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Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak graduated from Wilson College with a degree in environmental studies. But her original major was equestrian studies.

Peak loved horses.

Horses, however, didn’t seem like enough to build a career on, and after Peak graduated, jobs related to her environmental studies major were hard to come by, so, following a stint as a Five Guys manager, Peak decided to work with children.

Which led her back to horses.

Peak volunteered at therapeutic riding centers, including Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center in Bristol, Conn., where volunteers work with children and adults who have special needs, including autism, depression, and multiple sclerosis.

From there, Peak took a job with a private company as a play therapist. She traveled to different sites to work with children. And what she saw in this job were teachers who didn’t have enough knowledge about children with special needs. It was a gap that Peak believed she could fill. (more…)

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More than a year into the pandemic, the Hechinger Report is looking at how the early education and care field is doing.

The verdict: despite hardships and heartbreak, there is also resilience and hope.

In its Early Childhood newsletter, Hechinger shares some details.

On program closings:

“Researchers estimated early on that the pandemic would devastate the already fragile child care industry, possibly causing up to half of all child care centers to close permanently. And while many centers have closed, new data from Child Care Aware of America (CCAOA) found the losses have been far less than anticipated. Among 15 states that are currently tracking the number of permanent child care closures, 3 percent of centers and 4 percent of family child care homes, on average, have closed—a percentage that could increase as states update their information and emergency funds run out.”

(more…)

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Screenshot: New America

“Providers need predictable, stable, and adequate funding,” New America says in a new policy brief.

Instead of rebuilding the old system of funding child care slots for low income children based on children’s daily attendance, states should, as the brief’s title says, “Make Child Care More Stable: Pay by Enrollment.”

Now is the time to act because Congress has invested $50 billion in Covid relief funds for child care.

As the brief explains, the attendance-based subsidy system has two glaring flaws. Subsidies often don’t cover the cost of providing child care, and they often don’t provide enough financial help to families.

“In most states, many providers serving children eligible for subsidies are paid several weeks after services are rendered and the amount can vary based on individual child attendance and reimbursement rates, even though provider costs are not determined by how many days a child is present. This monthly variation makes it difficult to make informed decisions around budgeting, staffing, and enrollment.”

This “perpetual underfunding” and “fragmentation in delivery” result in “uneven quality and access to services” that “places financial burdens on families, and perpetuates inadequate wages for the ECE workforce.”

The national nonprofit Child Care Aware of America concurs. In a blog, Child Care Aware notes:

(more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Are you ready to advocate for young children, families, and early educators? 

The Massachusetts fiscal year 2022 budget is nearing completion.

Right now, a conference committee is reviewing and resolving differences between the House and Senate budgets. 

What’s at stake? For early education, there is a $44 million difference between the two budgets. 

You can help by contacting the committee’s six members. They are: 

• Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester)

• Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston)

• Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren)

• Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington)

• Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth)

• Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport)

Click here to email the conference committee and ask them to invest in high-quality early education and care and school-age/OST programs in the FY22 state budget.

Help our sector build back stronger, recruit and retain educators, and provide safe and high-quality programs for children and families. Every public dollar invested makes a difference. Advocate now! (more…)

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In a recent exhibition, the teachers at Charlestown Nursery School (CNS) shared the important lessons they’ve learned from leaving their building and running their preschool program outdoors in their Boston neighborhood.

The move to the great urban outdoors occurred last fall in the middle of the pandemic. Every morning staff packed supplies into red wagons and pulled the wagons to a local park that served as a classroom. Children arrived in masks and weather appropriate clothing. Being outside helped mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

How did it go?

The teachers say it was the best year ever.
 
Outdoor Exhibition
To heighten their point, they put together the exhibition — “The Qualities of High Quality: Why Reimagining School Matters Now More than Ever” – to engage policymakers in a discussion about access, quality, and how to optimize young children’s learning experiences. (more…)

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Marcela Simpson

Photo courtesy of Marcela Simpson

All Marcela Simpson wanted was a part-time job to carry her through to graduation. She was living in her native country of Honduras and majoring in business administration at UNITEC, the Central American Technological University.

Simpson applied for a position at a school called La Estancia, a renown bilingual school where she met the school’s director, Ana Aviles, who assigned Simpson to be a lead teacher in a preschool classroom.

“That’s where it all started. I learned that I loved children,” explains Simpson.

