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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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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The FY23 state budget is late this year, but legislators are very close to a deal. A 6-member conference committee is meeting now to finalize differences between the House and Senate budget proposals.

For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That’s the difference between the House and Senate proposals. There’s $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal, and $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal child care. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget.

If you have already taken action in recent weeks, take action again. As they finalize the state budget, our legislators need to hear from advocates for early education and care.

Our state continues to have record revenue surpluses. Not only can Massachusetts easily afford to fully fund early education and care – we can’t afford not to!

State funding is essential for continued recovery of our field. 

Ongoing staffing shortages mean that early education and care programs are open but operating with lower enrollment and closed classrooms.

Many industries are experiencing similar shortages, but a workforce shortage in child care means people cannot return to work and our state and local economy cannot fully recover.

Ask the conference committee to invest in high-quality early education and care, for young children, families, educators, and communities. 

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“Just as the Senate led on transforming the Commonwealth’s K-12 education system through the Student Opportunity Act, today’s bill would similarly transform the early education system,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Unfortunately, high-quality early education remains out of reach for most Massachusetts families, and our providers struggle to keep their doors open. This bill will address those issues and make our Commonwealth stronger by making early education more affordable, investing in our early educators, and ensuring the sustainability of our providers.”

“With this bill, we are creating a framework to support the early education and care sector; making clear that the Senate understands the vital importance of early childhood to our economic recovery and to the health and wellbeing of Massachusetts families,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I am proud of this bill and the work that has gone into it. I thank the Senate President for her leadership in prioritizing this issue, and I want thank Senator Lewis for thoughtfully and collaboratively putting this important legislation together.”

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“It takes a village to raise a child — or as Mayor Eric Adams puts it, these days it takes a city.”

“There’s currently only one available child-care slot for every five infants in New York City, the city said. However, the mayor said he hopes that the Blueprint for Child Care & Early Childhood Education in New York City will change that number.”

“Adams on Tuesday released a blueprint outlining a multi-agency $2 billion investment over the next four years that he said will increase the quality of child care and early childhood education — make them more accessible and equitable.

“More than 500,000 children under the age of 5 will benefit from the plan, including undocumented children and their families, the mayor said.”

“ ‘As a child, my mother had to work three jobs and still find a way to take care of me and my siblings. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 375,000 parents were forced to quit or downshift their jobs because they had no other way to take care of their children. Now, my administration is working to make sure no parent has to make that hard choice between childcare and putting food on their table again,’ said Adams.”

“ ‘It takes a city:’ Mayor creates $2B plan to improve child care, early childhood education in NYC,” by Kristin F. Dalton, silive.com,

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State House_SFC

Amy O’Leary at the Massachusetts State House in 2011

We’re thrilled to wish Amy O’Leary a happy 20th anniversary! She started working at Strategies for Children on June 24, 2002.

We sat down with O’Leary to talk about this milestone.

“I have to say how grateful I am to have been at Strategies for Children for the last 20 years,” O’Leary says. “I would have never imagined that I would have this kind of job.”

O’Leary’s work with young children started at Skidmore College where she earned a degree in psychology and early education.

“I didn’t do a traditional K-12 education major,” O’Leary recalls, “because I was very interested in understanding why children did what they did, and how they sat in the context of family and community.” 

O’Leary’s campus job as a financial aid student was working as a classroom assistant at the Skidmore Early Childhood Center, a laboratory school affiliated with Skidmore’s Education Department, where she also did her student-teaching. 

“It was such an important part of my college experience to have that world where I could go three times a week, whether it was to my campus job or [for] student teaching, and develop relationships with families.”

“I don’t think I realized how wonderful the program was, and how it prepared me for my next job as a preschool teacher in Boston.”

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Amy O’Leary

Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, was on Boston Public Radio yesterday talking about the high cost of child care.

Here are some excerpts of what she said:

“One of the things we have learned in the pandemic is we really saw what parent choice looks like. What has typically been a very personal decision, feeling that you’re on your own trying to navigate the bureaucracies really came to light [because] parents were more willing to talk to their employers about what was happening in reality in their homes.”

