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How should Massachusetts reopen its early education and care programs?

By being responsive to the new needs that parents and employers have in a COVID-19 world.

That’s why Strategies for Children and 38 other organizations have submitted a letter to Governor Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board, which is actively seeking public feedback as it develops a plan “to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics.”

As our letter explains, taking careful next steps is essential.

“As you develop recommendations for how best to re-boot economic recovery in Massachusetts,” the letter says, “we ask that you include an intentional focus on reopening and strengthening the child care sector. No recovery will be successful if employees and working families do not have access to safe, affordable, high-quality child care for their children.”

The letter also points to the business sector’s support for child care, explaining: (more…)

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Source: Strategies for Children

 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Strategies for Children has set up a family survey so we can learn about parents’ and caregivers’ experiences with child care.

So far, there have been more than 1,550 responses. We’ve posted a summary of them, and we are sharing this information with policymakers to help guide their work.

Among the written responses is this troubling observation from Natick:

“It is proving difficult, draining, and detrimental to the mental well-being for working parents to juggle full time workloads and round-the-clock childcare. While many parents are non-essential, they are still working remotely but without the option of childcare. Needless to say, one person cannot perform two full-time jobs simultaneously. Parents need support in the form of teaching resources but also mental health and emotional support.”

Crunching the survey numbers produced these results: (more…)

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Technical assistance. Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

 

The coronavirus has forced early education and care providers to protect themselves – from both the virus and from the virus-wracked economy.

To help providers with these financial challenges, we are co-sponsoring a technical assistance webinar tomorrow at 2 p.m. The full details are:

 

Town Hall for Massachusetts Childcare & Early Education Providers

To address some of the significant changes you are facing, or may come to face, in this quickly changing environment

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 Eastern time

Click here to register.

[Update: Here’s the link to the webinar recording.]

The webinar will feature lawyers from Goodwin Procter’s Neighborhood Business Initiative as well as speakers from the Children’s Investment Fund, Neighborhood Villages, and Strategies for Children.

“Providers are experts at child development. And Goodwin Procter has tremendous legal experience working with local businesses, nonprofits, and banks,” Titus Dos Remedios, Strategies’ director of research and policy, says. “Connecting these two groups will help providers immediately and over time as we move beyond the pandemic.” (more…)

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As early education and care providers struggle through the coronavirus crisis, they have a business-world ally: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of Foundation.

The foundation’s stance is simple and clear: high-quality child care is good for children, families, and business.

And now in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with “over 30 states implementing stay-at-home orders… the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is committed to helping the childcare industry weather this storm.”

To provide “more information for childcare businesses struggling to stay afloat, the Chamber Foundation hosted a webinar” that covers the virus’ impact on the child care industry, the federal response, and how providers can access loans and other resources for small businesses.

Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief policy officer, discussed the many features of the new federal CARES Act. And Bridget Weston, the acting CEO of the SCORE Association, explained that her organization provides volunteer business mentors who can help small businesses navigate during the immediate crisis and over time. SCORE, a partner of the federal Small Business Association, also offers online education and weekly webinars. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

As the country struggles to cope with the coronavirus, a group of Massachusetts elected officials and their spouses have written a powerful Boston Globe op-ed that calls on Congress to support the child care industry with a bailout.

“COVID-19 has (rightfully) forced the closure of child care centers across Massachusetts. In doing so, it has forced a profound reckoning about the state of the American child care system,” the op-ed says.

The closures, as we’ve blogged, have sown fears and doubts and hard questions that do not yet have answers. And on Wednesday, Governor Baker extended school and non-emergency child care closures to May 4, 2020.

However, the op-ed says:

“One thing is clear: We can no longer afford to approach child care as an economic accessory. We must approach it as the oxygen on which every facet of our recovery will depend.”

The op-ed’s authors are Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and her husband Bruce Mann, a Harvard Law School professor; Representative Joe Kennedy III and his wife Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, the co-founder of Neighborhood Villages; Representative Katherine Clark; and Representative Ayanna Pressley and her husband Conan Harris, the principal of Conan Harris & Associates LLC Consultant Firm.

