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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh meets with a young learner. Source: City of Boston Mayor’s Office’s Flickr page.

 

As a state representative and as the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh has been a champion of children and families.

Now that President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Walsh to be his Secretary of Labor, we want to thank Walsh and recognize his years of support for early education and care.

Back in 2013, when Walsh was a state representative running for mayor, he said:

“If we can allow more families access to daycare, number one that will help. Number two: also work on helping parents — sometimes younger parents — give them the education they need to go forward.”

In 2014, Walsh created an advisory committee to expand preschool access for 4-year-olds, noting:

“Pre-kindergarten programs ensure that all students start kindergarten ready to learn… Rather than spend time on remediation in education, we are investing in our youngest students to lay the groundwork for their long-term success and the long-term prosperity of Boston.”

In 2019, Walsh invested $15 million in high-quality pre-K programs. He also launched a child care survey. Links to other city initiatives are available here. (more…)

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“COVID-19 revealed to the entire country what the early education and care field has known for years: Childcare is the backbone of our economy,” a new report says.

Unfortunately, that backbone is badly broken.

The report – “Boston’s Child-Care Supply Crisis: What a Pandemic Reveals” – was released by The Boston Opportunity Agenda and the Boston Birth to Eight Collaborative. The report’s findings were shared this week in a webinar that included Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign. A recording of the webinar is posted here.

The report highlights Boston’s shrinking supply of child care, a decrease that began long before the pandemic. Between 2017 and March 2020, the city “experienced a net loss of 3 percent of its licensed child-care seats for children 0–5 years old,” the report says. This loss worse in individual neighborhoods, including a 14 percent loss in Dorchester and a 15 percent loss in East Boston.

Add the pandemic in, and this loss is staggering. “Between December 2017 and September 2020, the loss at the city level was estimated at 16 percent.” At the neighborhood level, “East Boston, Dorchester, Hyde Park and Roxbury lost, respectively, 33.5 percent, 24 percent, 18 percent, and 17 percent in that period.” (more…)

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On streets across America, every night at around 6 p.m., child care programs shut their doors for the day — shutting out working parents who need late-night or early-morning child care programs.

It’s a problem that has grown more vivid as the COVID-19 pandemic reveals the fragility of the country’s child care systems. 

“In a resource-starved child care system, very few licensed child care providers can serve the child care needs of parents with schedules outside the old, standard, 9-to-5 business day,” Sandra Teixeira of the nonprofit organization New England United for Justice says in a new video.

The result, Teixeira says, parents get shut out of nighttime, weekend, and other off-hour jobs. 

That’s why a group of nonprofit organizations and labor unions convened by Community Labor United have launched a new initiative called Care that Works to transform child care delivery in Massachusetts.

The first step:

The “union-backed coalition, with help from the city of Boston, is launching a pilot program to provide childcare in the early morning, for workers in industries like construction that do not have standard work hours,” CommonWealth magazine reports. (more…)

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“Right now, we are all feeling concern, anxiety, and confusion about the spread of the coronavirus. It’s entirely understandable. This is an unprecedented situation, both in the nature of the public health challenge and in the steps we are taking to protect our residents.

“That’s why I wanted to address the people of Boston, and anyone else who needs some reassurance right now. We must remember: we are not powerless—and you are not alone.”

“We are doing everything we can right now to stop and slow the spread of this virus to prevent our health care systems from being overwhelmed. But we can’t do it alone. We need everyone’s help in this effort.

“Every single one of us has a crucial responsibility to protect the people we share our city with, especially the most vulnerable. The actions all of us take now will save lives. So remember:

• Keep washing with soap and sanitizing your hands throughout the day.

• Keep wiping down surfaces with disinfectant.

• Keep covering your coughs and sneezes.

• And above all, avoid crowds, maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people, and stay home as much as possible.

“We need everyone to limit their contact with each other right now. This is the social distancing that we are learning to practice together as a city. It’s a proven method to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus and protect those most at risk from it.”

“These are not ordinary times in our city. But there is nothing ordinary about Boston. Bostonians are resilient, forged in hard times, and committed to a higher purpose. There’s nothing we can’t do when we stand together. We possess the strength and spirit to get through any challenge we face. We are Boston Strong. And with vigilance and patience, with empathy and love, we will get through this, together.”

