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Archive for the ‘Cost and affordability’ Category

“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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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

In the search for child care, many mothers end up making disappointing tradeoffs.

To better understand what parents face, the Federal Reserve Bank took a closer look at the challenges and released the findings in a new issue brief, “Child care tradeoffs among Massachusetts mothers.”

“Between October 2019 and January 2020, we interviewed 67 mothers in Massachusetts whose children had not yet started kindergarten,” the brief explains. It was written by Sarah Savage, a senior policy analyst and advisor at the Boston Fed, and Wendy Robeson, senior research scientist with the Work, Families, and Children Research Group at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

What Savage and Robeson heard from the mothers they interviewed were the many ways that child care tradeoffs have an economic impact. (Dads were invited to participate in these interviews, but all the responses came from moms.) This is pre-Covid research that shows how tough it was to find child care in normal times. Now in the midst of the pandemic, these challenges continue, and some have grown worse.

“This study reveals that an inadvertent effect of a mostly private market of child care is that it requires parents of young children to compromise and in some cases sacrifice what they need to achieve and maintain economic security, let alone advance it, with consequences for their children’s development,” the brief explains.

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The State House is seeing a flurry of activity as the 2021-2022 legislative session winds down.

On Monday the Legislature passed a state budget with major investments in early education and care.

Legislators continue their work this week to finalize an economic development bill that could include additional funding for early education.

Early education and care legislation is still pending, awaiting action in the House.

On July 7, 2022, the Massachusetts Senate took a bold step forward by voting unanimously to pass An Act to expand access to high-quality, affordable early education and care (S.2973). But to become law, it will also need to be approved by the House before the end of this month.

The Common Start Coalition continues to lead advocacy for the bill’s passage. Visit Common Start for the latest advocacy updates. (Strategies for Children serves on the Common Start steering committee). Let your state representative know about the Senate bill, and encourage them to pass a similar bill in the House.

This promising bill provides a strong framework for tackling many of the persistent challenges that the field faced long before the pandemic started.

The bill would put Massachusetts on a path toward establishing a system of affordable and high-quality early education and care for families. The bill also calls for providing more support for early educators.

Senate President Karen Spilka provides details here.

The need is great. As Mark Reilly, the Vice President of Policy & Government Relations at Jumpstart, points out, “Massachusetts is 40th in the nation in state investment in early education and we are pleased to see that the Legislature is poised to drive the state up those rankings.”

Massachusetts can build on the pending investments in the state budget by passing a historic bill that charts a long-term course for bolstering our early education and care system.

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“Just as the Senate led on transforming the Commonwealth’s K-12 education system through the Student Opportunity Act, today’s bill would similarly transform the early education system,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Unfortunately, high-quality early education remains out of reach for most Massachusetts families, and our providers struggle to keep their doors open. This bill will address those issues and make our Commonwealth stronger by making early education more affordable, investing in our early educators, and ensuring the sustainability of our providers.”

“With this bill, we are creating a framework to support the early education and care sector; making clear that the Senate understands the vital importance of early childhood to our economic recovery and to the health and wellbeing of Massachusetts families,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I am proud of this bill and the work that has gone into it. I thank the Senate President for her leadership in prioritizing this issue, and I want thank Senator Lewis for thoughtfully and collaboratively putting this important legislation together.”

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”We write today to share the challenges the ECE sector continues to face and to request that Congress rally behind the new Murray-Kaine ECE proposal and invest a minimum of $200 billion in the reconciliation bill to ensure that high-quality early education and care delivered by well-compensated educators is available and affordable for all Massachusetts families.

“The system for providing care and education for our youngest learners was broken even before the pandemic. In order to provide high-quality programming in enriching learning environments, providers need to make costly investments in building infrastructure, classroom materials, and the workforce. Yet, programs cannot squeeze more out of families who are already struggling to afford care and the voucher system does not compensate programs for the true cost of that care.”

“Since March 2020, 1,359 programs in the Commonwealth have closed, representing 17% of all programs in the state and 23,395 slots for children. Data from January of this year reveals that 60% of programs reported reduced enrollment driven primarily through staff shortages, and 69% of programs reported educator openings.”

“At this crucial moment where transformative investment is within reach but uncertain, we request that you ensure that ECE is included in the reconciliation package and that it includes a minimum investment of $200 billion into the early education and care system.”

— A letter to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation signed by 182 advocacy organizations, business associations, foundations, higher education institutions, school districts, and child care providers from 94 communities across the state, including Strategies for Children, June 10, 2022

To learn more, check out CLASP’s “Impact of Murray-Kaine Child Care & Early Education Proposal” 

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Check out this new feature from WBUR radio that is aptly titled: “We asked 8 child care workers about their joys and frustrations. Here’s what they said.”

It’s part of a week-long series on early education and care.

This particular article and audio clip features:

Bernadette Davidson

Kiya Savannah

Vanessa Pashkoff (whom we’ve blogged about)

Kimberly Artez

Llanet Montoya

Anna Rogers

Kitt Cox, and

Stacia Buckmann

WBUR asks these early educators to discuss “the joys and challenges of working in this industry, and why some are leaving the profession,” as the field grapples with challenges.

“The child care workforce in Massachusetts is about 12% smaller today than it was before the start of the pandemic, according to a recent analysis from the University of California, Berkeley,” WBUR explains.

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The state budget process for fiscal year 2023 is entering its final stages. A six-member conference committee of legislators is meeting now to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That is the difference between House and Senate proposals, including $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal as well as $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget. Specifically, this email says:

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

In most of Massachusetts, full-day kindergarten classes are a free part of what local public schools provide.

But as our past intern Cheyanne Nichter found when she researched the issue, there are 38 school districts in Massachusetts that have charged tuition for full-day kindergarten during the last few years. Nichter’s work helped us develop a fact sheet on full-day kindergarten tuition costs.

Kindergarten enrollment, as the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education explains, “is encouraged but not required in Massachusetts. All school districts are required to provide free half day kindergarten to families but many provide a full day option (either free or tuition based).”

Charging tuition for kindergarten creates a financial burden for parents and an inequitable situation since the amounts parents pay vary by district.

In Acton-Boxborough, for example, kindergarten tuition was $4,500 in the 2019-2020 school year. There was no kindergarten program in 2020-2021. And the tuition for the current 2021-2022 year is $3,750.

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