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The Early ChildhoodAgenda’s plan has been released! To learn more, check out the Agenda’s website and read about the Agenda’s 10 priorities for improving the early childhood environment in Massachusetts.

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The Early Childhood Agenda has been released!

On Tuesday, early education advocates gathered at the Massachusetts State House for the release event. Watch a video replay here. And check out #EarlyChildhoodAgenda on Twitter.

“The Early Childhood Agenda imagines, prioritizes, and builds collective action around equitable and impact-driven solutions by providing a space for the early childhood community to work across sectors for better policy development,” a newly released brief explains.

It’s an exciting plan for unified action that can improve the experiences of young children and families in Massachusetts.

The Agenda includes the input of more than 1,000 people who contributed to a conversation that identified 10 priorities. They are:

1 Work with state government to “pass and implement comprehensive early education and care legislation that addresses family affordability and establishes a career pathway and funding mechanism to drive investments in workforce compensation.”

2 Ensure “early childhood professionals across multiple sectors have access to competitive wages and an affordable benefits package (health care, paid leave, retirement, child care)” by drawing on “operational grants, state-funded benefits, an opt-in group health plan, unionization, and premium assistance programs”

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Join us TODAY for the release of the work done by the Early Childhood Agenda – a unified plan that draws on many voices to improve early childhood programs in Massachusetts. 

You can register here and meet us at the Grand Staircase inside the Massachusetts State House at 11 a.m.

Starting at 11 a.m., we will also livestream the event on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We’ll be sharing “a targeted list of policy priorities… shaped by community voice and needs, and the different perspectives and lived experiences of partners to highlight the field’s top priorities for the next two years.”

These priorities cover five broad areas:

• Financially Secure Families

• High-Quality Experiences

• Thriving Early Childhood Workforce

• Robust System Infrastructure and Local Partnerships, and

• Healthy Beginnings

So please join us live — or via our livestream — to ensure that Massachusetts is a place where all young children can thrive.

“There was never much doubt that House and Senate Democrats would return Ron Mariano [the House Speaker] and Karen Spilka [the Senate President] to the top posts in the Legislature for the two-year term that started Wednesday, but the occasion did produce glimpses into the policy areas where each veteran legislative leader will attempt to wield their supermajority margins in the coming months.”

“Mariano and Spilka voiced mutual interest Wednesday in addressing the slow-burning crisis in the early education and child care sector, where providers are coping with widespread staffing shortages, workers are languishing on low wages and families are struggling to pay for care, if they can even find available slots.

“ ‘We know how important early education and care is, both to addressing the “she-cession” that worsened during the pandemic and in preparing our children to learn. Simply put, it is past time to update the way we imagine and support this crucial sector,’ Spilka said.

“The Senate unanimously approved a bill in July seeking a years-long expansion of subsidies, increased pay and benefits for workers, and permanent grants to stabilize providers, but the timing of the bill’s passage left the House with little time to fashion a response.

“Mariano’s comments on Wednesday could signal that he wants his chamber to get more involved in the issue this time around, though he stopped short of embracing the expansive proposal backed by the Senate last session.

“ ‘This session, the full attention of the House will be directed at examining ways to further support our vital early education and care workforce,” Mariano said. “This workforce is made up largely of women and often women of color. As we work to build a system to provide affordable access to quality child care for Massachusetts families, I was proud of the work done last session to increase salaries and other key supports for EEC workers, and I’m confident that the Legislature can do more on this critical issue.’ ”

“Speaker Mariano and President Spilka share some top priorities in new legislative session,” by Chris Lisinski and Sam Drysdale, State House News Service, posted on WGBH’s website, January 4, 2023

In the shadow of the pandemic, there is positive and welcome progress in federal investments in child care. 

One example of this positive trend is the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (also known as the omnibus bill) that President Biden signed into law at the end of last year.

“The appropriation for fiscal year (FY) 2023 included more than $8 billion in total annual discretionary funds for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in addition to increases for other important child care and early education programs such as Head Start,” the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) explains.

“The FY 2023 CCDBG appropriation of $8 billion represented a $1.9 billion increase above the previous year’s funding, a 30 percent increase. This is the second largest increase in discretionary funding in the history of CCDBG—following the $2.4 billion increase in FY 2018.”

Specifically, this funding helps low-income families who would otherwise struggle to afford child care.

 “The increases in 2023 for each state range from $2 million in Vermont to $209 million in Texas.”

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Last fall, we kicked off a statewide strategic effort, the Early Childhood Agenda

Next week, we’ll release the results of this exciting work at the Grand Staircase inside the Massachusetts State House at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, January 24, 2023. 

