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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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Governor Charlie Baker

It’s state budget season, and a diverse group of 80 stakeholders — Strategies for Children as well as businesses, early education providers, advocates, community organizations, health care providers, and philanthropies — have sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker asking him to prioritize young children and families as he puts together his FY ‘23 budget proposal.

The letter asks for “the designation of $600 million, as projected by the Department of Early Education and Care, to extend and study the (EEC) Child Care Stabilization Grants through Fiscal Year 2023 to position the program for sustained support and success into the future.”

This funding would provide crucial support as providers recover from the pandemic and move forward.

You can read the full letter here. To sign on, please complete this form. We will send an updated letter in early January.

As the letter explains:

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the childcare sector. We are in the midst of a childcare staffing crisis that is the result of years of chronic underinvestment and low wages. As a result, the workforce that cares for our children and serves as the backbone of our economy has been depleted. The Commonwealth will continue to lose its early education and care workforce to the many other sectors able to offer higher wages and more generous benefits unless we address educator compensation.” (more…)

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U.S Capitol

Photo: Thuan Vo from Pexels

The federal Build Back Better bill would make a historic investment in helping the country recover from the pandemic – including funding for early education and care that could revolutionize programs for young children.

The first step would be to reverse the damage caused by the pandemic.

As an article from the Center for American Progress explains, “While the relief funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act have limited the fallout from [the pandemic’s] unprecedented challenges, the fact remains that a market-based child care system cannot adequately serve American families.”

The article adds:

“The United States currently spends less than 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on early care and education, ranking near the bottom of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

“The effect of this chronic underinvestment is that under current law, very few children access subsidized care—even among those who are eligible. The Administration for Children and Families estimates that in 2017, of the 13.5 million children who were eligible for child care subsidies, only 1 in 7 received them.” (more…)

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“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation holds the position that childcare is a two-generation workforce issue because it is essential to supporting the workforce of today and vital to developing our workforce of tomorrow. There is not enough access to affordable, quality childcare which makes it difficult for parents trying to enter, re-enter, or stay in the workforce. In addition, the pandemic exacerbates existing issues in the childcare system and creates an impossible situation for parents, employers, and childcare providers. There are working parents who struggle to balance home childcare and work, children who miss valuable educational opportunities, childcare providers who are fighting to stay open and serve their communities, and employers wondering how and when their employees with children can return to work.

“Successful solutions can only be reached by jointly addressing gaps across affordability, access, flexibility, and quality.”

“Untapped Potential: Economic Impact of Childcare Breakdowns on U.S. States,” Center for Education and Workforce at The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, November 30, 2021

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Last week at the State House, early education was in the spotlight.

The Joint Committee on Education held a hearing and heard testimony on “bills related to Early Education and Care, Kindergarten, and Literacy.”

“During a virtual hearing of the Joint Committee on Education, child-care providers and advocates joined lawmakers in calling for systemic changes to an industry known for its harsh economic imbalance,” the Boston Globe reports. “Massachusetts has some of the highest child-care costs in the nation, yet the state’s child-care workers earn a median salary of $37,000 a year, barely a living wage for someone with children.”

Video of the hearing and a list of the bills is posted here.

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Among the bills that were discussed is the Common Start legislation (H.605S.362), which “would establish a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline,” according to a fact sheet. Strategies for Children serves on the Common Start steering committee, and our executive director Amy O’Leary was one of more than 70 individuals who submitted written testimony in support of the bill. (more…)

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“After Bryan Kang’s son was born in July, the occupational therapist and his wife, a teacher, started looking for child care in the Los Angeles area. The couple called eight day care centers: Some didn’t have spots for months; others stopped taking their calls and some never answered at all.

“So with no viable options, Kang scrambled to find a new job that would allow him to work remotely.

“ ‘I told my manager, “Hey, by the end of the month, I have to transition out,” ’ Kang said. ‘They were very supportive and very understanding because they’re all mothers. But now there’s one less body to see patients.’

“Kang said he’s fortunate he found a job teaching online classes, but the unexpected career pivot forced him to take an 11% pay cut.

“The truth is, even if he could find a day care spot for his now 3-month-old son, the $2,500 monthly cost of infant care is so high that taking a lower-paying job so he can work from home and care for the baby is the most financially sensible thing to do.”

“Exacerbated by pandemic, child care crisis hampers economy,” by Sally Ho and Josh Boak, the AP, October 27, 2021

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Yesterday, a dozen early educators and leaders submitted testimony at a State House hearing of the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission.

And there’s still time to email more testimony to the commission. To have the most impact submit your testimony by this Thursday.

The commission, as Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), a commission co-chair, explains on his website, “is tasked with investigating accessibility, affordability, and other concerns surrounding early education and childcare in the Commonwealth, and making recommendations to the state legislature for policy and funding solutions.”

Lewis adds:

“With a growing consensus among the public, the business community and policymakers that high-quality, affordable, accessible early education and childcare are indispensable, this commission has a unique opportunity to lay out a roadmap for bold, transformative policy action.”

Lewis is co-chairing the commission with Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley).

Among those who submitted testimony to the committee is Jessica Seney, vice president of the board at Charlestown Nursery School in Boston, who said in part: (more…)

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SFC radio

Photo: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

This month, WHMP, a Northampton, Mass., radio station featured a discussion on early education on its podcast, “The Afternoon Buzz,” hosted by Ashfield attorney Stewart “Buz” Eisenberg.

This podcast episode welcomed three guests:

• Donna M. Denette, executive director of Children First Enterprises

• Keira Durrett, director of the Williston Northampton Children’s Center, and

• Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley

All three are also regulars on Strategies for Children’s 9:30 calls, where we share the latest news on early education advocacy. Be sure to check out our 9:30 call webpage and sign up to join the call.

On the podcast, Donna Denette talked about the importance of child care as infrastructure, noting, “When we hear that we have to invest in roads and bridges, because people can’t get to work without roads and bridges — Covid made it very clear that people can’t get to work without childcare either.” (more…)

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Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Source: Screenshot U.S. Treasury Facebook page

Forty years ago, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen had the same problem that many of today’s parents do: Yellen needed a babysitter so she could go to work.

She placed a want ad seeking a sitter. Because both she and her husband were economists, they decided to offer a salary that was more than the going wage.

As Yellen explained last week in a speech about child care shortages:

“Classical economics says that it’s not rational to pay a worker more than the market rate, but we hypothesized it could be. The job might be an important one, for example, and a higher wage could encourage someone to do better work. That’s a completely rational reason to pay someone more, especially if the job is some of the most intimate work there is, which is caring for children.”

“Our hypothesis proved correct, at least in our own home. The advertisement led us to a babysitter who took wonderful care of Robert while George and I were at work.”

Today, parents face a far more dire situation. (more…)

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“Andrea Wagner, the chief technical officer from Berkshires Sterile Manufacturing in Lee, encouraged other biotech companies to consider a move to Western Massachusetts.

“ ‘There is a huge need for sustainable jobs out here,” she said. “Although we do have trouble finding talent similar to you, the cost of living is lower (and) the educational structure here is similar, if not better than Boston.’ 

“She added, though, that a lack of childcare has been a major issue for employees. The company tried to solve this issue by giving space in its facility to a nonprofit daycare in exchange for discounted daycare for employees, but the daycare has been short-staffed and partially closed since the pandemic began.”

 

— “Massachusetts vaccine makers cite talent pipeline, childcare as biggest barriers to recruitment,” by Amy Sokolow, The Boston Herald, July 27, 2021

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