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future of work

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

There’s a new report in town produced by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Future of Work Commission that says “Massachusetts will need to adapt its workforce training, public transit and child care systems to better support workers in a post COVID-19 economy,” a State House News story reports, adding:

“The report also warned that regional and racial disparities in income will also widen without intervention as white collar professions shift more easily to hybrid and remote work models, while service and manufacturing jobs offer less flexibility.”

As the report itself explains, “The Commission was formed in the spring of 2021 to investigate and evaluate the impacts of technological change and automation on work by 2030.”

The report takes into account old factors and new factors, including the impact of the pandemic.

Among the challenges the report points to, “Demand for greater access and flexibility in childcare is far outpacing supply.”

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Last night, Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children, spoke at the graduation ceremony for the City of Boston Childcare Entrepreneur Fund.

“The Fund offers support to current and aspiring owners of family childcare businesses in Boston. Fund recipients attend business training and receive grant funding for their business.”

Here’s part of what O’Leary said:

“We continue to be inspired by this dedicated and resilient workforce and their commitment to the problem solving, building partnerships and providing high-quality learning experiences under incredible circumstances.

“And YOU – tonight we celebrate you, the graduates of the City of Boston Childcare Entrepreneur Fund.

“You can change the world. All of the skills, gifts and talents you use to support young children can be used where you are sitting right now to lead. 

“The most important piece is that YOU have to BELIEVE.

“WE are the ones we have been waiting for.

“YOU ARE SMART, POWERFUL LEADERS FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES!

“We need to believe in ourselves and be willing to think differently about the future.

“It is critical that we find new, innovative, and meaningful ways to support educators and expand access to childcare for Boston families.”

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Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

For two and a half years, Samantha Aigner-Treworgy served as commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, and here at Strategies for Children, we are grateful for her leadership.

Commissioner Sam, as she asked people to call her, has been a bold, innovative leader who has made transformational changes in a field that has historically been undervalued and overlooked. She stepped down today. And at the Department of Early Education and Care Board meeting , she thanked the field saying it was an honor to do this work. She has also shared this letter.

Her outreach and engagement with the field – with directors, educators, family child care providers, school-age staff, and families – has been unprecedented and inspiring. Through town halls, Zoom events, strategic planning sessions, and in-person visits, she connected with people across the state. 

She has also built partnerships with likely and unlikely allies, based on her belief that everyone can help leverage public and private resources to build a stronger system of early education and care.

And six months into her tenure, she faced the demands of leading through a global pandemic. This was a test of her professional strength and her problem-solving skills, and she met the challenge, developing policies that were models for the rest of the country. These include: 

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Photo: report screenshot

Both before the pandemic and now, child care providers of color have faced troubling and persistent racial inequities.

A new report – “Equity in Child Care is Everyone’s Business” — explores this challenge and proposes solutions. An accompanying policy brief is posted here.

Released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The Education Trust, a national nonprofit, the report is a chronicle of unfair economic realities.

“Amid the COVID-19 crisis, child care providers, many of whom are women of color, face funding challenges, safety and health concerns, and talent acquisition/professional development barriers,” the report says. “Several providers reported that racial and gender bias has posed challenges within their local business community, including feeling less supported than other businesses due to their race.”

Specific findings include:

• “In 2015, more than 1 in 6 female child care workers lived below the poverty line (that’s twice the poverty rate of female workers overall), and Black and Latina child care workers with children of their own were more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line”

• “59% of all home-based child care workers have household incomes below the national median, and this number is 75% for Black home-based child care workers,” and

• “Black early educators earn an average of 78 cents less per hour than their White counterparts, even when controlling for education level” (more…)

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Child care needs a new business model, according to the national nonprofit First Children’s Finance (FCF).

The current models – center-based care and family child care – are fine. 

But in a policy brief, FCF is supporting the addition of what it calls “mixed-age, small group care in nonresidential spaces.”

One example is a program run by the Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga, Tenn. This small group program operates in “single-classroom child care facilities within 13 public schools, which primarily serve the children of teachers,” the brief says, adding:

“Schools and workplaces are both common sites for co-located small group care. Spaces within existing facilities such as community centers, libraries, health centers, town halls, and churches are also attractive possibilities.”

