of color and the economy.”

Here in Boston, the show airs at 6 p.m. on WGBH. Search here to find out when the show airs in your city, or watch the episodes online.

Here’s a rundown of the episodes that will all run this week:

Continue Reading »

“School districts across the United States are hiring additional teachers in anticipation of what will be one of the largest kindergarten classes ever as enrollment rebounds following the coronavirus pandemic.

“As they await the arrival next fall of students who sat out the current school year, educators are also bracing for many students to be less prepared than usual due to lower preschool attendance rates.

“ ‘The job of the kindergarten teacher just got a lot harder,’ said Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He coauthored a report that found that the number of 4-year-olds participating in preschool fell from 71 percent before the pandemic to 54% during the pandemic, with poor children much less likely to attend in-person.”

“Schools across U.S. brace for post-pandemic surge of kindergartners in fall,” the Associated Press, June 13, 2021


 
“There’s nothing like a national crisis to get the country thinking about child care. An obvious and recent example is the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That’s the opening of Season 2, Episode 1 of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s “600 Atlantic” podcast (named after the bank’s address).

The first season covered the country’s geographic disparities, the “widening gaps in economic and social well-being between regions.”

“Season 2: A Private Crisis” looks at the fact that, “The nation’s child care system is broken. Parents strain to afford it, low-paid workers struggle to stay in it, and high-quality care is hard to find. This puts perpetual stress on families and the economy. Still, major reform has been elusive.”

One glimmer of hope: The pandemic has forced the country to appreciate child care’s importance. Continue Reading »

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