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“Parents and families rightfully wonder ‘Why is child care so expensive?’ The reality is that it’s expensive because it costs a lot to provide good, high-quality care. Child care providers are not collecting vast sums of money and hoarding it for themselves while not paying their teachers. It’s quite the opposite. They are making every last cent stretch as far as they can. Sometimes by not paying themselves. The simple fact is that we cannot sustain child care the way it exists now and both pay teachers the wages they deserve and keep care affordable for families. It is not possible.

“So what will solve the problem? Public funding. The only way to make child care affordable for families and pay teachers the wages they deserve is to publicly fund child care.”

“Public funding would bridge the gap between what families can afford and the costs to run a quality program that can pay teachers what they deserve. We strongly support the recommendation that for child care to be ‘affordable’ for a family, that family should not pay more than 7% of their income for child care. Right now, many of our families pay 30-40% of their income for child care which is hard to even imagine.”

“Child care pros on squaring the circle of low wages and high costs: We need public funding,” by Tracie Myers, Katy Knudtson, and Stacey Flanigan, The Minnesota Reformer, September 29, 2022

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Advocates have long called for early education and care to be treated as a public good – just like public schools or the infrastructure of roads and bridges needed to maintain a 21st century workforce. We are grateful for the close collaboration and appreciate the decisions our elected officials have made to support and stabilize the early education and care sector over the last two pandemic years.

While the worst may be behind us, we’re not out of the woods yet. This election year is especially important as we move towards sustainability and growth.

So please be a Champion for Young Children! Here’s how:

As a Voter

• REGISTER: If you are new to voting in U.S. elections, you have recently moved to the state of Massachusetts, or you simply need to update your registration information, visit the Online Voter Registration System. The voter registration deadline is Saturday, October 29, 2022.

• Learn about with your district and elected officials. Every 10 years, districts for members of Congress, the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, and the Governor’s Council are re-drawn by the Legislature. This process happens after each federal census in order to make sure each district is made up of approximately the same number of people. Learn more about redistricting in Massachusetts here.

• Learn about the candidates. Click here for the full list of state election candidates.

• Engage Candidates and Community: Ask questions about their education platforms and/or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper urging candidates to prioritize young children in the election. If you need assistance, contact Marisa FearStrategies for Children’s associate director of research and policy.

• VOTE on (or before) Tuesday, November 8th! Click here for early voting information and instructions on how to vote by mail. Plan ahead for in person voting by looking up your poll place and election information.

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Last month, Strategies for Children hosted a Reception for Reflection for the first cohort of our Advocacy Network for Early Education and Care – and we’ve created a highlights video to showcase the work of our Advocacy Network participants.

The Advocacy Network is an engaging, year-long experience for emerging leaders. It creates a new structure for connecting and supporting educator-advocates across all regions of the state, while building participants’ advocacy skills and first-hand experience. 

For Anna Ricci-Mejia, an early educator at the East Boston Social Centers, the Advocacy Network experience was inspiring. 

“I decided to speak up more for children’s sake,” she says. “Every word counts. I know there’s a lot of frustration; this is a low-paying career. But when you’re compassionate with children, you learn something new every day.”

Marcia Gadson-Harris, a family child care provider and Advocacy Network participant, adds:

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“The latest results of the longest-running study of state-funded pre-K in the nation strengthen the case for universal programs open to all young children.

“Released Tuesday by researchers at Georgetown University, the results show that young adults who attended a universal pre-K program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as 4-year-olds were more likely to graduate from high school on time and enroll in college than peers who didn’t attend.

“They’re also more civically engaged. The percentage of former pre-K students who registered to vote and actually cast ballots was 4.5 points higher than for those who started kindergarten without pre-K.

“ ‘Middle class kids benefit from a strong program,’ said William Gormley, a professor and co-director of the Center for Research on Children in the U.S. ‘Disadvantaged kids benefit even more.’ ”

“Results From Long-Running Study Bolster Case for Universal Pre-K,” by Linda Jacobson, The 74, September 20, 2022

kindergarten

Photo: Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

Parents can’t always count on kindergarten. That’s the moral of a story told in the Atlantic.

