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Archive for the ‘Cost and affordability’ Category

Screenshot 2023-01-31 at 2.04.53 AM

Screenshot: Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation

The good news: since the start of the pandemic, Massachusetts has seen increased investments in child care, up to $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2023.

The bad news: these investments aren’t paying off the way they could.

A new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) — Preparing for Child Care Reform: How to Improve the Subsidy System to Maximize Future Investment — points to a key problem, noting:

“The subsidized child care system in Massachusetts is complicated and inefficient. The result of a state-federal partnership, it serves three different eligible populations with two different forms of subsidies and uses multiple funding streams.”

“Massachusetts is to be commended for its substantial investment in child care in recent years; unfortunately, the subsidy system is complex and inefficient,” Doug Howgate, MTF’s president says in a press release.

Among the results of this systemic failure, the report says, is “lagging enrollment numbers, financially unstable providers, and disruptions and delays in care for families.”

According to MTF’s previous research, this complicated inefficiency comes at a high cost: “due to inadequate child care, Massachusetts loses roughly $2.7 billion a year in lost earnings for employees, additional costs and lower productivity for employers, and in reduced tax revenues.”

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The Early Childhood Agenda is making progress. This convening series hosted by Strategies for Children has brought together more than 400 individual advocates and partners. Participants have been meeting in five working groups to identify systemic challenges and set priorities.

Last week, participants attended a whole group meeting – dubbed “Bringing it all Together” and recorded in the video above – to talk across the Agenda’s working groups and ensure that the groups’ efforts are aligned and that any gaps in the work are addressed.

Among the themes that were discussed:

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One of the most important lessons you learn in a conversation with Mo Barbosa is that everything in youth development work is – or should be – connected.

“The better we do with zero to five,” Barbosa says of working with young children, “the better we’re going to do with the next 10 to 15 years of development.”

Barbosa is the senior director of Community Engagement at Health Resources in Action, where his goal as a trainer and facilitator is to professionalize the youth work field. He is the facilitator for convenings of The Early Childhood Agenda, which are hosted by Strategies for Children.

Barbosa’s sweeping focus is on the zero-to-24 age range – “or 24-ish” he says, “as we’re starting to understand the brain, we’re going a little bit later.”

But instead of a well-paved road that leads from birth to early adulthood, children and families in Massachusetts — and the rest of the country — face a fractured system. 

“There has been this historic difference between where you get child care and how much of it is early education and how much of it is just a place to put your kid,” Barbosa says. “And that difference has dictated quality. It has dictated pay. And it has dictated opportunity.”

Barbosa recalls running an early childhood program in St. Louis where children who lived in local housing projects would not go to kindergarten because they could not pass the screening test. Instead, they would enter first grade as six-year-olds with no early childhood classroom experiences.

The solution?

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“Our child care system is broken.”

“Initially, to address this crisis as an employer, I considered hosting onsite child care; however, I quickly realized this was a mere stop-gap to a much larger, systemic challenge. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions, which is why the only solution to Vermont’s child care crisis is increasing public investment in our 0-5 child care system. Not just temporarily, but for the long-term, with a sustainable funding source.”

“Column: Lack of child care hinders small businesses,” by Sam Hooper, Valley News, October 25, 2022

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“Over the past couple years, Vermont has seen an influx of thousands of new people and families moving to the state. In Chittenden County alone, from 2020 to 2021, 605 new businesses launched or opened new locations, a massive spike over the previous year. However, it’s increasingly challenging to find workers here in Vermont or those willing and able to relocate and the top reason we hear is lack of high-quality, affordable child care. It’s estimated that there are over 5,000 parents living in Vermont right now who want to work but can’t because they don’t have the child care they need.”

“Hamel, Grace & Wall: The weight of the child care crisis is crushing Vermont’s workforce,” by Carina Hamel, Aba Grace & Tim Wall, Vermont Business Magazine, October 27. 2022 

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What are the best ways for states to help young children?

The Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap has answers that were shared earlier this month at a virtual summit that drew “thousands of national and state leaders, scholars, and practitioners.” Videos of that event are posted here.