 

— Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s letter to his constituents, March 18, 2020

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Spread the word: On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, everyone will be able to fill out the Census 2020 form.

It’s a small act with huge consequences. Every 10 years, the Census Bureau attempts to count everyone living in the United States.

And every 10 years, many people go uncounted, which can mean losing representation in Congress and losing crucial federal funding. In addition, state programs won’t have a clear count of their populations. Nor will researchers. And businesses won’t have a clear picture of the marketplace.

One commonly undercounted groups?

Children. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Across the country, K-12 schools are spreading their wings by working in the early education space. It’s an approach that promises to help more young children succeed as they transition into elementary school.

One example in the suburbs of Omaha, Neb., is Belleaire Elementary School, where providing a good education includes working with families before children are old enough to go to school.

“Belleaire is one of 10 schools in the Omaha metropolitan area that are rethinking the scope of early childhood education,” an EdSurge article says. “Traditionally, early childhood education focuses on serving children before they reach kindergarten. But more recently, researchers have begun to think about early childhood education as encompassing the first eight years—years that are critical for neural development and where early interventions can have a profound impact in later years.”

This is all part of Omaha’s Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan, a $2.5 million per year initiative that’s funded by a tax measure. (more…)

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Amy O’Leary and Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

 

What a year it has been at Strategies for Children! Here are some of our highlights:

• Looking back to look forward

In December of 2018, we gathered at the State House to celebrate the tenth anniversary of An Act Relative to Early Education and Care, which became law in 2008. “It’s like getting the band back together,” Pat Haddad (D-Somerset), Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, said of the many colleagues who joined us. At the event, Amy O’Leary moderated, and we heard from a lineup of speakers including Haddad, House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), other state officials, and local early education program directors. Many of the speakers remarked that though they have had different roles over the last ten years, their commitment to high-quality early education for all remains strong.

It was also a year of transition at the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). In June we thanked Commissioner Tom Weber for his six successful years of leadership. We then welcomed new EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy back to Massachusetts with a “meet-and-greet” co-hosted by the early education field. We look forward to working with Commissioner Sam on a shared vision for her department’s future. (more…)

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The East Boston Social Centers recently interviewed Representative Adrian Madaro (D-Boston). Here’s an excerpt.

“As an undergraduate, you majored in child development. What would ideal system of early childhood supports look like and how can organizations like the Social Centers help get there?”

“We know that everything starts young. Children’s brains are developing, they’re formulating thoughts and learning from day one so it’s important that we invest as early as possible in the development of children and that’s exactly what the Social Centers does. The earlier you invest in a young person, the positive outcomes that can come from that increase dramatically. The sooner we can intervene and the sooner we can start to get at those children, the better for the long term.”

And here’s a relevant personal note from Madaro’s bio:

“Adrian and his wife Ariel met as undergraduate students at Tufts University in a child development class taught by the same professor who would officiate their wedding seven years later.”

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Last month the event “Action for Boston Children: A Plan for BPS’ Future,” was held at The Boston Foundation. The panelists in this photograph are: Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell (at podium); Brenda Cassellius, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools; Latoya Gayle, Executive Director, Boston School Finder; Amy O’Leary, Director of Strategies for Children’s Education for All Campaign; and Paul Reville, Former Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor.

 

“Today, until a child turns four or five, it can feel to families as though there is no place to go. The birth to four landscape is dominated by private providers that can be hard to find, and to afford. A patchwork of funding sources and cumbersome state and federal requirements that families cannot meet or do not understand contribute to locking out many children and families from access to quality childcare. We should start by asking what parents and families need to ensure that their children are on the strongest path to a life of learning and outcomes. And if we ask that question, it’s hard not to arrive at the conclusion that a comprehensive view of birth to five is the way forward.”

“Action for Boston Children,” a report released by Andrea Campbell, president of the Boston City Council, June 2019

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Parents already know that it’s tough to find high-quality, affordable child care in Boston.

Now, a new report — State of Early Education and Care in Boston: Supply, Demand, Affordability and Quality — has used data to better define the child care landscape for policymakers.

“During the process of creating a citywide plan for young children to achieve this goal, we discovered that there were many questions that could not be answered and supported with the data available,” the report, which was released by the Boston Opportunity Agenda, explains.

Among the questions: (more…)

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