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Fifty years ago, Sandy Faiman-Silva was a young, single mother with a teaching job who couldn’t afford to pay all her bills, including her rent and child care costs. She ended up quitting her job and going on public assistance.

Today, Faiman-Silva is a professor emerita of Anthropology at Bridgewater State University – and she’s an activist pointing out that too many women still face the same challenges she did all those decades ago.

Faiman-Silva shares this story on a video posted by the Cape and Islands chapter of the Common Start Coalition, which is advocating for a bill in the Massachusetts State House – nicknamed the Common Start Legislation — that would set up a system of affordable, high-quality, universal child care. This bill is particularly crucial now, as Massachusetts and the world navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) also appears in the video. A mother of three and a lawyer who has represented a child care center, Moran says:

“I lived the daily trials parents suffer to find the consistent, dependable child care and early education they need — and their children deserve — to allow them to focus on work so they can advance their careers. You all know what I’m talking about.”

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“I feel a great responsibility to remember and think of the educators, program directors, family childcare providers, school staff, CEOs, and community leaders who have shown up every day for children and families to start with this pandemic.

“We continue to be inspired by this resilient workforce, but we know that is not enough. We cannot return to the way things were. We cannot call child care essential for the economy and then continue to have 37% of early educators in Massachusetts eligible for public assistance. We cannot make decisions about the K-to-12 side of this system without considering the implications for babies, toddlers, before- and afterschool, summer and school vacations. We cannot give access to consistent testing to people in one part of the system and not continue to think about the children and families, and [about] the [early education] teachers who are there every day with children.”

“We know that families don’t live in funding streams, but many of our decisions have been based on those funding streams.”

[Amy starts speaking at the video’s 1:00 time mark.]

— Amy O’Leary, “Reimagining Early Care and Education: A New American Vision,” A New America webcast, March 30, 2021

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“The COVID-19 pandemic helped expose how critical reliable child care is to working parents. Now many employers are trying to figure out how to incorporate child care help into benefits plans, says Alyssa Johnson, the vice president of global client management at Care.com.

” ‘This past year we saw employers had literally a front row seat into the homes and lives of their employees and the challenges that many of us with small children and children at home are facing,’ said Johnson told 3 On Your Side. ‘As a result, there’s really been a fundamental shift in seeing the whole person at work, not just the worker.’

“According to the company’s survey of hundreds of HR leaders:

• 98% plan to expand benefits, and for half, child care benefits are a priority
• 82% say their organizations have become more aware of the care challenges their employees are facing during the pandemic
• 64% report high attrition rates, with employees almost always citing child care concerns as a major factor
• 50% believe the positive impacts outweigh the added cost of child care benefits”

“More employers are looking to help working parents with child care,” Susan Campbell, azfamily.com, March 2, 2021

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How have families been doing during the pandemic?

NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) used a national survey to find out.

“The pandemic has dealt a one-two punch to the nation’s young children, decreasing opportunities to learn in preschool programs while sapping parents’ capacity to support learning at home,” W. Steven Barnett says in a news release. Barnett is NIEER’s senior co-director and founder and an author of the survey report.

The survey results were collected in December 2020 “from a nationally representative sample of one thousand and one parents of children age three to five.” This builds on a previous survey that NIEER conducted last spring.

“Overall, we found the pandemic resulted in significant loss of important learning opportunities for young children through the fall into December,” NIEER says in a press release.

“Participation in preschool programs declined sharply from pre-pandemic levels. Although most who attended preschool programs did so in-person, this was not true for young children in poverty who had less than 1/3 the access to in-person education of children in higher income families.” (more…)

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Businesses and companies are paying more attention to their workers’ child care needs – and bringing welcome energy to efforts to build a child care system that is stronger than ever.

As we’ve blogged, a new organization, the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education, is advocating across the state.

And last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia hosted a webinar, “The Business Case for Employer Assisted Childcare,” that explored actions businesses can take to support working parents.

The webinar features insights from business and community leaders that can and should be shared with local, statewide, and national businesses.

