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Archive for the ‘Dept. of Early Education and Care’ Category

The Massachusetts Legislature is poised to take an exciting step forward. 

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education has just released a bill, An Act to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care.

It’s an investment in young children and the early education workforce that promises to make the state stronger as these children grow.

The bill draws heavily on the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which released a report in March. The bill also includes many of the policies advocated for by the Common Start Coalition in a bill it worked to file in 2021.

When it’s fully implemented, this legislation “will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts,” according to a statement released by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester).

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The Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is having a meeting today at 1 p.m., the first meeting with Acting Commissioner Amy Kershaw, who was appointed in March.

You can watch the meeting live by clicking here. Afterwards, a recording of the meeting can be found here.

The three items that will be discussed are:

• Early Learnings and Proposed Framework for Strategic Action Plan Implementation

Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3)

                      • Stabilization Grants Update & Preliminary Outcomes

                      • Workforce Bonus Funds, and

• a Market Rate Study

Please tune in! Watching the board meeting is a great way to hear directly from state-level policymakers!

As Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, says, “This is not a time to slow down or stall. It is a time to continue the important work of EEC, to ensure a stable early education and care field.”

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Here’s an update on two of our Advocacy Network participants.

Stay tuned for more Advocacy Network updates in the coming weeks.


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Huong Vu

Huong Vu is a family engagement counselor at Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester – which is one way of saying she does a little bit of everything. She supports families in the Boys and Girls Club as well as families in the community. 

“We offer a free play group, a parent support group, and family engagement events,” she says of programs for families with young children, “and home visits and developmental screening.”

“Most of the families that we work with are low income or immigrants. English is not their first language. We work with families who speak Vietnamese, Spanish, Cape Verdean, and Haitian Creole. And they are not just from Dorchester, they’re from all across Boston.”

It’s work that has given Vu a great perspective on families and that makes her a great participant in Strategy for Children’s Advocacy Network, a year-long advocacy experience for early educators and emerging leaders.

One thing Vu has learned: “I didn’t know that I was already an advocate,” she says. “Every day, when it comes to work, my hope is that I can make small changes in families’ lives. Maybe I can connect them to a food program, or I can refer a child to an intervention program.

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Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

A long awaited and welcome report from the Massachusetts Legislature has been released this week, and it charts a policy course for early education and care.

“Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families,” the report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission says.

The commission was chaired by Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester), and was composed of “a variety of stakeholders… including legislators, providers, professional organizations, business leaders and employers, advocates, and state agency leaders.”

As Chair Peisch says in a press release, “Long a leader in K-12 public education, Massachusetts now has an opportunity to build on that success in the early education and child care sectors by acting on the recommendations contained in this report.” 

“This work is critical to our goals of advancing racial justice and an equitable economy that works for all,” Chair Lewis adds.

Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group in Lawrence, Mass., adds: 

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Amy Kershaw

We’re excited to welcome Amy Kershaw as the new acting commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

Or, more precisely, we’re excited to welcome her back.

As EEC Board Chair Nonie Lesaux says in an EEC press release, “Commissioner Kershaw’s professional roots in early education policy and her very strong track record of public service and leadership in Massachusetts will greatly benefit EEC, especially at this pivotal time.”

Kershaw is currently the commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance. But long before this, she worked in early childhood, first as the director of Research and Policy here at Strategies for Children, and then as a deputy commissioner and later as acting commissioner of EEC. 

She is scheduled to become acting commissioner on March 28. Until then, Education Secretary James Peyser will serve in the position.

As acting commissioner, Kershaw will be able to steer the field through what appears to be the dwindling of the pandemic and on to what could become a period of great progress.

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Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

For two and a half years, Samantha Aigner-Treworgy served as commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, and here at Strategies for Children, we are grateful for her leadership.

Commissioner Sam, as she asked people to call her, has been a bold, innovative leader who has made transformational changes in a field that has historically been undervalued and overlooked. She stepped down today. And at the Department of Early Education and Care Board meeting , she thanked the field saying it was an honor to do this work. She has also shared this letter.

Her outreach and engagement with the field – with directors, educators, family child care providers, school-age staff, and families – has been unprecedented and inspiring. Through town halls, Zoom events, strategic planning sessions, and in-person visits, she connected with people across the state. 

She has also built partnerships with likely and unlikely allies, based on her belief that everyone can help leverage public and private resources to build a stronger system of early education and care.

And six months into her tenure, she faced the demands of leading through a global pandemic. This was a test of her professional strength and her problem-solving skills, and she met the challenge, developing policies that were models for the rest of the country. These include: 

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Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

Samantha Aigner-Treworgy is stepping down as the commissioner of Massachusetts’ Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). 

“As you know, the last two years have been incredibly demanding and required tireless efforts across every community in the Commonwealth,” Aigner-Trewogy, or Commissioner Sam, as some called her, said in an email to the field. “Every day, I have been impressed by the tenacity and the dedication of this incredible field—particularly as we have navigated so much change and uncertainty. This sector has given its all to serve children and families throughout this pandemic, the progress we’ve made together on behalf of the Commonwealth has been nothing short of remarkable.”

“I have spoken with the EEC Board, and we have agreed that the time is right for me to move on from my position and allow for a change in leadership at EEC,” Aigner-Trewogy added. “Of course, leaving is not easy, but after much reflection, I believe it is the right decision for me, my family, and for the next chapter in EEC’s work.”

WBUR reports that Aigner-Treworgy “has served as EEC commissioner since 2019, though state officials say she’ll be most known for her leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic, which spanned much of her two-and-a-half year tenure. Her last day is March 8.”

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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced a new way to protect the state’s early educators and young children: a Covid testing program called Testing for Child Care that will add more layers of protection for early childhood programs.

Thanks to the acquisition of 26 million rapid antigen tests, this new effort will enable child care programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to provide free tests for children and staff and access testing resources, training, and protocols.

As the State House News Service reports:

“Center and family-based child care providers enrolled in the program will be given free rapid COVID-19 antigen tests to be used on children and staff age 2 and older who are close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual. Students and staff who test negative daily for five consecutive days could be allowed to remain in their classrooms, officials said.

“Tests will also be available for day care centers that want to engage in symptomatic testing to isolate positive individuals and rule out COVID-19 in other children and staff who might have symptoms similar to those that come with the virus.”

Knowing, within minutes, the Covid status of children and staff members will help programs stay open and be able to send those who are Covid-positive home so they can rest and recover.

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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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