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Archive for the ‘Early educators’ Category

Congratulations to Maria Gonzalez Moeller for being appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)! 

As the CEO of The Community Group (TCG) in Lawrence, Moeller brings the perspective of early educators and families, and she has become an expert in managing the global pandemic so that children and families can get needed support.

She can also share how local early childhood innovations have helped move Massachusetts through the Covid-19 era.

“We had to do everything from scratch,” Moeller says of how her staff coped with the pandemic, “and we adjusted and evolved. That required a lot of flexibility from our staff and a lot of empathy. We knew everyone was going through a hard time.”

To keep its early childhood classes running even when staff were out sick with Covid, The Community Group developed its own employee pipeline, an apprenticeship program for early educators that began as an internal pilot program and then, with funding from the United Way, expanded to include other early childhood centers in the city.

“Training has been a big priority for us, specifically training in Spanish,” Moeller says. “There are a lot of new residents who come to Lawrence looking for a new career. Many of them are women who were teachers in their own countries. So we offer them the opportunity to become an early childhood professional.”

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Last month, Strategies for Children hosted a Reception for Reflection for the first cohort of our Advocacy Network for Early Education and Care – and we’ve created a highlights video to showcase the work of our Advocacy Network participants.

The Advocacy Network is an engaging, year-long experience for emerging leaders. It creates a new structure for connecting and supporting educator-advocates across all regions of the state, while building participants’ advocacy skills and first-hand experience. 

For Anna Ricci-Mejia, an early educator at the East Boston Social Centers, the Advocacy Network experience was inspiring. 

“I decided to speak up more for children’s sake,” she says. “Every word counts. I know there’s a lot of frustration; this is a low-paying career. But when you’re compassionate with children, you learn something new every day.”

Marcia Gadson-Harris, a family child care provider and Advocacy Network participant, adds:

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If workers’ salaries were based on the value they provide to society, Andre Green, the executive director of the local nonprofit SkillWorks writes in a new Boston Foundation report, “few people would make more than child-care workers, home care workers, and long-term care facility workers. Almost none of us will get through life without needing at least one of them.”

Unfortunately, care workers typically receive low salaries and limited appreciation.

The report – “Care Work in Massachusetts: A Call for Racial and Economic Justice for a Neglected Sector” — adds:

“Over centuries, policies driven by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have closed professional doorways and shunted many women of color, particularly immigrant women, into care work, where they contend with low wages, few benefits, and challenging working conditions. As this segment of our economy continues to grow, these issues will confront more and more workers until they are addressed.”

“Nothing made the importance—or precarity—of care work clearer than the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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“More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the child care workforce—mostly employing women and, disproportionately, women of color—continues to operate below pre-pandemic levels. This not only harms the sector but also precludes workers with caregiving responsibilities, primarily mothers, from fully participating in the labor force.”

“Without new government investments aimed directly at improving job quality—including through increasing wages for staff—the child care sector will not make up its significant shortfall in workers. Policymakers must meet the moment and invest in child care immediately, particularly since child care workers are essential to keeping the U.S. economy strong.”

“The Child Care Sector Will Continue To Struggle Hiring Staff Unless It Creates Good Jobs,” by Maureen Coffey and Rose Khattar, The Center for American Progress, September 2, 2022

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Do you want to help change the world of early education and care? 

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Want to help policymakers understand how they can support young children and early educators?

Not entirely sure how?

Apply to join Strategies for Children’s second cohort of our Advocacy Network!

The Advocacy Network is “an engaging, year-long experience for emerging advocacy leaders.”

It’s a chance to connect with educator-advocates from across the state and to make a difference on key issues from public policy to funding to family engagements.

Participants will attend monthly meetings – the schedule is posted here – and they will have the chance to design and implement advocacy projects in their communities.

Additional opportunities include:

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sfc advocacy

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

As the summer winds down, it’s time to get ready for election season. 

Your voice matters! Please let your candidates know that they should make early education and care a priority! 

Elections in Massachusetts are just around the corner. The state’s primary is Tuesday, September 6, 2022. The statewide election will be Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

So, now is the time to remind candidates that Massachusetts should build on this year’s momentum by continuing to make early education and care a policy and a funding priority!

