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“In this article, we aim to shed light on the race and parental status of the workers who were more likely to leave the ECE industry and how working conditions have changed for those who remain. These differences can help policymakers better understand the challenges facing the industry and how to best allocate a recent influx of federal funds for ECE.”

“We found that, compared with the pre-pandemic period:

• ECE teachers are less racially diverse and are less likely to be mothers of young and school-age children.
• Those who stayed in the ECE industry had higher health risks but only a small pay increase.
• None of these effects are found among K–8 teachers.”

“…at a time when there are unprecedented federal funds allocated to improve the ECE industry, prioritizing efforts to make the industry more career oriented could improve the outcomes of ECE teachers, the children attending centers and their families. As this funding runs out in the coming years, fundamental hurdles will remain as the ECE industry recovers from the pandemic.”

“Black Workers, Mothers Leaving Early Education and Child Care Jobs amid Health Risks, Low Pay,” by Anna Crockett and Xiaohan Zhang, The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, August 11, 2022

For the past two months, I have had the great opportunity to be a summer intern with Strategies for Children (SFC) through the Early Childhood Policy and Leadership certificate program at Boston College’s Institute of Early Childhood Policy. From the first staff meetings with Amy, Titus, Marisa, Nery, Marge, and Jenna, I have felt welcomed as a member of the team.

During these staff conversations, the team has often discussed how advocacy work is relationship-based. And being included in various meetings since the start of the internship has helped me to see these relationships in practice. The meetings with partners and collaborators are imbued with the feeling of “we:” the goal is shared, the work is shared, and the information is shared. If one person or organization does not know information or feels that someone else may be a more helpful resource, Strategies staff connect people with one another, with organizations, and with resources. Sharing time, information and resource, during meetings and in follow-up emails highlights Strategies’ culture of connection and respect.

The projects I have participated in also reflect this sense of teamwork and shared goals. One project involved collaborating with a team of community partners in Haverhill, Mass., to design a family survey to help inform early childhood partners about families’ early education program and resource needs and to be a tool that Haverhill could use annually. Each meeting with the community partners gave me more insight into how to create and administer a survey. Additionally, I was able to attend a recent Boston Opportunity Agenda Birth-to-Eight Data Committee meeting where surveys were discussed. The themes at the meeting echoed ideas that the community partners had recommended: keep the survey short, have the intended audience test the survey, and have paper and digital options.

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Play is important for children.

However, what’s missing from this important idea, a new report says, is a clear understanding of how play can be an effective learning strategy in early childhood settings – and how best to share this concept with the public.

The report – “The Role of Play in Designing Effective Early Learning Environments and Systems” – explores “questions and debates” about play by drawing on interviews with experts and stakeholders. 

The report is the capstone project of Yael Schick, a Saul Zaentz Fellow and recent graduate of the Ed. M in Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Strategies for Children served as the host site for Yael and offered project guidance.

Guiding questions for this project include:

• What is play, and what makes an early childhood program “play-based?”

• Why does play remain a divisive issue? What are the misunderstandings and misconceptions about play-based pedagogy?

• How do we ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn through play? And,

• How must we communicate with policymakers, practitioners, and parents about the effects of play in young children’s learning and development?

While there are no set definitions of play or play-based learning, there is a great deal of useful research on these topics. Among the findings:

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“One sure fire way to warm up children’s attitude towards mathematics is to build math activities and lessons out of the books they all love to listen to and read.”

“When reading and listening to books, mathematical situations come to life in new and fanciful ways. And, we’re not just talking about books that are explicitly mathematical, since math is often central to the problem and resolution of our favorite stories.”

“The Best Children’s Books for Early Math Learning,” Erickson Institute Early Math Collaborative 

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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

In the search for child care, many mothers end up making disappointing tradeoffs.

To better understand what parents face, the Federal Reserve Bank took a closer look at the challenges and released the findings in a new issue brief, “Child care tradeoffs among Massachusetts mothers.”

“Between October 2019 and January 2020, we interviewed 67 mothers in Massachusetts whose children had not yet started kindergarten,” the brief explains. It was written by Sarah Savage, a senior policy analyst and advisor at the Boston Fed, and Wendy Robeson, senior research scientist with the Work, Families, and Children Research Group at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

What Savage and Robeson heard from the mothers they interviewed were the many ways that child care tradeoffs have an economic impact. (Dads were invited to participate in these interviews, but all the responses came from moms.) This is pre-Covid research that shows how tough it was to find child care in normal times. Now in the midst of the pandemic, these challenges continue, and some have grown worse.

“This study reveals that an inadvertent effect of a mostly private market of child care is that it requires parents of young children to compromise and in some cases sacrifice what they need to achieve and maintain economic security, let alone advance it, with consequences for their children’s development,” the brief explains.

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The fiscal year 2023 budget was signed by Governor Baker last week, and thanks to your advocacy, the budget includes historic state investments in early education and care!

Please take a minute to thank your legislators and thank Governor Baker for taking action.