As we explain on the reservation page for next Tuesday’s release:

“Strategies for Children has convened almost 500 early childhood professionals, advocates, and parents around The Early Childhood Agenda. Our mission, to bring communities from across the Commonwealth together to identify solutions and drive policy change, has yielded new partnerships, robust discussions, and a long list of challenges faced by caregivers and educators of young children.”

To build consensus, agenda participants participated in five working groups:

• Financially Secure Families

• High-Quality Experiences

• Thriving Early Childhood Workforce

• Robust System Infrastructure and Local Partnerships, and

• Healthy Beginnings

What we’ll share on Tuesday are the results of this process, “a targeted list of policy priorities… shaped by community voice and needs, and the different perspectives and lived experiences of partners to highlight the field’s top priorities for the next two years.”

We believe that speaking with one voice will make it easier for policymakers and the public to support our vision of a future where families across the state can enroll young children in thriving, high-quality, and affordable early education and care programs. 

Please register and join us next Tuesday at the State House to learn more. 

And if you can’t make it in person, stay tuned and we will provide more information about a livestream of the event. 

Help us make Massachusetts a place where it’s easy for young children to thrive.

“Last week, while history was being made on the floor of the House of Representatives, a (mostly) quieter, but no less historic event was happening in the Democratic cloak room.

“Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) brought his 4-month-old baby to work. In between votes, he changed diapers on the Democratic cloak room floor and bottle-fed his child. And Gomez wasn’t the only one on daddy duty in the House. Other parents — including Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) — brought their children to work as well. Yes, it was adorable and brightened up an otherwise dour C-SPAN feed. But the tweets about bringing babies to work, swapping parenting tips and taking breaks to feed and change also highlight a problem that is no stranger to the vast majority of this country’s parents.

“Child care is out of reach for many families in America. For most, it is too expensive and too hard to access. Parents, early learning providers and program administrators are overwhelmed, overburdened and under-resourced — and everyone is feeling the impact. Even our members of Congress.”

“America 2023: When even members of Congress don’t have child care,” by Michelle McCready, The Hill, January 9, 2023

What helps children make a successful move from Head Start to kindergarten?

Strong systems that rely on sound policies and practices.

Figuring out how to build these systems is the work of the Understanding Children’s Transitions from Head Start to Kindergarten (HS2K) Project. And now the project is sharing several briefs and a report on how best to do this work in Head Start programs and other early childhood settings.

It’s research that promises to guide policymaking and program practices.

Launched in 2019, the project “is a systems approach that recognizes that effective transitions require intentional engagement from both the sending programs (Head Start) and the receiving programs (elementary schools),” its website explains.

The HS2K project is “organized around four prominent mechanisms (‘4Ps’) that can influence the transition experience: perspectives, policies, professional supports, and practices.”

These practices “must be implemented at multiple levels — among classroom teachers in Head Start and kindergarten, families and teachers, elementary school principals and Head Start directors, Head Start grantees and school districts, and state and federal agencies.”

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with NORC (a nonpartisan research center at the University of Chicago), the National P-3 Center, and Child Trends.

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The pandemic wiped out part of Massachusetts’ child care workforce.

Now Boston is trying to rebuild.

And the scale of this challenge is substantial.

“The childcare industry in Massachusetts lost about 10% of its workforce since the start of the pandemic,” WBUR radio reports. “In Boston, that’s translating into long wait lists and shorter hours of care. According to city officials, about 50 early education classrooms are sitting empty because child care centers can’t find enough people to operate at capacity.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu “was quick to point out that the estimate doesn’t include centers that have had to cut hours because they’re short staffed.”

To address this daunting gap, the city is using $7 million from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act to launch the Growing the Workforce Fund.

The fund will provide scholarships and financial aid to 800 students who want to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

“Today’s investment is a welcome one for early educators like me,” Lisa Brooks, an early educator at Horizons for Homeless Children, says in a city press release. “Relieving the burden of debt associated with higher education will help educators continue to focus on the important work of building the foundation for our students’ future success.”

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“The strength of Massachusetts is its families. And they sorely need our help. Our state has some of the highest child care costs in the country. Our care workers don’t make a livable wage.

“So today, let us pledge to be the first state to solve the child care crisis. Let’s finally pass legislation in line with Common Start to make sure every family pays what they can afford, and that care workers are paid what they deserve. This is something our families, workers, and businesses all agree on.”

“Read Gov. Maura Healey’s inaugural speech,” WBUR Newsroom, January 05, 2023

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