“At age 5 and 6, children are at a crucial stage in brain development,” the Atlantic’s article says. “Educators, advocates, researchers, and state officials largely agree that full-day [kindergarten] programming is beneficial for children, both academically and socially. Studies have shown that kids enrolled in full-day offerings make greater advances in literacy than those enrolled in half-day ones. These gains are maintained for years.”

In other words, free, full-day kindergarten programs ought to be easy to find.

However the growth of kindergarten in public schools, the article explains, has “happened gradually. It arrived in the 19th century as a privately funded educational venture. By the start of World War I, the grade had become part of all major city public-school districts, and by 1965, more than 2 million children across 40 states were enrolled. Most early kindergarten programs offered only half-day coverage, but in the past several decades, full-day programs have become more common. The grade got more attention in the early 2000s with the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act.”

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Massachusetts is a leader in educational excellence, but not for all its students.

As a new report – “There Is No Excellence Without Equity: A Path Forward for Education in Massachusetts” — from the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership (MEEP) explains, “for a long time now, our state’s high overall rankings have masked deep inequities in student learning experiences and outcomes.”

Strategies for Children is a MEEP member.

The disparities the report cites were bad before Covid hit, and many have been aggravated by the pandemic.

“In parts of Boston and cities like Chelsea, Brockton, and Springfield, where infection and death rates were highest, the pandemic inflicted new levels of trauma and anxiety on families already facing significant adversity,” the report says.

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“To meet the caregiving needs of the K-12 educator workforce and the developmental needs of the youngest students, the United States needs sustained, significant federal investments in the accessibility and affordability of high-quality child care.”

“Why K-12 Teachers and Their Students Need Investments in Child Care,” by Emily Katz, The Center for American Progress, June 8, 2022 

KIDS COUNT

The new 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out. It’s the annual, Annie E. Casey Foundation report that takes a deep dive into how the nation’s children are doing.

This year, the data book points out that while the pandemic and widespread economic uncertainty have caused harm, there are also pockets of progress. 

This year’s report focuses on children’s mental health.

“As of July 2022, the health crisis had killed more than 1 million people in America, including more than 1,600 children,” the foundation says of the pandemic’s impact. “During this same time span, more than 200,000 kids had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the virus.”

This has “helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a mental health pandemic for youth. According to the Data Book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.”

Another challenge is racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties that have con­tributed to “dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly trou­bling men­tal health and well­ness con­di­tions among chil­dren of col­or. Nine per­cent of high-school­ers over­all but 12% of Black stu­dents, 13% of stu­dents of two or more races, and 26% of Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan high-school­ers attempt­ed sui­cide in the year pri­or to the most recent fed­er­al sur­vey.”

In addition, “many LGBTQ young peo­ple are encoun­ter­ing chal­lenges as they seek men­tal health sup­port. Among het­ero­sex­u­al high school stu­dents of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, 6% attempt­ed sui­cide; the share was 23% for gay, les­bian or bisex­u­al students.”

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If workers’ salaries were based on the value they provide to society, Andre Green, the executive director of the local nonprofit SkillWorks writes in a new Boston Foundation report, “few people would make more than child-care workers, home care workers, and long-term care facility workers. Almost none of us will get through life without needing at least one of them.”

Unfortunately, care workers typically receive low salaries and limited appreciation.

The report – “Care Work in Massachusetts: A Call for Racial and Economic Justice for a Neglected Sector” — adds:

“Over centuries, policies driven by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have closed professional doorways and shunted many women of color, particularly immigrant women, into care work, where they contend with low wages, few benefits, and challenging working conditions. As this segment of our economy continues to grow, these issues will confront more and more workers until they are addressed.”

“Nothing made the importance—or precarity—of care work clearer than the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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“More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the child care workforce—mostly employing women and, disproportionately, women of color—continues to operate below pre-pandemic levels. This not only harms the sector but also precludes workers with caregiving responsibilities, primarily mothers, from fully participating in the labor force.”

“Without new government investments aimed directly at improving job quality—including through increasing wages for staff—the child care sector will not make up its significant shortfall in workers. Policymakers must meet the moment and invest in child care immediately, particularly since child care workers are essential to keeping the U.S. economy strong.”

“The Child Care Sector Will Continue To Struggle Hiring Staff Unless It Creates Good Jobs,” by Maureen Coffey and Rose Khattar, The Center for American Progress, September 2, 2022

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