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Archive for the ‘Funding’ Category

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Great news! Early education and care got a financial boost earlier this month when Governor Charlie Baker signed a $3.76 billion economic development bill into law.

As our FY’23 budget webpage explains, this investment includes “an additional $150 million to continue the C3 Stabilization Grants through the end of the fiscal year in June 2023, and an additional $315 million in the newly created High-Quality Early Education and Care Affordability Fund.”

We are grateful to the Legislature for passing this bill and to the governor for signing it.

In a State House News story that ran in the Sentinel & Enterprise, Baker says Massachusetts can invest in child care and be fiscally prudent:

“Recognizing the importance of childcare investments, I am approving sections in this bill that redirect $315 million from the Commonwealth Taxpayer Relief Fund to the High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund. However, we can invest in childcare and make sensible tax changes at the same time. With the state in a historically strong fiscal position, the tax cuts that the Legislature has committed to prioritizing next session will be affordable without a special set-aside.”

A WBUR report focuses on the relief for some workers, noting:

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“On Tuesday, New Mexico became the first state in the nation to create a permanent fund for child care. More than 70 percent of New Mexicans agreed to amend the state constitution and spend about $150 million a year on early learning. The next morning, providers from across the country gathered on a Zoom call to celebrate.

“Many wiped away tears as an advocate relayed the news: The fund would make child care more affordable for hundreds of thousands of families, and workers would finally win the wage increases they’d long needed.

“ ‘I’m emotional right now,’ Ivydel Natachu said. She works with 3-year-olds at a preschool in Albuquerque, and she’d spent years advocating with the nonprofit organization Olé to create the fund. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the 52-year-old earned only $10 an hour. But the state’s leaders had funneled federal relief into temporary raises, and Natachu’s pay had risen to $15 an hour.

“ ‘And now I’m starting to save money,’ she told the group of about 50 providers on the Zoom call. ‘I’m saving money to buy a house. That’s my personal goal. With the constitutional amendment passing, I think my dream’s going to come true.’ ”

Only some of the providers who’d logged on that morning were from New Mexico, but nearly everyone cheered. Tuesday’s victory wasn’t just a win for New Mexico, many said. It was a road map.”

“As Natachu finished speaking, providers from Minnesota, Ohio and California said they felt energized. New Mexico had long been ranked one of the country’s worst states for child well-being, and activists there had faced a decade of opposition. If they could turn it around, couldn’t anyone?”

“In N.M. child-care funding win, providers nationwide see road map,” by Casey Parks, The Washington Post, November 10, 2022

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“Our child care system is broken.”

“Initially, to address this crisis as an employer, I considered hosting onsite child care; however, I quickly realized this was a mere stop-gap to a much larger, systemic challenge. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions, which is why the only solution to Vermont’s child care crisis is increasing public investment in our 0-5 child care system. Not just temporarily, but for the long-term, with a sustainable funding source.”

“Column: Lack of child care hinders small businesses,” by Sam Hooper, Valley News, October 25, 2022

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“Over the past couple years, Vermont has seen an influx of thousands of new people and families moving to the state. In Chittenden County alone, from 2020 to 2021, 605 new businesses launched or opened new locations, a massive spike over the previous year. However, it’s increasingly challenging to find workers here in Vermont or those willing and able to relocate and the top reason we hear is lack of high-quality, affordable child care. It’s estimated that there are over 5,000 parents living in Vermont right now who want to work but can’t because they don’t have the child care they need.”

“Hamel, Grace & Wall: The weight of the child care crisis is crushing Vermont’s workforce,” by Carina Hamel, Aba Grace & Tim Wall, Vermont Business Magazine, October 27. 2022 

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What are the best ways for states to help young children?

The Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap has answers that were shared earlier this month at a virtual summit that drew “thousands of national and state leaders, scholars, and practitioners.” Videos of that event are posted here.

Released by Vanderbilt University’s Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, the roadmap is an annual guide that draws on the science of child development. Specifically, the roadmap looks at:

• young children’s wellbeing

• proven, evidence-based policy strategies

• states’ implementation of 11 effective policy and strategy solutions, and

• how policy changes impact young children and their families, and how these changes reduce racial and ethnic disparities

Those 11 policy and strategy solutions are:

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”Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is releasing $70 million in state funding that will be used to provide bonus payments to the staff of child care providers in Connecticut who provide safe and nurturing care to the state’s youngest infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Individual bonuses will amount to $1,000 for full-time workers and $400 for part-time workers.

“The governor explained that this initiative, known as Wage Supports for Early Childhood Educators, was created to show gratitude for the service of child care workers, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was included as part of the state budget bill that he signed into law earlier this year.

“ ‘Child care staff work consistently to provide critically needed care to ensure that children are safe and their parents and guardians have the support necessary to go to work,’ Governor Lamont said. ‘They are an essential part of our economy and help make Connecticut the most family-friendly state in the country. We need to support this important industry that is vital to families, the workplace, and society.’ ”

“Governor Lamont Announces $70 Million in Appreciation Bonus Payments for Connecticut Child Care Workers,” The Office of Governor Ned Lamont, October 6, 2022

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U.S Capitol

Photo: Thuan Vo from Pexels

Last fall, excitement buzzed around the federal Build Back Better bill. It was a sweeping social spending bill that promised to make a historic investment in early education and care, including universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and more affordable, high-quality child care.