Because her grandfather insisted, Simpson completed her Business Administration degree and came to the United States to get her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied with George Forman, coauthor of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education.

Simpson went on to work at the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development in Vermont, an early education program that provides inclusive classes for both typically developing children and for children with special needs and rights. In this position, she worked with teachers, assistant teachers, and paraprofessionals providing them with educational resources and sharing opportunities for professional development.

“Based on this experience, I felt the need to learn more about adult learning,” Simpson recalls, “and that guided me to a whole different place.” She contacted the local Resource and Referral Agency in Western Massachusetts and they connected her to provide professional development and coaching opportunities. She also joined the Institute for Professional Education, where she learned more about adult learning theories and principles.

(more…)

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Photo: Keira Burton from Pexels

Child care has traveled a long way during the pandemic, as this New York Times article headline explains:

“How Child Care Went From ‘Girly’ Economics to Infrastructure.”

The article looks at the work of economist Nancy Folbre, a professor emerita of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1998, Folbre also won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award because, “Her research on the family, on the work roles of family members, and on the relationships among those roles has challenged traditional economic theory.”

Or as the New York Times summarizes her work:

“You can’t measure the productivity of a child-care center the way you would, say, a car factory… The incentives are nothing alike. The profits don’t go only to the center’s owner. Instead, benefits are shared by children and their parents, and society as a whole. The country benefits from a more educated and productive work force.”

Folbre’s research stood in stark contrast to “mainstream economists, mostly men, [who] had argued that child care or other care work was something women did purely out of love, impossible to think about as an economic issue.”

The pandemic changed that.

(more…)

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Photo: Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Across the country, preschool directors are all saying the same thing: It is incredibly hard to hire early educators.

One of countless examples is the Granite Start Early Learning Center in Nashua, N.H.

This is where “owner Joyce Goodwin said the phone hardly stops ringing as families hunt desperately for child care,” the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

Goodwin “gets calls every day from parents looking for a place to put their children as they return to work, and weekend tours of the center are reliably full.” She could accept another 10 or 12 children, “but only if she could hire three more teachers.”

Despite placing want ads, Goodwin can’t find candidates. She’s up against the same problem as other directors, salaries in child care are “notoriously” low.

“Over the past year, hundreds of trained child care workers have left the field in search of higher-paying work and jobs that feel less dangerous in a pandemic,” the Union Leader says.

Early Learning NH conducted a workforce survey of “196 business owners, who together own about 40% of the 700 licensed day cares in the state,” and found similar circumstances. 

“Those owners could accommodate almost 2,300 more children day care — if only they could hire enough staff,” specifically 643 more staff members.

(more…)

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Fifty years ago, Sandy Faiman-Silva was a young, single mother with a teaching job who couldn’t afford to pay all her bills, including her rent and child care costs. She ended up quitting her job and going on public assistance.

Today, Faiman-Silva is a professor emerita of Anthropology at Bridgewater State University – and she’s an activist pointing out that too many women still face the same challenges she did all those decades ago.

Faiman-Silva shares this story on a video posted by the Cape and Islands chapter of the Common Start Coalition, which is advocating for a bill in the Massachusetts State House – nicknamed the Common Start Legislation — that would set up a system of affordable, high-quality, universal child care. This bill is particularly crucial now, as Massachusetts and the world navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) also appears in the video. A mother of three and a lawyer who has represented a child care center, Moran says:

“I lived the daily trials parents suffer to find the consistent, dependable child care and early education they need — and their children deserve — to allow them to focus on work so they can advance their careers. You all know what I’m talking about.”

(more…)

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“I feel a great responsibility to remember and think of the educators, program directors, family childcare providers, school staff, CEOs, and community leaders who have shown up every day for children and families to start with this pandemic.

“We continue to be inspired by this resilient workforce, but we know that is not enough. We cannot return to the way things were. We cannot call child care essential for the economy and then continue to have 37% of early educators in Massachusetts eligible for public assistance. We cannot make decisions about the K-to-12 side of this system without considering the implications for babies, toddlers, before- and afterschool, summer and school vacations. We cannot give access to consistent testing to people in one part of the system and not continue to think about the children and families, and [about] the [early education] teachers who are there every day with children.”

“We know that families don’t live in funding streams, but many of our decisions have been based on those funding streams.”

[Amy starts speaking at the video’s 1:00 time mark.]

— Amy O’Leary, “Reimagining Early Care and Education: A New American Vision,” A New America webcast, March 30, 2021

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