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A few months before the pandemic hit, the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey of the early education and care workforce.

The survey results are a pre-pandemic snapshot of a shaky situation that policymakers can use to understand the toll that the pandemic has taken on providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that early care and education is a key piece of infrastructure for the economy,” Anne Douglass, the executive director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, says in a blog post. “Parents need early care and education options that are high quality and affordable because when child care isn’t available, parents can’t work.”

The institute released a report on the survey results along with UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and its Center for Social Policy. The survey was commissioned by the Department of Early Education and Care.

One important lesson from the survey, Douglass says, is that “returning to pre-pandemic ways of doing business is not an option.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Your advocacy has paid off!

Last week, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed the Conference Committee’s state budget proposal for fiscal year 2021. The budget includes substantial public investments in early education and care, a sector that has lost so much due to the ongoing pandemic, but nonetheless remains resilient, hopeful, and as essential as ever.

Today, we are asking you to take two actions:

Email Governor Charlie Baker today! Encourage him to sign the FY21 state budget into law and thank him for his continued investments in high-quality early education and care.

Then:

Thank your state legislators for their historic investments in early education and care in the FY21 state budget.

The Conference Committee budget funds the higher dollar amounts for each line item in the House and Senate budgets. This includes a $40 million sliding fee scale reserve to help reduce parent fees; a $25 million reserve for Coronavirus-related support for early education programs and for the workforce; a $20 million rate increase for early educator salaries in subsidized programs; $15 million for Head Start; $5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative; and more.

For more details, visit our state budget webpage.

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“It’s important to remember that before Covid, child care did not work in the United States…. I was part of a major study at New America, and it’s one many others have done, that really found that our child care — [that] we don’t really have a child care system. It’s a broken sort of patchwork that parents are expected to pay so much [for] out of pocket. It’s so much more expensive than most parents can afford. It’s very difficult to find quality child care. And the care educators and teachers, they’re earning poverty wages. About half of them earn so little that they qualify for public benefits like Medicaid and Food Stamps.”

“The other thing that’s just really startling is in surveys when people ask child care providers, How are you? Are you going to stay open? So many of them can’t. We are at risk of losing a million child care slots in an already broken system.”

 

“Why Women Are Disproportionately Impacted By The Pandemic Economy,” Brigid Schulte, Director of the Better Life Lab program and The Good Life Initiative at New America, on the Diane Rehm Show, WAMU Radio, December 1, 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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The big picture: Child care is denting the workforce, preventing a huge swath of Americans from contributing to their firms and to the economy at large. To chip away at the problem, and protect their bottom lines, employers are bulking up child care benefits for workers.

By the numbers:

• Working parents — who make up about a third of the U.S. workforce — are losing an average of eight hours per week due to child care responsibilities during the pandemic, per Northeastern University research.

• Even before the pandemic, inadequate child care was costing working parents $37 billion a year in lost income and employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity, according to Care.com’s data.

What’s happening: Companies across states and industries are bolstering existing benefits and adding new, creative ones to help their employees with kids.

New services: Citigroup is offering discounted test prep and tutoring to employees with school-age kids, reports Fortune.

Making connections: Home Depot and Dell have established support groups for working parents to swap tips or just vent.

Good, old cash: Many working parents are saying the best benefit is simply money, which gives them the flexibility to seek out the specific type of child care that makes sense for them. Bank of America and Deloitte, among other firms, are offering up to $100 a day in child care reimbursements during the pandemic.”

 

“The business case for child care,” by Erica Pandey, Axios, November 10, 2020

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Photo: Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

 

This year, the Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) Capital Fund is focusing on helping EEOST programs cope with the demands of keeping children healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Created in 2013, the fund distributes grants to “finance new construction and renovation” projects that can include classrooms, restrooms, buildings, and outdoor spacesThe fund is administered by the Children’s Investment Fund, an affiliate of the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), and by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

Now, the fund, “will award grants between $100,000 and $250,000… for capital improvements related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The grants are smaller than usual so that more programs will benefit.

