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Photo: nappy from Pexels

There’s a new child care survey for Massachusetts parents.

So please ask the parents in your programs to fill it out. It should take less than five minutes.

“Help us to identify what is most important to you as a parent/guardian of 0-5 year old child(ren),” the survey says.  “We will use this information to guide expansion of child care supports.”

As we’ve blogged (here and here), gathering data from families is a crucial step in developing successful child care policies.

The survey is the result of a partnership between the Boston Public School’s Department of Early Childhood; the City of Boston’s Economic Mobility Lab — a team of social entrepreneurs who work in the Mayor’s Office of Policy to “advance the upward economic mobility of Bostonians;” and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, which is part of StriveTogether, “a national network of local communities striving to achieve racial equity and economic mobility.” (more…)

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Elliot Haspel, a former fourth grade teacher and policy expert, is calling for “a new form of local infrastructure,” the “early childhood district.”

These districts would create an easy way for parents to understand what – and where — their early education and care options are.

Haspel explains his take on this approach in a new white paper posted on the policy website Capita:

“Child care is not yet a right, and it lacks this kind of easily recognized governmental entity to oversee and provide services. If Kindergarten finds you, child care requires you to find it hidden within a deep, dark forest.”

“In a sentence: Early childhood districts are like school districts but for children five and under.”

This kind of local governance of early education is a concept that Strategies for Children explored in 2019, when we released the policy brief, “Local Governance for Early Childhood: Lessons from Leading States.” We pointed to North Carolina as a good example. (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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“ ‘This is a critical component to our success,’ Whitmer said. ‘Data shows that child care is the biggest single monthly expense for lower income working families with kids. So right now, we’ve got an opportunity in front of us, an opportunity to make an historic, long-term investment in child care.’ ”

“Lawmakers in the Michigan Legislature from both parties have been receptive to Whitmer’s child care proposal, with House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, saying in a statement earlier this week ‘I am confident we will find common ground to move forward and make a real difference helping Michigan families meet their child care needs.’ ”

“Whitmer pushes plans for back to work incentive, increased child care access in Grand Rapids,” by Arpan Lobo, the Holland Sentinel, June 16, 2021

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Screenshot: New America

“Providers need predictable, stable, and adequate funding,” New America says in a new policy brief.

Instead of rebuilding the old system of funding child care slots for low income children based on children’s daily attendance, states should, as the brief’s title says, “Make Child Care More Stable: Pay by Enrollment.”

Now is the time to act because Congress has invested $50 billion in Covid relief funds for child care.

As the brief explains, the attendance-based subsidy system has two glaring flaws. Subsidies often don’t cover the cost of providing child care, and they often don’t provide enough financial help to families.

“In most states, many providers serving children eligible for subsidies are paid several weeks after services are rendered and the amount can vary based on individual child attendance and reimbursement rates, even though provider costs are not determined by how many days a child is present. This monthly variation makes it difficult to make informed decisions around budgeting, staffing, and enrollment.”

This “perpetual underfunding” and “fragmentation in delivery” result in “uneven quality and access to services” that “places financial burdens on families, and perpetuates inadequate wages for the ECE workforce.”

The national nonprofit Child Care Aware of America concurs. In a blog, Child Care Aware notes:

(more…)

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In a recent exhibition, the teachers at Charlestown Nursery School (CNS) shared the important lessons they’ve learned from leaving their building and running their preschool program outdoors in their Boston neighborhood.

The move to the great urban outdoors occurred last fall in the middle of the pandemic. Every morning staff packed supplies into red wagons and pulled the wagons to a local park that served as a classroom. Children arrived in masks and weather appropriate clothing. Being outside helped mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

How did it go?

The teachers say it was the best year ever.
 
Outdoor Exhibition
To heighten their point, they put together the exhibition — “The Qualities of High Quality: Why Reimagining School Matters Now More than Ever” – to engage policymakers in a discussion about access, quality, and how to optimize young children’s learning experiences. (more…)

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Photo: Keira Burton from Pexels

Child care has traveled a long way during the pandemic, as this New York Times article headline explains:

“How Child Care Went From ‘Girly’ Economics to Infrastructure.”

The article looks at the work of economist Nancy Folbre, a professor emerita of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1998, Folbre also won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award because, “Her research on the family, on the work roles of family members, and on the relationships among those roles has challenged traditional economic theory.”

Or as the New York Times summarizes her work:

“You can’t measure the productivity of a child-care center the way you would, say, a car factory… The incentives are nothing alike. The profits don’t go only to the center’s owner. Instead, benefits are shared by children and their parents, and society as a whole. The country benefits from a more educated and productive work force.”

Folbre’s research stood in stark contrast to “mainstream economists, mostly men, [who] had argued that child care or other care work was something women did purely out of love, impossible to think about as an economic issue.”

The pandemic changed that.

(more…)

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“President Biden’s proposal for free, high-quality preschoolfor all 3- and 4-year-olds would create powerful change in Massachusetts, one of the nation’s most expensive child care markets, educators and parents said.

“In a state where, despite its relative wealth and strong public school system, nearly half of children don’t attend preschool, mostly because they can’t afford it, universal preschool could help reduce the educational inequities that start long before kindergarten, they said.

“ ‘I honestly think it’s a game-changer,’ said Amy O’Leary, campaign director of Strategies for Children, an advocacy group. ‘The research tells us that for families who need more support, we see better outcomes in the short and long-term.’ ”

“In an address to Congress last week, Biden said his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan would add four years of free public education — two years of preschool and two years of community college — to the 12 years guaranteed to all children.”

“Biden’s universal preschool plan a ‘game-changer’ for Mass., but final version could look very different,” by Naomi Martin, The Boston Globe, May 2, 2021

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Last night, President Joe Biden delivered his address to a joint session of Congress, calling for national progress in a number of areas, including early education.

According to a White House fact sheet, the president’s plan will “provide families with a range of options to choose from for their child, from child care centers to family child care providers, Early Head Start, and public schools that are inclusive and accessible to all children.”

Here are some excerpts from the president’s speech and some online reactions to what he said:

“Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding the nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America.”

“The great universities of this country have conducted studies over the last 10 years. It shows that adding two years of universal high-quality preschool for every three-year-old and four-year-old, no matter what background they come from, it puts them in the position to be able to compete all the way through 12 years. It increases exponentially their prospect of graduating and going on beyond graduation.”

“Second thing we need: American Families Plan will provide access to quality, affordable childcare… And I’m proposing a legislation to guarantee that low- and middle-income families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of 5. The most hard-pressed working families won’t have to spend a dime.”

“Third, the American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave and medical leave — family and medical leave… No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones –- a parent, a spouse, or child.”

— President Joe Biden
(more…)

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Screenshot: City of Boston website

The city of Boston is launching another child care survey, asking for feedback from Boston parents.

The survey’s purpose is “to better understand how families access and experience care for their children, ages five and under,” the survey website explains

“We want to better understand your challenges with childcare. Your answers will help inform a City policy that works for all.”

It’s an easy, quick, important way for parents to help shape public policy.

The survey asks parents and guardians about their preferences, and it asks about child care accessibility, affordability, and quality. 

(more…)

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