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Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

How are early childhood providers doing?

In January, NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children) conducted a survey of 5,000 early childhood educators to find out.

The good news: “emergency federal and state relief funds have provided critical support for stabilizing child care programs and prevented more widespread permanent program closures,” according to the survey brief, Saved But Not Solved: America’s Economy Needs Congress to Fund Child Care.

The bad news: “severe challenges remain.” That’s because federal relief funds were not meant “to resolve the systemic challenges that have plagued the child care market.”

The informative news: We’ll hear more about the survey from Lauren Hogan, NAEYC’s managing director of Policy and Professional Advancement on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, during our Strategies for Children 9:30 Call.

The survey, which includes the responses of early educators “working across all states and settings—including faith-based programs, family child care homes, and small and large centers,” produced a number of findings, including:

(more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Child care workers are vanishing and it’s hurting the entire economy,” CNN warns in this headline of one of its business news stories, which reports:

“Since losing one-third of its workforce at the outset of the pandemic, the child care industry has seen a jobs recovery that’s been slow and incomplete.

“And now it’s starting to backslide.

“After shedding 4,500 jobs from September through November, preliminary estimates from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the child day care services industry lost another 3,700 jobs in December.”

And, of course, these workers aren’t actually “vanishing.” They’re being driven out of their jobs by low wages and tough working conditions.

Without enough child care workers, there aren’t enough child care spots, which means many parents will struggle to be able to work, and without enough workers the economy can’t thrive.

“Now that we’re seeing a decrease [in employment], that should be worrying for many folks who are relying on these services,” Caitlin McLean, director of multi-state and international programs at the University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, tells CNN.

“This is absolutely a contributor to the wider worker shortage that we’re seeing.”

(more…)

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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“In 2019, Virginia received federal funding from a Preschool Development Birth through Five grant (PDG), and allocated a considerable portion of their funds for direct financial incentives to early educators. The goal of this program, the Teacher Recognition Program (TRP), was to recognize teachers’ hard work, lower their financial stress, reduce turnover, and create more stable early learning opportunities for children.”

“Teachers at sites that were randomly assigned to the TRP were far less likely to turn over. About one-quarter of all teachers at sites without access to incentives left their site within eight months (see Figure 1 below). Only 14% of teachers eligible for the incentive did.

“The results were even more striking among child-care teachers: The financial incentive cut turnover rates in half, from 30% to 15%.” 

“President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would provide this type of transformative funding, giving states the financial resources and supports needed to meaningfully improve child-care quality in part through compensation reforms. However, getting the bill through the Senate has proved difficult, with growing calls to cut key pieces. Finding a way to pass this legislation, including the investments in the teachers who care for and teach our youngest children, is essential – not only for the struggling child-care sector, but for the economy as a whole. Public investments in early educators are long overdue, and they are imperative for meeting the needs of children, parents, and society.”

“How can we improve early childhood education? Use public dollars to pay teachers more.” by Daphna Bassok and Justin B. Doromal, Brookings, January 5, 2022

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federal

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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U.S Capitol

Photo: Thuan Vo from Pexels

The federal Build Back Better bill would make a historic investment in helping the country recover from the pandemic – including funding for early education and care that could revolutionize programs for young children.

The first step would be to reverse the damage caused by the pandemic.

As an article from the Center for American Progress explains, “While the relief funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act have limited the fallout from [the pandemic’s] unprecedented challenges, the fact remains that a market-based child care system cannot adequately serve American families.”

The article adds:

“The United States currently spends less than 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on early care and education, ranking near the bottom of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

“The effect of this chronic underinvestment is that under current law, very few children access subsidized care—even among those who are eligible. The Administration for Children and Families estimates that in 2017, of the 13.5 million children who were eligible for child care subsidies, only 1 in 7 received them.” (more…)

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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston website

The title of new article posted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston makes an optimistic point: “The solution is no secret, we can fix child care.”

Child care is broken, the article’s authors Sarah Ann Savage and her colleagues concede, but “child care providers, program directors, and other field experts know how to make high-quality care and early education accessible to all. It’s really no secret: Major public investment and committed political will are what’s needed.”

“The task is big, but it is not unprecedented,” the article adds. “It took both political will and public investment to implement our public K-12 system. And today there are bellwethers suggesting the time may finally be ripe to revisit our relatively minimal public investment in child care.”

This willingness and public investment would help address nagging challenges such as the high cost of early education and care, especially for low-income families.

“Models indicate that eliminating child care expenses for low-income families and capping child care expenses at 7% of income for others would decrease poverty by 40% among New Englanders in families that use child care. Covering or mitigating child care costs would also be a small step toward equity, as the poverty reduction is greatest for Black and Hispanic families.” (more…)

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steps

Photo: Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

 
There’s some good news for early education in Washington, D.C.

The Build Back Better bill has been passed by the House, bringing it one step closer to becoming law.

Next, the bill will have to make it through the Senate.

As Representative Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) explains, this legislation is vitally important.

“The Build Back Better Act is a once-in-a-generation investment in families. It will help us recover today and rebuild a stronger tomorrow. With this bill, we are fundamentally improving the lives of workers, women, children, and seniors and ensuring that the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay their fair share,” Clark says in a statement.

“When I first ran for Congress, I had a dream that every child in America could have access to a great start through universal pre-kindergarten. With today’s bill, what was once a moonshot will soon be reality. What’s more, we are lowering the cost of child care for 20 million families and finally honoring our child care workers with livable wages.” (more…)

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Get ready for next week’s virtual State House hearing, where the Joint Committee on Education will hear testimony on “bills related to Early Education and Care, Kindergarten, and Literacy.”

To watch the hearing, tune in on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, at 11 am.

Want to testify? The deadline for signing up is the day before, Monday, November 22, at noon.

You can also email written testimony to Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov and Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov. Please include “Education Committee Testimony, [Relevant Bill Number]” in the email’s subject line.

Need to learn more about the bills? Keep reading.

Strategies for Children will provide testimony in support of two bills. One is the Common Start legislation, a bill (H.605S.362) that “would establish a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline,” according to a fact sheet. (more…)

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webinar

Photo: Artem Podrez from Pexels

The new federal investment in early education and care promises to have a broad impact.

To explore the details, the Alliance for Early Success has shared a new webinar explaining what to expect.

The webinar’s Spanish interpretation is posted here.

“We are very, very excited about this,” Danielle Ewen says in the webinar about the new federal funding. Ewen is a principal at EducationCounsel, an Alliance member and an education consulting firm. “This is a major, major opportunity to change the trajectory of life for children and families and providers.

“When you look at the Build Back Better proposal, the early childhood provisions are the second largest piece. We have never been the second largest piece of a major piece of legislation, ever.”

Build Back Better is still making its way through the legislative process, so it may change somewhat. But here are some key components as they stand now.

Part of the bill addresses income and health care, including: (more…)

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