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Archive for the ‘Early educators’ Category

Screenshot: Early educator Camila Pontes 

 

Earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker overlooked the needs of young children and their families as well early childhood programs when he announced that rapid COVID-19 testing would be available to K-12 schools, but not early education and care and afterschool programs.

Since then, advocates — including Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations – have sent a letter to the governor asking him to reconsider this decision.

Last week, Strategies for Children and Neighborhood Villages also hosted a panel discussion on this pressing issue, “Prioritizing COVID-19 Testing in Early Education and Care.” A recording of this event is posted here.

“… equity demands that public health measures made available to K-12 [schools] also be applied to early education and afterschool as well,” Binal Patel says in her introduction to the panel discussion. Patel is Neighborhood Villages’ Chief Program Officer.

“We know that testing works. It catches positives [test results] before teachers enter classrooms. And it allows us to identify and address potential exposures early.” (more…)

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Sarah Mills

How do you go from being a preschool teacher to working as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State House? 

For Sarah Mills, it’s all about loving the work of interacting with young children. 

In elementary and middle school, Mills enjoyed helping out with infants and toddlers who were enrolled in her public school’s preschool program. 

As a Syracuse University college student, Mills got a work-study job at her campus’ early education center. 

And when she came to Boston to attend graduate school at Simmons University, she needed to work full-time, so she found a job at KinderCare in downtown Boston where she spent half her time working with infants and half her time working in the afterschool program. 

“When I was younger, I just loved kids; they were so much fun to hang out with,” Mills recalls. “It’s really exciting being with kids who are ages zero to five because you get to watch them go through so many significant milestones, whether it’s their first steps or their first words. Being with kids at this age is truly joyful.” 

“Another wonderful thing is that you get to know the families. I had a lot of families with first-time babies, and so I had the responsibility of helping to educate them and helping them to feel comfortable, because it’s scary to drop your child off for the first time with people you’ve just met. And I was working before the paid family leave law. So I saw parents who had no choice but to bring children who were six weeks or 12 weeks old to our program.”  (more…)

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

In my nearly 30 years in and around state government, and currently as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, I’ve learned that three elements are necessary to move a policy agenda: unassailable data and research; a robust grassroots field operation; and a champion… someone who makes the issue their top priority. For years – since I worked for the Early Education for All Campaign and long before – Strategies for Children has produced great data and organized and energized the field. And for years, Speaker Bob DeLeo has been the champion.

As the Speaker ends an extraordinary career in public service, I’ve been reflecting on his determined and effective leadership in early education and care. It’s an issue that is a perennial priority for the Roundtable and one that has afforded me the opportunity to work closely with DeLeo. Early on, he understood the connection between high quality early education and economic growth. In a seminal speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in March of 2015, the Speaker noted the innate connection between economic growth and education, calling early childhood “game changing” and urging the business community to take a leadership role in advancing public policy in this area. (more…)

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Across Massachusetts, after closing because of the pandemic, early education and care providers have been reopening, navigating the challenges created by COVID-19.

“We still are ahead of many, many states in our reopening capacity,” Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, said at a recent department board meeting, public radio station WBUR reports. “While that is really great, what we’re hearing back is many of those [providers] are at a level of vulnerability that could easily put us behind the country quickly as well.”

WBUR adds:

“Eighty-two percent of the state’s licensed providers reopened as of Nov. 23, according to the latest survey from the Department of Early Education and Care. But, many providers told the state that reopening has come with a slew of financial challenges. Many reported struggles to find qualified staffers, or families to fill available slots. Some were forced to contend with the costs of temporary closures because of suspected or confirmed exposure to the coronavirus.” (more…)

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“The situation is dire for child care providers—the ones that are still open. Add to that the thousands of providers that have already closed and the magnitude of this national crisis is much, much greater.” — Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO, NAEYC

“We are temporarily closing as of tomorrow. I cannot find or keep staff. I have a waitlist and empty classrooms.” — Tanya Going, child care provider, Pryor, Oklahoma