“We know that child care providers are facing tremendous strain because of the COVID pandemic. Many are modifying their spaces to continue to provide early education services to families safely,” the fund says in a blog post. “Being able to have the flexibility to use the resources available through the EEOST Capital Fund to meet their needs and strengthen the Commonwealth’s childcare infrastructure is important, as many families rely on child care to return to work.” (more…)

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“While we have made progress in Massachusetts, we know that Covid… has highlighted so many of the inequities in so many systems, and it has also raised broad, concrete awareness of how integral early education and care is to our economy, to the well-being of children and families, and really to the future of our commonwealth.”

– Amy O’Leary, Director of the Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children

 

“We actually have to figure out how much [child care] we need. We haven’t had an honest evaluation of what’s needed in the country, and then, what is that going to cost? And then we have to figure out who is going to pay for it. Because we have programs right now where the cost to produce a quality program for children costs more than our parents can afford to pay… who’s going to pay [to fill] that gap is what we as a nation have yet to figure out.”

– Linda Smith, Director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center

 

“What’s At Stake In The 2020 Election For Massachusetts: Early Education And Childcare,” WBUR Radio, October 27, 2020

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On Monday, Governor Charlie Baker announced new COVID-19 restrictions, issuing an advisory that asks everyone over age 5 to wear masks whenever they go outside.

BUT: This rule does not apply to early education and care programs.

As Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), explains in an email:

“Please note that EEC licensed programs are exempted from the Executive Order and should continue to abide by and adhere to the Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety regarding mask use for adults and children.”

 

 

The commissioner adds:

“Programs should encourage families and staff to abide by these new requirements outside of child care to help keep facilities and our communities safe.

“Let me also take a moment to say thank you to all of the educators and professionals in this state who have found different ways to encourage children to wear their masks — health heroes, kindness super heroes, germ defenders, social stories, and, frankly, just leading by example. We are all in this together, children included.”

To learn more, sign up to receive official EEC emails from the Commissioner’s Office List.

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Photo courtesy of Tiffany Lillie

Back in March, Tiffany Lillie was working hard as the Director of Community Resource Development at the Framingham Public Schools.

She had been thinking about her work running out-of-school-time programs, including child care programs, in her city. She had been in the office working. She had been at community meetings listening to parent feedback. Her 200 staff members were running programs that served 2,000 children a day.

Then, Lillie heard the first coughs of a global pandemic, which gradually turned into a roar.

“In Massachusetts, we were one of the first departments to have a positive COVID-19 case in early March, so we were unfortunately trendsetting,” Lillie says. “There weren’t other examples that we could follow as a department.”

When Governor Charlie Baker ordered schools to close, Framingham pivoted its programs online. COVID-19 infection rates soared across the state.

So what does a school administrator do in the midst of a global crisis where fear and uncertainty have seized center stage?

Well, in Framingham, Mayor Yvonne Spicer and the school department and Lillie and her colleagues kept talking, in calm, clear voices, in multiple languages – because while the world had changed, the work remained the same: educate children; engage families; provide community resources. (more…)

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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has just published an important article about COVID-19’s impact on child care.

“When the crisis started, some experts hoped it was a wake-up call for policymakers about the importance of accessible and affordable child care to a fully functioning economy,” the article, written by Jay Lindsay, says.

But as the article’s title — “Future of child care sector shakier than ever, a half year into pandemic” – points out, child care is still on treacherous ground.

“To better understand what’s behind and ahead, Beth Mattingly of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston teamed up with Jess Carson from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire to address the pandemic’s impact on this vulnerable sector,” the article explains.

In an article they posted this summer, Mattingly and Carson point out that child care programs were already stretched thin before the pandemic:

“This dichotomy of high costs for families and low wages for workers derives from child care being a mostly private-pay system with limited public contributions. One outcome is high turnover as employees seek higher pay outside the industry, often in the public school system. Child care sits in stark contrast to publicly funded education, where teachers are paid significantly more than child care workers, have greater job security, and are typically offered benefits such as health insurance, paid sick leave, and retirement plans.” (more…)

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