“We also saw flexibility from the government. So many of our policies are very rigid and have a lot of hoops to jump through for families,” O’Lear says, explaining how the pandemic has changed things. “Suddenly, we’re relaxed because the connection between early education and care programs, and our economy was so clear, even though we’ve had research and data and reports for decades… that tell us how critical early childhood is to brain development and supporting children in the earliest years.”

“We saw policy change pretty dramatically. And I think that has set the stage for what we think about for the future.”

However, O’Leary says, funding will be essential.

“I don’t know many young families who can afford $21,000 for their baby to go to child care.”

“We can’t one-time fund our way out of this decades-long crisis. We really have to think about sustainable, strategic funding and policies.”

To hear more, tune in!

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“Michigan is investing $100 million to help open 1,000 new child care facilities over the next two years in an effort to expand access to quality, affordable child care across the state.

“Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state’s new Caring for MI Future plan, a $100 million investment to expand the number of affordable child care facilities and recruit more child care staff in Michigan, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“ ‘Nearly half of Michigan families live in a community without enough child care options to meet their needs,’ Whitmer said in a prepared statement. ‘Lack of child care options means families are forced to leave the workforce, work fewer hours, or piece together child care options that don’t work very well for their family. That doesn’t work for kids, families, or employers.’ ”

“Michigan spending $100M to open 1,000 new child care facilities by 2024,” by Melissa Frick, MLive, May 16, 2022

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“Last night, at Robin Hood’s annual benefit to support poverty-fighting efforts in New York City, Robin Hood, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian announced the formation of a $100 million Child Care Quality & Innovation Initiative for New York City. The initiative includes $50 million from Robin Hood – including a $25 million donation from Alexis Ohanian’s 776 Foundation – and a $50 million commitment from New York City.”

“The Child Care Quality & Innovation Initiative will seek to make high-quality, affordable child care more accessible while improving the quality of care provided to New York children. This new funding will go towards expanding access in child care deserts – neighborhoods without enough licensed child care providers – and provide options beyond traditional working hours to accommodate parents with atypical schedules. Additionally, it will oversee the creation of a single online portal to streamline the application process for vouchers and integrate them with existing benefits. Finally, the initiative will support workforce development programs that help drive quality across New York City, including encouraging models that compensate providers more fairly, reducing turnover, and creating opportunities for growth within the sector.

“ ‘We need to get New Yorkers back to work while uplifting families, lowering the cost of child care while increasing options to remove obstacles that are holding too many parents back. Investing in child care is a down payment on progress and the future of our kids,’ said New York Mayor Eric Adams.”

“Robin Hood, Mayor Eric Adams, and Alexis Ohanian Announce $100 Million Initiative for Child Care Quality & Innovation at Robin Hood’s Annual Benefit,” Robin Hood press release, May 10, 2022

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Screenshot: Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report

“The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report on Thursday that outlines the detrimental impacts the childcare shortage is having on the state’s economy. Among the eye-popping stats: Inadequate childcare cost businesses in Massachusetts an estimated $97 million a month last summer and fall, or more than $1 billion a year — largely because of employees who have left jobs to care for their kids and the disruption that turnover caused.”

“Massachusetts has the most expensive childcare costs of any state in the US — an average of roughly $21,000 per slot, for infants, and $15,000 for toddlers — so employers recognized this was an issue even before the pandemic.

“However, Eastern Bank chief executive Bob Rivers said the pandemic drove home the problem for executives. Rivers said he worries about the impact on the state’s competitiveness, particularly given the high cost of housing here, too. He began building a coalition to address the issue in 2019, but gained far more traction among other companies after the pandemic hit. By the time Eastern Bank’s foundation launched the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education in February 2021, more than 70 employers were on board.

“ ‘When the pandemic hit, and the childcare system was obliterated, all of a sudden it’s like “Oh yeah, it’s a real issue,” ’ Rivers said.”

“It’s not just about public policy. Rivers said he hopes the new report will help spur private-sector employers to improve their childcare benefits.”

“ ‘Businesses are starting to learn from each other,’ Rivers said. ‘We can’t just look to government to solve all this entirely.’ ”

“The bill to companies for ‘inadequate’ daycare in Mass.: $1 billion-plus a year,” by Jon Chesto, The Boston Globe, April 28, 2022

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