“We are foregoing purchases that impact quality programming in an effort to save funds. The uncertainty and the increased expenses have caused us to postpone the purchase of needed materials, supplies, staff professional development and equipment.” — Melissa Colagrosso, child care provider, Oak Hill, West Virginia

 

“Am I Next? Sacrificing to Stay Open, Child Care Providers Face a Bleak Future Without Relief,” NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), December 2020

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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

 

It has been a turbulent year for state budget proceedings in Massachusetts. The fiscal year 2021 budget has been delayed since July due to the pandemic. Instead of a full budget for the entire year, the state has passed monthly budgets which essentially extend the fiscal year 2020 budget one month at a time. There was also a supplemental budget for the FY20 fiscal year, which Governor Baker signed on July 24, 2020. That budget included critical funding related to COVID-19 relief for early education and care, including $45.6 million in federal CARES Act funding used for child care reopening grants.

In October, Governor Baker released his revised FY21 budget proposal, which he had originally released in January. This budget preserved and increased funding for early education and care, while also proposing a new Early Education COVID Recovery Fund.

Now in November, the FY21 budget is rapidly coming together. The House passed its budget last week; it contains much needed funding for early education and care, including a $20 million rate increase for early educators and $10 million for a reserve to reduce fees for parents enrolling in subsidized child care. The House budget also earmarks up to $50 million in the two child care access accounts for COVID-related child care stabilization funding and incentive pay for early educators.

House Budget: H.5150

Executive Summary

House Amendments, Consolidated Amendment A

(more…)

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Photo: Courtesy of Charlestown Nursery School

 

“In 1918 in New York City, they took all the children outside,” Kelly Pellagrini, the co-founder and co-director of Charlestown Nursery School, tells NBC’s local news station, describing how people coped during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Just over a century later, Pellagrini and her staff are doing the same thing, moving the 85 children in their program to a local park.

“Every morning… we pack up everything that we have inside the classroom, and we bring it outside,” Pellagrini says.

The nursery school moves its materials in wagons to a local park.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Charlestown Nursery School

 

NBC news adds: (more…)

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On October 14, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker released a revised budget for fiscal year 2021, totaling $45.5 billion. This is an increase of $900 million over the governor’s January budget proposal.

CommonWealth Magazine reports:

“The high budget is largely driven by excessive spending in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. It would be paid for with an influx of federal money as well as a $1.3 billion draw from the state’s $3.5 billion rainy day fund.”

“ ‘The rainy day fund is there to support services when it’s raining, and I think most people would agree it’s raining,’ Baker said at a State House press conference.”

The governor’s proposed funding for early education and care largely stayed the same compared to his January budget proposal.

One exception is the $5 million proposal for the workforce development initiative (3000-7066), a reduction from the $8.5 million proposed in January. (more…)

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Photo: Anna Shvets from Pexels

 

To learn more about COVID-19, Yale University researchers have asked a key question: How has the virus spread through early childhood programs?

The answer is featured in a report – “COVID-19 Transmission in US Child Care Programs” – published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Central to the debate over school and child care reopening is whether children are efficient COVID-19 transmitters and likely to increase community spread when programs reopen,” the report says.

Led by Yale University professor Walter Gilliam, the research team surveyed 57,000 child care providers across the country about their experiences earlier this year. The researchers compared child care programs that had closed to programs that had remained open.

The report’s encouraging finding:

“Within the context of considerable infection mitigation efforts in U.S. child care programs, exposure to child care during the early months of the U.S. pandemic was not associated with elevated risk for COVID-19 transmission to providers,” the report says.

“Until now, decision makers had no way to assess whether opening child care centers would put staff at greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” Gilliam says in a Yale University article. “This study tells us that as long as there are strong on-site measures to prevent infection, providing care for young children doesn’t seem to add to the provider’s risk of getting sick.” (more…)

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