Julia Barfield, formerly with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation spoke first, explaining that companies are paying some of the “hidden costs” of poor access to child care.

One example: When a worker quits because they can’t find child care, companies spend 20 percent of that worker’s total compensation to find a replacement. (more…)

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Early education and care has a new local champion, the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education.

Launched this week by 70 Massachusetts CEOs and business leaders, the coalition is, as its website explains, “responding to overwhelming data and research showing a long-standing child care sector crisis, now being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The coalition’s goal is to “to make early childhood education more accessible, affordable, and stable for Massachusetts workers, more rewarding for early childhood professionals, and a point of differentiation in attracting and retaining a strong workforce across the Commonwealth.”

Specifically, the coalition will:

• advocate for state and federal government policies and programs to support “the early childhood education needs of the Massachusetts workforce”

• identify opportunities for strategic action and investments in improving access and affordability as well as program quality and stability

• explore best practices for supporting the early education and care needs of employees, and

• acknowledge that communities of color and working women disproportionately face the impact of poor access to child care and low program quality — and support efforts to advance equitable child care solutions (more…)

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

In my nearly 30 years in and around state government, and currently as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, I’ve learned that three elements are necessary to move a policy agenda: unassailable data and research; a robust grassroots field operation; and a champion… someone who makes the issue their top priority. For years – since I worked for the Early Education for All Campaign and long before – Strategies for Children has produced great data and organized and energized the field. And for years, Speaker Bob DeLeo has been the champion.

As the Speaker ends an extraordinary career in public service, I’ve been reflecting on his determined and effective leadership in early education and care. It’s an issue that is a perennial priority for the Roundtable and one that has afforded me the opportunity to work closely with DeLeo. Early on, he understood the connection between high quality early education and economic growth. In a seminal speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in March of 2015, the Speaker noted the innate connection between economic growth and education, calling early childhood “game changing” and urging the business community to take a leadership role in advancing public policy in this area. (more…)

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Photo: Gagan Kaur, from Pexels

 

On Sunday, Congress hashed out a second, $900 billion stimulus package to help the country weather the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Congress passed the bill.

It’s an investment that includes $10 billion for child care providers who have struggled during the pandemic.

“Although the vast majority of child-care programs opened back up after the spring stay-at-home orders lifted, many daycare center and preschool owners are taking on huge financial losses — both personal and professional,” a CNBC story explains.

The story adds:

“About 56% of child-care providers report losing money by staying open, according to the latest survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Moreover, 42% of the December survey respondents say they have taken on debt using personal credit cards to pay for supplies and other items.

“That’s because many centers are still operating at lower capacities, even as costs rise. The survey found that 91% are paying extra for cleaning supplies, 73% have taken on extra expenses for personal protective equipment and 60% are paying additional staff wages.”

The stimulus will help, but there is, as CNBC adds, an important caveat: (more…)

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“The pandemic has shined a harsh light on what has been a long-festering problem. The world’s largest economy notoriously lags other industrialized countries in investing in child care and early education: The U.S. spends less than 1% of gross domestic product, putting it ahead of only Turkey and Ireland among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. ‘Almost all developed countries have things like subsidized child care, paid family leave, universal health care,’ says Sandra Black, an economist at Columbia University. ‘The economics make sense.’ ”

“The lack of family-focused policies isn’t just inconvenient for working parents, it’s become increasingly clear it’s holding women—and by extension the country—back. According to a report from S&P Global Inc., the U.S. could add $1.6 trillion to GDP if women entered and stayed in the workforce at a rate similar to Norway’s, which has government-subsidized day care.

“One estimate found that if American mothers continued to cut back on work at the same rate as during the first wave of Covid in April, the accumulated loss in wages would amount to $64.5 billion annually. This reality may finally be sinking in for policymakers. ‘We’re in the mainstream discussion of economics,’ says Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women. ‘We were fully excluded before.’ ”

 

“The U.S. Child-Care Crisis Is Torturing Parents and the Economy,” by Cynthia Koons, Bloomberg Businessweek, December 10, 2020

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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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