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“President Biden’s proposal for free, high-quality preschoolfor all 3- and 4-year-olds would create powerful change in Massachusetts, one of the nation’s most expensive child care markets, educators and parents said.

“In a state where, despite its relative wealth and strong public school system, nearly half of children don’t attend preschool, mostly because they can’t afford it, universal preschool could help reduce the educational inequities that start long before kindergarten, they said.

“ ‘I honestly think it’s a game-changer,’ said Amy O’Leary, campaign director of Strategies for Children, an advocacy group. ‘The research tells us that for families who need more support, we see better outcomes in the short and long-term.’ ”

“In an address to Congress last week, Biden said his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan would add four years of free public education — two years of preschool and two years of community college — to the 12 years guaranteed to all children.”

“Biden’s universal preschool plan a ‘game-changer’ for Mass., but final version could look very different,” by Naomi Martin, The Boston Globe, May 2, 2021

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Photo: Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Across the country, preschool directors are all saying the same thing: It is incredibly hard to hire early educators.

One of countless examples is the Granite Start Early Learning Center in Nashua, N.H.

This is where “owner Joyce Goodwin said the phone hardly stops ringing as families hunt desperately for child care,” the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

Goodwin “gets calls every day from parents looking for a place to put their children as they return to work, and weekend tours of the center are reliably full.” She could accept another 10 or 12 children, “but only if she could hire three more teachers.”

Despite placing want ads, Goodwin can’t find candidates. She’s up against the same problem as other directors, salaries in child care are “notoriously” low.

“Over the past year, hundreds of trained child care workers have left the field in search of higher-paying work and jobs that feel less dangerous in a pandemic,” the Union Leader says.

Early Learning NH conducted a workforce survey of “196 business owners, who together own about 40% of the 700 licensed day cares in the state,” and found similar circumstances. 

“Those owners could accommodate almost 2,300 more children day care — if only they could hire enough staff,” specifically 643 more staff members.

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Last night, President Joe Biden delivered his address to a joint session of Congress, calling for national progress in a number of areas, including early education.

According to a White House fact sheet, the president’s plan will “provide families with a range of options to choose from for their child, from child care centers to family child care providers, Early Head Start, and public schools that are inclusive and accessible to all children.”

Here are some excerpts from the president’s speech and some online reactions to what he said:

“Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding the nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America.”

“The great universities of this country have conducted studies over the last 10 years. It shows that adding two years of universal high-quality preschool for every three-year-old and four-year-old, no matter what background they come from, it puts them in the position to be able to compete all the way through 12 years. It increases exponentially their prospect of graduating and going on beyond graduation.”

“Second thing we need: American Families Plan will provide access to quality, affordable childcare… And I’m proposing a legislation to guarantee that low- and middle-income families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of 5. The most hard-pressed working families won’t have to spend a dime.”

“Third, the American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave and medical leave — family and medical leave… No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones –- a parent, a spouse, or child.”

— President Joe Biden
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Nicole Simonson

During this extremely unique and challenging year, I have had the privilege of interning with Strategies for Children through my graduate program in Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I am also an elementary school social worker as well as a mother of two young boys, one of whom is in preschool. I came to this internship with a level of frustration and a gnawing need to examine the systemic barriers that block the children I work with from accessing timely and appropriate behavioral health services. Throughout my career as a social worker, I have worked my way backwards in a sense from helping the most severely mentally ill adolescents in a residential program to ultimately seeking work that focuses on a model of prevention for young children.

Enter Strategies for Children.

My internship project for the year has been to examine the landscape of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) programs in Massachusetts. For this project, I interviewed various stakeholders who encounter IECMH from a variety of angles. To those who were so generous with their time for this project, I thank you. 

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“President Biden will use his address to a joint session of Congress next week to lay out his next legislative proposal focusing on child care and education, the White House said Thursday.”

“Biden’s plan is expected to propose a families package totaling some $1 trillion that would cover child care, universal prekindergarten and community college, but The New York Times reported Thursday that the plan will not include an expansion of health care coverage or reduction to prescription drug prices.

“Biden is expected to propose to pay for the plan by raising taxes on the wealthy.”

“Biden to use address to Congress to lay out plans for child care, police reform,” by Morgan Chalfant, The Hill, April 22, 2021

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Screenshot: City of Boston website

The city of Boston is launching another child care survey, asking for feedback from Boston parents.

The survey’s purpose is “to better understand how families access and experience care for their children, ages five and under,” the survey website explains

“We want to better understand your challenges with childcare. Your answers will help inform a City policy that works for all.”

It’s an easy, quick, important way for parents to help shape public policy.

The survey asks parents and guardians about their preferences, and it asks about child care accessibility, affordability, and quality. 

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— Vice President Harris’ Facebook page, April 15, 2021

State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 
The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee has released its FY ’22 budget.

It’s a $47.6 billion budget proposal, that’s slightly higher, the Gloucester Daily Times reports, than the $45.6 billion budget that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

“The House budget proposal calls for a 2.6% spending increase from fiscal 2021 and expects the state to collect $30.1 billion in tax revenue (the revenue drops to $24.3 billion after factoring in payments to the pension fund, MBTA and state reserves),” according to MassLive.com.

For early education and care, the House’s proposed budget specifics include:

• $358.9 million to fund child care for children served by the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Transitional Assistance

• $298.7 million in child care funds to support income-eligible families

• $20 million for a salary reserve to increase rates for center-based early education

• $15 million for Head Start

• $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies

• $5 million for pre-school expansion efforts

• $5 million for professional development opportunities, and

• $2.5 million for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Grant Continue Reading »

The United States could build a universal preschool system in 30 years.

That’s according to NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research), which has come up with a two-part plan based on federal, state, and local government sharing costs.

“At its current pace and without federal government leadership, the United States won’t reach all children with free preschool before 2100,” NIEER Founder and Senior co-Director Steven Barnett says in a press release.

Currently, publicly-funded preschool in the United States serves only 1.8 million children, NIEER estimates. Most states, including Massachusetts, deploy their public funding to the mixed-delivery system of early education and care, which includes center-based programs, Head Start programs, and public school districts.

NIEER’s plan “calls on the federal government to match state and local-level investments in high-quality preschool for children under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This focus will expand high-quality preschool to 2.5 million more low-income 3- and 4-year-olds by 2040.

“Building on this foundation, state and local governments would be able to expand their preschool programs to reach all 3- and 4-year-olds by 2050 and achieve universal high-quality preschool in all 50 states.

“The cost-sharing plan would enable states to set high preschool quality standards, provide children full-day preschool 180 days a year, and support competitive salaries for well-qualified teachers.” Continue Reading »

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