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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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Working mother

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the United States to acknowledge how weak its child care system is – and how child care’s struggles can quickly create chaos for working mothers.

Abigail Usherwood, a Strategies for Children intern, explores this issue in the newly released policy brief, “COVID-19 and Gender Inequality in the Workforce.”

Even before the pandemic, Underwood writes, women establishing their careers faced more challenges than men. There is still a stubborn wage gap: nationally, for every dollar men earn, women earn $0.81.

Factor race in, Usherwood explains, and the problem grows worse.

“In the United States, Black women lag even further behind in terms of the gender wage gap. On average, for every $1.00 a white, non-Latino man makes, a Black woman will only earn $0.63.”

Factor in the pandemic, and it’s clear that women are under intense pressure from the expectation that they will “balance household duties, like child care, with career responsibilities, and, during the pandemic, remote schooling. All of these responsibilities compound, creating barriers for women to progress in the workforce.”

One economically devastating outcome is a gender-based workforce participation gap:

(more…)

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its $47.6 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2022.

WBUR reports that, “Senate President Karen Spilka said the budget bill ‘seeks to put us on a stable fiscal footing and build a more inclusive and resilient commonwealth for all of us.’

“ ‘If the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftershocks have frayed the fabric of our commonwealth, this budget takes on the important but sometimes invisible work of stitching that fabric back together,’ ” Spilka told reporters.

The Senate’s proposal for early education and care includes more funding than Governor Charlie Baker’s FY22 proposal, but less than the House budget.

All three FY22 budgets are well below FY21 state budget appropriations for early education and care.

(more…)

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child-care-picture-

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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pexels-alexandr-podvalny-3036405

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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Last night, President Joe Biden delivered his address to a joint session of Congress, calling for national progress in a number of areas, including early education.

According to a White House fact sheet, the president’s plan will “provide families with a range of options to choose from for their child, from child care centers to family child care providers, Early Head Start, and public schools that are inclusive and accessible to all children.”

Here are some excerpts from the president’s speech and some online reactions to what he said:

“Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding the nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America.”

“The great universities of this country have conducted studies over the last 10 years. It shows that adding two years of universal high-quality preschool for every three-year-old and four-year-old, no matter what background they come from, it puts them in the position to be able to compete all the way through 12 years. It increases exponentially their prospect of graduating and going on beyond graduation.”

“Second thing we need: American Families Plan will provide access to quality, affordable childcare… And I’m proposing a legislation to guarantee that low- and middle-income families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of 5. The most hard-pressed working families won’t have to spend a dime.”

“Third, the American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave and medical leave — family and medical leave… No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones –- a parent, a spouse, or child.”

— President Joe Biden
(more…)

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 
The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee has released its FY ’22 budget.

It’s a $47.6 billion budget proposal, that’s slightly higher, the Gloucester Daily Times reports, than the $45.6 billion budget that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

“The House budget proposal calls for a 2.6% spending increase from fiscal 2021 and expects the state to collect $30.1 billion in tax revenue (the revenue drops to $24.3 billion after factoring in payments to the pension fund, MBTA and state reserves),” according to MassLive.com.

For early education and care, the House’s proposed budget specifics include:

• $358.9 million to fund child care for children served by the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Transitional Assistance

• $298.7 million in child care funds to support income-eligible families

• $20 million for a salary reserve to increase rates for center-based early education

• $15 million for Head Start

• $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies

• $5 million for pre-school expansion efforts

• $5 million for professional development opportunities, and

• $2.5 million for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Grant (more…)

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The United States could build a universal preschool system in 30 years.

That’s according to NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research), which has come up with a two-part plan based on federal, state, and local government sharing costs.

“At its current pace and without federal government leadership, the United States won’t reach all children with free preschool before 2100,” NIEER Founder and Senior co-Director Steven Barnett says in a press release.

Currently, publicly-funded preschool in the United States serves only 1.8 million children, NIEER estimates. Most states, including Massachusetts, deploy their public funding to the mixed-delivery system of early education and care, which includes center-based programs, Head Start programs, and public school districts.

NIEER’s plan “calls on the federal government to match state and local-level investments in high-quality preschool for children under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This focus will expand high-quality preschool to 2.5 million more low-income 3- and 4-year-olds by 2040.

“Building on this foundation, state and local governments would be able to expand their preschool programs to reach all 3- and 4-year-olds by 2050 and achieve universal high-quality preschool in all 50 states.

“The cost-sharing plan would enable states to set high preschool quality standards, provide children full-day preschool 180 days a year, and support competitive salaries for well-qualified teachers.” (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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