Exploring the bigger picture, the op-ed adds: (more…)

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“When people ask me why it’s difficult to find high-quality early child care, one of the first things I bring up is how quality is too expensive for most parents. As a result, providers often don’t charge enough and parents don’t pay enough to cover the true cost of quality care.

“If they did, early child care educators would be making more than the poverty-level wages many earn. But most parents would also be pushed out of a child care market that’s already difficult to afford. The result is what we see today: a market that allows substandard early child care and education to proliferate. Just ask the experts who rate the majority of child care as fair.

“In this mostly private market, charging less than what high quality truly costs has been the pathway to increasing access to early child care, but it’s a dead end. Without intervention, the tenuous balance between rate-setting for parents and low wages for workers will continue, pushing down quality and the overall supply of early child care.”

 

“High-quality early child care requires fair teacher pay supported through public investment: Sacrificing quality to increase affordability is not the answer,” by Sarah Ann Savage, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, January 30, 2020

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Last night, WBUR and Neighborhood Villages hosted “Childcare And The Future Of The American Dream,” a panel discussion featuring:

Nathaniel Hendren, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and Founding Co-Director of Opportunity Insights

Linda Smith, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Development Initiative, and

Michelle Sanchez, Principal of the Epiphany Early Learning Center (more…)

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What do businesses and parents have in common?

They both benefit from affordable, high-quality child care.

That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has released a report – “Building Bridges Creating Strong Partnerships for Early Childhood Education” – that calls on the business community and early education advocates to find more opportunities to work together to develop “shared solutions.”

The need for solutions is clear. As the report explains, research shows that “the U.S. economy loses an astounding $57 billion per year in revenue, wages, and productivity as a result of issues related to childcare.”

To understand the ingredients of successful business/early education partnerships, the Chamber Foundation asked more than 150 business community members and early education advocates for their insights.

The result, JD Chesloff explains is that, “The report provides valuable guidance on how business leaders and advocates can work together to create more high-quality, affordable child care.” Chesloff is the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, and he served for ten years on the board of Massachusetts’ Department of Early Education and Care.

“The report acknowledges up front that business leaders and advocates often have different agendas,” Chesloff adds. “That’s why they have to do the work to understand each other, communicate with each other, and share resources. That’s the formula for forming successful partnerships. And that’s why this report is a must read for anyone looking to make change in early childhood education.” (more…)

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Photo: Titus DosRemedios

 

A new early childhood champion is being born: Wednesday, January 1, 2020 will be the official start of One SouthCoast Chamber, a regional chamber of commerce that covers Fall River, New Bedford, and parts of Rhode Island.

And the new organization — which unites the SouthCoast Chamber of New Bedford and the Bristol County Chamber of Fall River — has already announced a key area of focus: early childhood education.

“Over the next few months, business leaders and educators will collaborate to develop a plan to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten and childcare in the region, particularly in Fall River and New Bedford,” a SouthCoast Today article says.

And Brian LeComte, the incoming chairman of the One SouthCoast Chamber board, tells SouthCoast Today:

“The business community wants to have a positive impact on the success of our region and there is no greater success we can champion than early childhood education.” (more…)

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Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

How bad are high child care costs?

Even though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says families should only spend 7 percent of their income on child care, it turns out that working families with children younger than age 5 are spending on average nearly 10 percent of their income.

That’s one of the troubling findings in a new issue brief – “Working Families Are Spending Big Money on Child Care” — from the Center for American Progress.

Without affordable child care, it’s harder for parents to go to work and harder in turn for them to earn the middle-class salaries that can provide families with long-term stability. This is a particularly tough challenge in Massachusetts where the Coalition for Social Justice – which Strategies for Children is a member of — is campaigning for affordable child care.

“Absent large-scale policy action on this issue,” the brief says, “young adults have reported child care expenses as the top reason they are having fewer children than they would like. In fact, in 2018, the U.S. fertility rate fell to a record low for the third straight year, falling below the replacement rate needed to keep the population constant from one generation to the next.” (more…)

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