The bill was passed in the House. Excitement grew. But in the Senate, Build Back Better faced opposition it could not overcome.

What emerged months later was a compromise – the Inflation Reduction Act – which had no funding at all for early education and care.

A Hechinger Report article sums up the field’s reaction: disappointment and determination.

“ ‘It’s heartbreaking,’ Julie Kashen, a senior fellow and director for women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, said, while also noting the need to build upon some of the positive publicity that came out of the protracted battle. ‘Child care has become a national issue in a very powerful way. We are closer than we had been in 50 years,’ she said. ‘What else can we do but continue to fight?’ ”

“That’s why Kashen is already looking to what’s next: boosting a national movement and building a web of advocates who help keep child care needs front and center for legislators and businesses. ‘Employers must speak up so people understand that this is not a family problem, it’s an economic issue, and it is something Congress has to act upon,’ Kashen said.”

Mark Reilly has a similar response: Seize the momentum and move forward.

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“Parents and families rightfully wonder ‘Why is child care so expensive?’ The reality is that it’s expensive because it costs a lot to provide good, high-quality care. Child care providers are not collecting vast sums of money and hoarding it for themselves while not paying their teachers. It’s quite the opposite. They are making every last cent stretch as far as they can. Sometimes by not paying themselves. The simple fact is that we cannot sustain child care the way it exists now and both pay teachers the wages they deserve and keep care affordable for families. It is not possible.

“So what will solve the problem? Public funding. The only way to make child care affordable for families and pay teachers the wages they deserve is to publicly fund child care.”

“Public funding would bridge the gap between what families can afford and the costs to run a quality program that can pay teachers what they deserve. We strongly support the recommendation that for child care to be ‘affordable’ for a family, that family should not pay more than 7% of their income for child care. Right now, many of our families pay 30-40% of their income for child care which is hard to even imagine.”

“Child care pros on squaring the circle of low wages and high costs: We need public funding,” by Tracie Myers, Katy Knudtson, and Stacey Flanigan, The Minnesota Reformer, September 29, 2022

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kindergarten

Photo: Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

Parents can’t always count on kindergarten. That’s the moral of a story told in the Atlantic.

“At age 5 and 6, children are at a crucial stage in brain development,” the Atlantic’s article says. “Educators, advocates, researchers, and state officials largely agree that full-day [kindergarten] programming is beneficial for children, both academically and socially. Studies have shown that kids enrolled in full-day offerings make greater advances in literacy than those enrolled in half-day ones. These gains are maintained for years.”

In other words, free, full-day kindergarten programs ought to be easy to find.

However the growth of kindergarten in public schools, the article explains, has “happened gradually. It arrived in the 19th century as a privately funded educational venture. By the start of World War I, the grade had become part of all major city public-school districts, and by 1965, more than 2 million children across 40 states were enrolled. Most early kindergarten programs offered only half-day coverage, but in the past several decades, full-day programs have become more common. The grade got more attention in the early 2000s with the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act.”

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Massachusetts is a leader in educational excellence, but not for all its students.

As a new report – “There Is No Excellence Without Equity: A Path Forward for Education in Massachusetts” — from the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership (MEEP) explains, “for a long time now, our state’s high overall rankings have masked deep inequities in student learning experiences and outcomes.”

Strategies for Children is a MEEP member.

The disparities the report cites were bad before Covid hit, and many have been aggravated by the pandemic.

“In parts of Boston and cities like Chelsea, Brockton, and Springfield, where infection and death rates were highest, the pandemic inflicted new levels of trauma and anxiety on families already facing significant adversity,” the report says.

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The fiscal year 2023 budget was signed by Governor Baker last week, and thanks to your advocacy, the budget includes historic state investments in early education and care!

Please take a minute to thank your legislators and thank Governor Baker for taking action.

The new budget includes: 

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants – which ensures that C3 grants continue through December 2022 (visit the Department of Early Education and Care’s website for more C3 info)

• $60 million for a rate increase for early educators

• $25 million for a new Early Education & Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care, assist families in navigating the early education landscape, and help early educators with costs associated with personal childcare

• $15 million for preschool expansion in the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative

• $15 million for resource and referral agencies

• $3.5 million for early childhood mental health, and

• $175 million for a new High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund [Outside section 180]

For a full breakdown, visit our budget page

And once again, please thank your legislators and thank Governor Baker for these much needed investments.

In addition to these critical investments, the Legislature had proposed additional early education and care investments in its Economic Development bill. And last week, Strategies for Children joined 70 organizations and 214 individuals in asking legislators to include these investments in the final “conference committee” bill. However, the formal legislative session ended on July 31st, and the bill was left in conference. We will continue to monitor the bill and report any future updates.

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