“Another option is a ‘pod model’ which clusters multiple small group providers together in one building. The building may be rented, donated, or partially subsidized by an employer or local nonprofit.”

One program in Minneapolis is a multicultural center that “houses multiple providers’ programs each operating in their own home language.”

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Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

There’s no need to wait for the federal government to invest in early education and care, as a WGBH news story reports. Cities and states can and are taking the lead now.

One example WGBH points to is the city of Lawrence, Mass., which has created a child care scholarship program.

“The childcare nonprofit The Community Group helped design a scholarship program for the city of Lawrence using federal funding to help get more low-income and middle-class families into subsidized daycare.

“ ‘You’re helping a parent be able to go to work and make a better living and learn skills to be able to create a better life for themselves, and hopefully get to a point where they don’t have to have the program because they can’t afford the childcare,’ said Martha Velez, Lawrence’s director of health and human services,” WGBH notes.

We’ve blogged about Lawrence’s efforts here and here.

There’s also leadership at the state level. Massachusetts lawmakers have filed the Common Start bill, which would expand access to child care. Massachusetts also has “ a state commission focused on early education and care, co-chaired by Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley, Weston, and precinct 4 in Wayland), who is also co-chair of the state’s education committee. The commission’s final report is expected in March, and Peisch said it will include a range of short- and long-term recommendations.

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Last Saturday morning, parents, advocates, and state legislators came together to participate in a virtual forum to discuss the importance of the Common Start legislation, a Massachusetts bill that calls for establishing “a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline.”

Hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Cape Cod Area and the Common Start Coalition, Cape Cod & Islands Chapter, the forum included:

• Senator Susan Moran, who filed Common Start in the Senate

• Representative Kip Diggs, a member of the Joint Committee on Education

• Janae Mendes, a parent

• Rafaela Fonseca, a family child care provider

• Lynda Allen-wan-N’Tani, executive director of the Crystal Garden Children’s Learning Center

• Noelle Pina, chief of staff of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce

• Debra Murphy, the early childhood coordinator at Cape Cod Community College, and

• Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director

Before the forum, Jane Mendes shared her experiences as a parent with the Cape Cod Times, which reports:

“In the summer of 2019, Janae Mendes was forced to leave her job at a Cape Cod bank because she couldn’t afford summer child care for her 7-year-old daughter. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Child care workers are vanishing and it’s hurting the entire economy,” CNN warns in this headline of one of its business news stories, which reports:

“Since losing one-third of its workforce at the outset of the pandemic, the child care industry has seen a jobs recovery that’s been slow and incomplete.

“And now it’s starting to backslide.

“After shedding 4,500 jobs from September through November, preliminary estimates from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the child day care services industry lost another 3,700 jobs in December.”

And, of course, these workers aren’t actually “vanishing.” They’re being driven out of their jobs by low wages and tough working conditions.

Without enough child care workers, there aren’t enough child care spots, which means many parents will struggle to be able to work, and without enough workers the economy can’t thrive.

“Now that we’re seeing a decrease [in employment], that should be worrying for many folks who are relying on these services,” Caitlin McLean, director of multi-state and international programs at the University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, tells CNN.

“This is absolutely a contributor to the wider worker shortage that we’re seeing.”

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Amy O'Leary

Amy O’Leary

Last month, early education was the star of Public Hearing, a podcast that streams online and airs on WICN, the public radio station in Worcester, Mass. The podcast’s theme is talking “about imagining and materializing equitable and just systems for cities and communities.”

The podcast put early education in the spotlight in the first of its mini-seasons – in this case five podcast episodes — featuring early childhood advocates.

During the first episode, podcast host Joshua Croke interviewed Kim Davenport, the Managing Director for Birth to 3rd Grade Alignment at Edward Street, a Worcester nonprofit that promotes early childhood success.

“I really do believe that the future lies in each child, and reaching their full potential is my mission,” Davenport said, opening a conversation that covered a range of topics, including young children’s brain development, the importance of nurturing relationships, the challenges that existed before the pandemic, and the impact of the pandemic, which has made it tough to identify and meet young children’s needs, such as behavioral concerns and delays in speech skills.

“We have a chronically underpaid workforce… the pay is poverty-level wages in many cases,” Davenport says, calling this situation “unconscionable.”

The second episode features Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children.

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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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