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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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“Eight years ago, in the last open race for mayor in 2013, candidates like John Barros talked about the developmental advantages of early education, but it was hardly a campaign issue. Even the ambitious, and unfulfilled, campaign promise tossed out by Martin J. Walsh — to create free universal preschool for all city 4-year-olds — barely registered as news.

“But in this year’s contest, following a pandemic that wreaked havoc on parents’ ability to work, early education and child care have leaped to the forefront of political consciousness. Four of the five major contenders have presented detailed campaign plans on the issue and all have endorsed the recent recommendations of the Birth to Eight Collaborative, a coalition of parents, nonprofits, schools, and advocates working to ensure all children are prepared to succeed when they enter school.

“ ‘To see the issue of child care move into the center of public discourse is so important,’ said Sarah Muncey, a Jamaica Plain mother and a leader in early education who has been advocating for systemic changes — to little effect, before now. ‘The pandemic showed us that this is an economic issue — that underneath it all, this humming city, is an invisible child-care force. We are not invisible anymore.’ ”

“Child care is now a major political issue. Here’s how the Boston mayoral candidates want to reform it,” by Stephanie Ebbert, The Boston Globe, August 4, 2021

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Screenshot: Boston Opportunity Agenda report

 
Boston’s supply of child care is shrinking, a new report says. And this shortage is making it tough for parents who want to work and for businesses looking for employees.

“Boston’s child-care crisis was a gloomy reality long before COVID-19 entered our lives in 2020,” the report says. “As of 2017, 35 percent of 0- to 5-year-olds did not have access to early education and care seats in their neighborhoods, if desired by their families.”

The pandemic made things worse. As the Boston Globe reports in an article covering the report, “Recovery has been slow, with only 28 licensed programs reopening between last November and March.”

And some neighborhoods are harder hit than others.

“Most neighborhoods saw declines in the number of eligible children referred to early intervention, with the steepest drops, as high as 25 percent, in central Boston, Roxbury, and Hyde Park.” (more…)

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As they steer Massachusetts through the pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have released a new report on the future of work. It’s an economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy that includes new plans for child care.

Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had a thriving economy with a conventional “look” that included commuters traveling by car or public transportation to offices in busy commercial areas.

But now — in the wake of layoffs, less business travel, and more Zoom meetings – Massachusetts could see less demand for office spaces, shifts in employment, and the worsening of pre-existing social inequities.

To address these challenges, the report explores “what work could look like… in both the near term (to 2025) and the longer term (to 2030),” across the state’s “regions, economic sectors, commercial centers, local downtowns, transportation, and public spaces.”

Among the top eight insights in the report: (more…)

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“Child care is a workforce issue, and prioritizing investment in the following ways will help to overcome this barrier:

• Investments in the child care workforce. In the short term, states can offer incentives such as signing bonuses for child care workers to return to work, and retention bonuses for established early childhood educators. In the long term, continued education grants and apprenticeship programs to support early childhood educators can meet the incredible demand for quality child care.

• Supporting working parents. States can and should invest in their data infrastructure. By creating databases that monitor the type and supply of child care available to communities, families and child care providers both benefit.

• Investing in the business side of child care. Stabilizing and growing the child care industry is a must. Grant and loan programs to stabilize existing child care programs and launch new, quality options will prevent child care deserts from growing, promote innovation from providers, and increase options for families.

“Many states are already leading by example.

“Arizona channeled $300 million in federal resources into return-to-work incentive programs that include $2,000 bonuses for those who return to the workforce, three months of child care assistance for people with children who return to work after collecting unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.”
 

“States taking the boldest actions on child care should be national models,” by Cheryl Oldham, Opinion Contributor, The Hill, July 15, 2021

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“There’s nothing like a national crisis to get the country thinking about child care. An obvious and recent example is the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

That’s the opening of Season 2, Episode 1 of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s “600 Atlantic” podcast (named after the bank’s address).

The first season covered the country’s geographic disparities, the “widening gaps in economic and social well-being between regions.”

“Season 2: A Private Crisis” looks at the fact that, “The nation’s child care system is broken. Parents strain to afford it, low-paid workers struggle to stay in it, and high-quality care is hard to find. This puts perpetual stress on families and the economy. Still, major reform has been elusive.”

One glimmer of hope: The pandemic has forced the country to appreciate child care’s importance. (more…)

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“Even for parents whose children have already returned to school, pandemic-related care challenges rage on.

“James Smith, who works as a financial analyst at a mid-sized bank in the Dallas area, is back in the office full-time already. His wife, a pharmacist, never stopped going to work.

Although they are both vaccinated and their 2- and 5-year-old kids are back at daycare and kindergarten, the pandemic is still disrupting their lives.

“ ‘Covid is still fairly prevalent in the community,’ he told CNN Business. ‘Our oldest has been subject to two quarantines in March and April,’ because of possible exposure at school. For Smith, that meant working from home again, which he said created friction with his employer, or getting help from his elderly parents, who are at greater risk from the virus.

“ ‘There aren’t really any statutory [rules] if your kid is out of school,’ because of Covid exposure, he said. ‘It’s kind of a rush to get back to normal on the business side. I question whether or not that’s considering what’s actually going in the community.’ ”

“Offices are reopening. For parents, that raises a childcare problem,” by Anneken Tappe, CNN Business, May 19, 2021

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Working mother

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the United States to acknowledge how weak its child care system is – and how child care’s struggles can quickly create chaos for working mothers.

Abigail Usherwood, a Strategies for Children intern, explores this issue in the newly released policy brief, “COVID-19 and Gender Inequality in the Workforce.”

Even before the pandemic, Underwood writes, women establishing their careers faced more challenges than men. There is still a stubborn wage gap: nationally, for every dollar men earn, women earn $0.81.

Factor race in, Usherwood explains, and the problem grows worse.

“In the United States, Black women lag even further behind in terms of the gender wage gap. On average, for every $1.00 a white, non-Latino man makes, a Black woman will only earn $0.63.”

Factor in the pandemic, and it’s clear that women are under intense pressure from the expectation that they will “balance household duties, like child care, with career responsibilities, and, during the pandemic, remote schooling. All of these responsibilities compound, creating barriers for women to progress in the workforce.”

One economically devastating outcome is a gender-based workforce participation gap:

(more…)

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