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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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Here at Strategies for Children, we are excited to announce the launch of our new Advocacy Network for Early Education and Care, a year-long advocacy experience for emerging leaders in the field.

To launch the first cohort, we’ve chosen nine new and established leaders from across Massachusetts, including four from Boston. They are all passionate about advocating for children, families, and educators in their communities, and they want to learn new advocacy skills and knowledge to improve programs, communities, and policies. This cohort approach is similar to the one we used to create our Speakers’ Bureau, a program that prepared early educators to use their voices and share their stories with the media or through event panels or at State House rallies.

“Since the pandemic began, the team at Strategies for Children has learned so much about how to engage the field in advocacy,” says Titus DosRemedios, Strategies’ deputy director. “Our daily 9:30 calls informed our approach to the Speakers’ Bureau, which in turn inspired and helped shape the Advocacy Network.”

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Within every challenge lies vast opportunity,” David Jordan, president of the Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates, writes in a new CommonWealth magazine article.

The challenge Jordan is referring to is the shortage of early education and care staff members.

The opportunity to address this shortage, he says, is to set up an apprenticeship program.

Jordan explains, “The path to becoming a credentialed Child Development Associate, which enables one to become a preschool teacher and, with additional training, a lead teacher, is difficult and costly.”

And asking budding early educators to leave work and then go to school at the end of the day ignores the fact that many are parents who need to get home to their own children.

As Jordan explains, an apprenticeship program would address this problem:

“An on-the-job – we call it ‘learn while you earn’ – training program coupled with virtual classroom education form the core of an apprenticeship program that is a vital way to encourage retention and promotion in the child care workforce. Onsite mentoring provides the professional support for the apprentice’s adaptation of classroom learning to practice.”

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“In 2019, Virginia received federal funding from a Preschool Development Birth through Five grant (PDG), and allocated a considerable portion of their funds for direct financial incentives to early educators. The goal of this program, the Teacher Recognition Program (TRP), was to recognize teachers’ hard work, lower their financial stress, reduce turnover, and create more stable early learning opportunities for children.”

“Teachers at sites that were randomly assigned to the TRP were far less likely to turn over. About one-quarter of all teachers at sites without access to incentives left their site within eight months (see Figure 1 below). Only 14% of teachers eligible for the incentive did.

“The results were even more striking among child-care teachers: The financial incentive cut turnover rates in half, from 30% to 15%.” 

“President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would provide this type of transformative funding, giving states the financial resources and supports needed to meaningfully improve child-care quality in part through compensation reforms. However, getting the bill through the Senate has proved difficult, with growing calls to cut key pieces. Finding a way to pass this legislation, including the investments in the teachers who care for and teach our youngest children, is essential – not only for the struggling child-care sector, but for the economy as a whole. Public investments in early educators are long overdue, and they are imperative for meeting the needs of children, parents, and society.”

“How can we improve early childhood education? Use public dollars to pay teachers more.” by Daphna Bassok and Justin B. Doromal, Brookings, January 5, 2022

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2021 Review post 2

We know 2022 is already off to a rough start.

But in 2021, we learned that in the early education and care field, we’re stronger together.

The more we talked to each other and worked with each other, the stronger we became.

Now Strategies for Children is sharing a year-in-review message about 2021 to build a strong base for 2022, a new year for advocacy on behalf of children, families, and educators.

Please check out our message and share it with your networks.

We’re looking forward to all that we’ll accomplish together in 2022.

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Photo: Anna Shvets from Pexels

It’s a new year, but early educators continue to cope with rising cases of COVID-19.

What we’re hearing on our 9:30 calls, is that the early childhood field is struggling badly. Because of Covid, many staff members are at home recovering, so some programs will probably have to close classrooms this week. And while the National Guard is delivering rapid Covid tests to public school districts, this not true for early education programs.

“The health crisis continues to highlight so many inequities in so many of our systems,” Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director, says. “We cannot make decisions for one part of the education system and leave out another. We need the same commitment to early educators and staff that the state is making to K-12 educators and staff with COVID tests.

“This pattern has continued through the pandemic. It is hard to believe that we are here after two years – especially since many early education and care programs were open last week, meaning directors and educators did not get a break during the holiday.”

In a Boston Globe article featuring local early education and care directors and educators, Lauren Cook, the CEO of Ellis Early Learning explained how hard running programs has been. As the article’s headline states, this work has been “Really demoralizing and operationally very, very hard.”

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Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

 
Although the pandemic has devastated early education and care programs, states have been able to create some stability thanks to federal Covid relief funds.

This historically high funding was delivered through three federal acts:

• the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), March 2020

• the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), December 2020, and

• the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), March 2021

“This influx of funding was a historic and critical investment for a system in crisis,” according to a new analysis of the impact of federal relief funds on the child care sector from the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation (MTF).

The relief funding invested $28.5 billion in the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, including $372.7 million for Massachusetts. These funds were used for vital efforts, including reopening grants; subsidized spots for children; covering operational costs; workforce investments; and technical assistance to support the distribution of grants.

In addition, MTF explains, “ARPA allocated $23 billion to a new child care program for states: the Child Care Stabilization Fund. This program was created to address the financial burdens faced by providers during the pandemic and prevent a further reduction in the supply of child care as states recover.”

Massachusetts has also received $5.3 billion in Fiscal Recovery Funds. And while this funding is not designated specifically for child care, it does “offer policymakers options for child care investment.” (more…)

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Screenshot: The Boston Foundation website

 

A new report from The Boston Foundation – “When the Bough Breaks Why Now Is the Moment to Invest in Massachusetts’ Fragile Child Care System” — sounds an important alarm.

“The early education and care system in Massachusetts is at a breaking point. The Commonwealth has the second most expensive child care market in the United States. Families routinely pay upwards of $20,000 a year for care for their young children,” the report says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made an already very challenging situation worse.”

“Without public investment in early education and care, the Massachusetts economy will be unable to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The report is based on interviews with local stakeholders who are parents, providers, and advocates, including Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children.

“The directors I talk to are panicked,” O’Leary says in the report. “They are in their classroom from morning until night because they can’t find enough staff.”

“When programs are not able to open, when child care centers close their doors, people are going to be mad,” O’Leary adds. “And they are going to say, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us that this was about to collapse?’” (more…)

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The CARES Act gave more money to Delta Airlines, just that one company, than the entire child care industry as a whole.”

— Claire Suddath, Bloomberg Businessweek Senior Writer, on Amanpour & Company, December 8, 2021

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In October, the Prenatal to 3 Policy Impact Center released a video that looks at how families fare in different states.

“The Same Family, Different Support simulation brings the Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap to life and compares the level of resources available to a sample family of three based on each state’s actual policy choices,” the center says on its website.

“This unique analysis clearly illustrates that there is substantial variation in available resources during the critical prenatal to age 3 period, based on state policy choices.”

One key finding: “the level of resources a family has available to meet their basic needs varies substantially, from over $42,000 per year in DC, to less than $22,000 in North Carolina.”

The center found that “state minimum wage policies and child care subsidy policies drive most of the variation.”

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