The new budget includes: 

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants – which ensures that C3 grants continue through December 2022 (visit the Department of Early Education and Care’s website for more C3 info)

• $60 million for a rate increase for early educators

• $25 million for a new Early Education & Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care, assist families in navigating the early education landscape, and help early educators with costs associated with personal childcare

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

• $15 million for resource and referral agencies

• $3.5 million for early childhood mental health, and

• $175 million for a new High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund [Outside section 180]

For a full breakdown, visit our budget page

And once again, please thank your legislators and thank Governor Baker for these much needed investments.

In addition to these critical investments, the Legislature had proposed additional early education and care investments in its Economic Development bill. And last week, Strategies for Children joined 70 organizations and 214 individuals in asking legislators to include these investments in the final “conference committee” bill. However, the formal legislative session ended on July 31st, and the bill was left in conference. We will continue to monitor the bill and report any future updates.

“With the Commonwealth in a historically strong fiscal position, the FY23 budget supports tax relief for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers, while making record investments in education and local aid,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Since coming into office, our Administration has worked closely with the Legislature to ensure the budget is structurally sound and protected from unpredictable economic fluctuations, and I am pleased to sign another budget that maintains this commitment while making investments help Massachusetts’ families and communities grow and thrive.”

“The FY23 budget maintains our Administration’s strong support for the Commonwealth’s cities and towns and expands services in acute areas of need, like housing stability, education and childcare access, workforce development, transportation, substance addiction treatment, and behavioral health care,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “This funding will further our work to encourage the economic growth of our communities, promote equitable access to opportunity and support the health and wellbeing of all residents.”

“Governor Charlie Baker Signs Fiscal Year 2023 Budget,” Governor’s Press Office, July 28, 2022

For detailed information about the early education and care items in the budget, please visit Strategies for Children’s state budget page.

Federal Reserve photo

Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

What happens when an early educator and a community leader team up with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston?

Everybody wins.

That’s what occurred when two members of the Boston Fed’s Leaders for Equitable Local Economies (LELE) program saw the damage caused by the pandemic.

“After COVID-19 hit, Marites MacLean and Beth Robbins noticed a worrying trend: Dozens of child care centers were closing across central Massachusetts. And as families lost reliable child care, local businesses increasingly struggled to fill jobs,” a Boston Fed article says.

MacLean is a longtime early educator and one of Strategies for Children’s original 9:30 Call participants. Robbins was helping “jobseekers through a local nonprofit called WORK Inc.” Both women are also residents of Fitchburg, Mass. And the LELE program they participate in supports and strengthens leaders like them who are “taking on the critical work of rebuilding economic systems in Massachusetts’ smaller cities.”

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

We have another advocacy opportunity for you!

But first, thank you for taking action on the state budget and continuing to support early education and care legislation.

The next step: right now the Legislature is focused on its Economic Development Bill. The House and Senate passed versions of this bill this week — each with substantial funding proposals for early education and care:

  • $150 million for grants to support and stabilize the early education and care workforce and address varied operational costs at state child care programs supervised by the Department of Early Education and Care (Senate bill); and
  • The i-Lottery program with dedicated revenue for an Early Education and Care Fund (House bill)

Next week a conference committee will negotiate differences between the bills.

Join us in signing an advocacy letter supporting both House and Senate proposals for early education and care. Our deadline is Monday, July 25, 2022, at 5 p.m. Act now!

Now is the time to advocate for including critical funding for early childhood education and care in the legislation, including sufficient funding for the C3 stabilization grants to be extended through Fiscal Year 2023.

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“Child care provider Damaris Mejia is about to get the biggest pay raise of her life, starting this summer: the District of Columbia will send her and her co-teachers each a big check, between $10,000 and $14,000.

“At last, ‘I will have happy teachers!’ she says, laughing.

“It’s part of a broader push — made more urgent by the pandemic — as D.C. and dozens of states try different ways to fix a child care system that is badly broken. Some are using temporary pandemic aid, while others seek longer term funding. Last year, Louisiana passed a sports betting bill that designates 25 percent of revenue for early learning programs. Wherever the money comes from, advocates across the country say something must be done to ease the fundamental challenge of providing care families can afford, while allowing providers to earn a living.”

“Mejia pays her teachers $17 an hour. Now, that’s well above the national median of $13 an hour that makes child care one of the country’s lowest paid occupations. But in pricey D.C., it’s barely above minimum wage, which became $16.10 as of July 1. Mejia earns about $30,000 a year. Her profit margin is so thin, she’ll sometimes forgo her own pay to meet bills, and she’s behind on taxes.

“She says her pay bump will go first toward helping pay those back taxes. One of her teachers, Ana Gonzalez, says it will help her finally achieve a goal of having her own house; she and her 24-year-old daughter plan to split the cost and buy something together.”

“Bonus checks! One year free! How states are trying to fix a broken child care system,” by Jennifer Ludden, NPR, July 13, 2022

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