To learn more, please check out Strategies for Children’s Election Year 2022 webpage. It includes a wide range of information, including where to vote, who the candidates are, and how we are advancing our advocacy work.

Please join us as we call for “early education and care to be treated as a public good – just like public schools or our physical infrastructure of roads and bridges.” This will make a huge difference for children and families.

And please be sure to vote in the upcoming elections. 

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Federal Reserve photo

Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

What happens when an early educator and a community leader team up with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston?

Everybody wins.

That’s what occurred when two members of the Boston Fed’s Leaders for Equitable Local Economies (LELE) program saw the damage caused by the pandemic.

“After COVID-19 hit, Marites MacLean and Beth Robbins noticed a worrying trend: Dozens of child care centers were closing across central Massachusetts. And as families lost reliable child care, local businesses increasingly struggled to fill jobs,” a Boston Fed article says.

MacLean is a longtime early educator and one of Strategies for Children’s original 9:30 Call participants. Robbins was helping “jobseekers through a local nonprofit called WORK Inc.” Both women are also residents of Fitchburg, Mass. And the LELE program they participate in supports and strengthens leaders like them who are “taking on the critical work of rebuilding economic systems in Massachusetts’ smaller cities.”

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

We have another advocacy opportunity for you!

But first, thank you for taking action on the state budget and continuing to support early education and care legislation.

The next step: right now the Legislature is focused on its Economic Development Bill. The House and Senate passed versions of this bill this week — each with substantial funding proposals for early education and care:

  • $150 million for grants to support and stabilize the early education and care workforce and address varied operational costs at state child care programs supervised by the Department of Early Education and Care (Senate bill); and
  • The i-Lottery program with dedicated revenue for an Early Education and Care Fund (House bill)

Next week a conference committee will negotiate differences between the bills.

Join us in signing an advocacy letter supporting both House and Senate proposals for early education and care. Our deadline is Monday, July 25, 2022, at 5 p.m. Act now!

Now is the time to advocate for including critical funding for early childhood education and care in the legislation, including sufficient funding for the C3 stabilization grants to be extended through Fiscal Year 2023.

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“Child care provider Damaris Mejia is about to get the biggest pay raise of her life, starting this summer: the District of Columbia will send her and her co-teachers each a big check, between $10,000 and $14,000.

“At last, ‘I will have happy teachers!’ she says, laughing.

“It’s part of a broader push — made more urgent by the pandemic — as D.C. and dozens of states try different ways to fix a child care system that is badly broken. Some are using temporary pandemic aid, while others seek longer term funding. Last year, Louisiana passed a sports betting bill that designates 25 percent of revenue for early learning programs. Wherever the money comes from, advocates across the country say something must be done to ease the fundamental challenge of providing care families can afford, while allowing providers to earn a living.”

“Mejia pays her teachers $17 an hour. Now, that’s well above the national median of $13 an hour that makes child care one of the country’s lowest paid occupations. But in pricey D.C., it’s barely above minimum wage, which became $16.10 as of July 1. Mejia earns about $30,000 a year. Her profit margin is so thin, she’ll sometimes forgo her own pay to meet bills, and she’s behind on taxes.

“She says her pay bump will go first toward helping pay those back taxes. One of her teachers, Ana Gonzalez, says it will help her finally achieve a goal of having her own house; she and her 24-year-old daughter plan to split the cost and buy something together.”

“Bonus checks! One year free! How states are trying to fix a broken child care system,” by Jennifer Ludden, NPR, July 13, 2022

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“A new report from the Connecticut Association for Human Services estimates that public and private child care centers in Connecticut are serving 24,000 fewer children than they were before the pandemic. Across the wider group of home-based and center-based programs CAHS surveyed for the report, which serve a range of children from infant to school-aged, enrollment was at about 75% of capacity as of April of this year.

“Liz Fraser, policy director for CAHS and author of the report, attributed the decline to staffing shortages.

“ ‘We’re serving fewer kids, and it’s not because fewer families need care — it’s that they can’t find the staff to fill the positions,’ she said. 

“Earnings for child care teachers are low, and as wages rise in other sectors, many are choosing to leave the profession.”

“Report: Thousands fewer CT children in child care since COVID,” by Erica E. Phillips, The CT Mirror, July 13, 2022

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