Released by Vanderbilt University’s Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, the roadmap is an annual guide that draws on the science of child development. Specifically, the roadmap looks at:

• young children’s wellbeing

• proven, evidence-based policy strategies

• states’ implementation of 11 effective policy and strategy solutions, and

• how policy changes impact young children and their families, and how these changes reduce racial and ethnic disparities

Those 11 policy and strategy solutions are:

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“Cost is one of the big reasons Julie Groce—an educator and mother in Grand Blanc, Mich.—waited until she was in her mid-thirties to have her son. ‘We wanted to be financially ready. We thought we were doing the right thing. Turns out, it didn’t matter. Like, it does not matter. It’s going to suck you dry no matter what,’ Groce recently told Fortune’s Alexis Haut on the new podcast focused on childcare, Where’s My Village?

“Like many parents of young children, Groce is counting down the months until she can enroll her son in public school. ‘We paid $1,200 a month, which is how much our mortgage is. So we pay two mortgages,’ she explains on the podcast, adding that their childcare provider, like many across the country, recently increased tuition costs. 

“That cost, however, is a double-edged sword, Groce says. ‘I’m torn because on one hand, it is 1,000% worth it—the way that he’s growing and thriving, totally worth it. If I could pay more, I would, but I also want to be able to pay the bills and pay our mortgage.’ ”

“Childcare costs are bleeding many families dry. This map shows how expensive it is in your state,” by Megan Leonhardt, Fortune, October 19, 2022

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Photo: Pixabay from Pexels

We’re excited to announce the launch of The Early Childhood Agenda!

This is a new partnership that invites stakeholders like you to build a consolidated agenda for early education and care. 

The Early Childhood Agenda will connect organizations, parents, advocates, businesses, educators, providers, and government representatives that all support the growth, development, and education of our youngest children and the wellbeing of families in Massachusetts through public awareness, policy development, and advocacy efforts.

Strategies for Children will host a series of meetings and facilitate a consensus building process composed of five working groups:

These meetings will produce a list of policy priorities shaped by community needs and the lived experiences and perspectives of our partners.

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“Parents and families rightfully wonder ‘Why is child care so expensive?’ The reality is that it’s expensive because it costs a lot to provide good, high-quality care. Child care providers are not collecting vast sums of money and hoarding it for themselves while not paying their teachers. It’s quite the opposite. They are making every last cent stretch as far as they can. Sometimes by not paying themselves. The simple fact is that we cannot sustain child care the way it exists now and both pay teachers the wages they deserve and keep care affordable for families. It is not possible.

“So what will solve the problem? Public funding. The only way to make child care affordable for families and pay teachers the wages they deserve is to publicly fund child care.”

“Public funding would bridge the gap between what families can afford and the costs to run a quality program that can pay teachers what they deserve. We strongly support the recommendation that for child care to be ‘affordable’ for a family, that family should not pay more than 7% of their income for child care. Right now, many of our families pay 30-40% of their income for child care which is hard to even imagine.”

“Child care pros on squaring the circle of low wages and high costs: We need public funding,” by Tracie Myers, Katy Knudtson, and Stacey Flanigan, The Minnesota Reformer, September 29, 2022

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Massachusetts is a leader in educational excellence, but not for all its students.

As a new report – “There Is No Excellence Without Equity: A Path Forward for Education in Massachusetts” — from the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership (MEEP) explains, “for a long time now, our state’s high overall rankings have masked deep inequities in student learning experiences and outcomes.”

Strategies for Children is a MEEP member.

The disparities the report cites were bad before Covid hit, and many have been aggravated by the pandemic.

“In parts of Boston and cities like Chelsea, Brockton, and Springfield, where infection and death rates were highest, the pandemic inflicted new levels of trauma and anxiety on families already facing significant adversity,” the report says.

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“To meet the caregiving needs of the K-12 educator workforce and the developmental needs of the youngest students, the United States needs sustained, significant federal investments in the accessibility and affordability of high-quality child care.”

“Why K-12 Teachers and Their Students Need Investments in Child Care,” by Emily Katz, The Center for American Progress, June 8, 2022 

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