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On October 14, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker released a revised budget for fiscal year 2021, totaling $45.5 billion. This is an increase of $900 million over the governor’s January budget proposal.

CommonWealth Magazine reports:

“The high budget is largely driven by excessive spending in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. It would be paid for with an influx of federal money as well as a $1.3 billion draw from the state’s $3.5 billion rainy day fund.”

“ ‘The rainy day fund is there to support services when it’s raining, and I think most people would agree it’s raining,’ Baker said at a State House press conference.”

The governor’s proposed funding for early education and care largely stayed the same compared to his January budget proposal.

One exception is the $5 million proposal for the workforce development initiative (3000-7066), a reduction from the $8.5 million proposed in January. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

How are families doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Earlier this year, we created a survey to ask them. Many parents said they were struggling to juggle work, child care, and children who were attending school from home.

Last month, Strategies for Children followed up with another survey that found many parents were struggling to make child care arrangements for the fall. This survey was conducted by Beacon Research, a Boston-based polling firm, and funded by the Commonwealth Children’s Fund and Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.

Hearing from parents is an essential step.

“Parent voices are critical to reopening and sustaining the child care industry,” Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, says. “This survey shows that parents have legitimate concerns over health and safety. Many parents cannot return to child care because their programs have closed permanently, are not yet reopened, or are at full enrollment.”

A press release and a slide deck summarize the survey’s results. This document lists the survey’s questions and tallies parents’ answers. And a memo focuses on the child care challenges for families with school-age children.

Among the survey’s key findings, parents’ fears have risen. Before the pandemic, 76 percent expected to use child care programs this fall. Since the pandemic, only 62 percent do. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Because of COVID-19, Massachusetts does not yet have a Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which would have gone into effect on July 1st of this year.

Last Friday, however, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a supplemental budget for the FY20 fiscal year. This budget includes critical funding for COVID-19 relief efforts.

“Baker said much of the bill, as it covers COVID-19 spending, will be reimbursable by the federal government,” MassLive.com reports.

A State House News article adds that the bill “also designates June 19 as a state holiday known as ‘Juneteenth Independence Day,’ commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Baker said that the holiday will be a time to ‘recognize the continued need to ensure racial freedom and equality.’ ”

For early education and care, the budget includes $36 million to cover the costs that the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) faces as it administers emergency child care for essential workers and replaces lost parent fees for state-subsidized providers.

The budget also includes $45.6 million in child care funding that was awarded in the federal CARES Act, which became law on March 27, 2020. EEC will distribute these funds as grants to providers who serve subsidized children or essential workers.

In addition, the budget establishes a new $500,000, Early Education and Care Public-Private Trust Fund to support technical assistance for child care providers as they engage in reopening and recovery efforts. The budget also directs the Department of Public Health to work with EEC to collect and publish the number of COVID-19-positive cases that occur among children, families, and child care staff. 

 To learn more, click here to see a list of early childhood state budget line items — and to see the FY21 budget proposal that Governor Baker filed in January.

For more information, contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org or (617) 330-7387.

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Photo: Gustavo Fring. Source: Pexels

 

As the country moves through the coronavirus crisis, states will be able to learn from each other about how to navigate the pandemic and reopen early education and care problems.

The starting line for all states is reviewing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But individual states are taking their own approach.

A number of national organizations are tracking state responses, including the Hunt Institute, a national nonprofit organization that has released a summary of state actions.

“States are devising a number of health and safety protocols to address the new situation we’re in, so that they can promote child development while complying with social distancing guidelines,” Ryan Telingator, Strategies for Children’s new intern, says. Telingator has been monitoring these varied approaches.

Massachusetts, for example, has largely steered its own course. Governor Baker chose to close child care programs when coronavirus first hit the country hard and only offer emergency child care. Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and a handful of other states made the same choice, and so did New York City. (more…)

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Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released long-awaited reopening guidelines for the state’s child care programs: “Massachusetts Child and Youth Serving Programs Reopen Approach: Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety.”

Programs can reopen in Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase rollout. The exact date for reopening will depend on an ongoing analysis of the state’s COVID-19 data. The guidelines are being released now so that programs can plan for the operational changes they will need to make – and so that they can share these changes with families.

The reopening guidelines set high standards for health and sanitation that should protect children and staff. These standards were developed by an inter-agency working group of education, human services, and public health officials, and they were reviewed by medical experts at Boston Children’s Hospital.

As The Boston Globe reports, “…child care centers can begin to submit plans for reopening as soon as they satisfy newly released health and safety guidelines.” Massachusetts’ planning requirements are more thorough than those of most other states. (more…)

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Last week was the latest entry in Strategies for Children’s Advocacy 101 webinars.

The topic: state budget updates — or, to put it more bluntly, what COVID-19 has done to the budget.

Earlier this year, before the pandemic shut down Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker submitted his fiscal year ’21 budget.

“This budget would have continued an eighth consecutive year of increases for early education,” Titus DosRemedios, Strategies director of research and policy, says in the webinar. (more…)

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Yesterday Governor Charlie Baker announced a four-phase reopening plan for Massachusetts. It’s a comprehensive strategy to safely get people back to work and ease restrictions while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19. Visit the new Reopening Massachusetts webpage for details and read the report from the Reopening Advisory Board.

What does this mean for child care?

• During phase 1, exempt emergency child care will remain in place to meet the needs of families with no alternatives for child care. Currently this system, which can serve up to 10,000 children, is at only 35% capacity

• The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Department of Public Health are creating additional health and safety standards for serving more children and families

• For additional information, visit EEC’s new webpage, Reopening Child Care: A Phased Approach

• To craft its regulations, EEC is drawing on public health guidance as well as field data from educators and families

There are still many unknowns for families, educators, program directors, and state officials. What we know for sure, however, is that safe, high-quality child care is essential to any reopening plan and to the state’s economic recovery.

We’ll share more information and advocacy opportunities in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you for all you are doing to support children and families.

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

“What Will Child Care Look Like In Our New Normal?” WBUR’s Radio Boston show asked this week.

Featured on the show were Sandy Emery, the owner of Sandy’s Tiny Tykes in Haverhill and Emma LaVecchia, co-founder of Pine Village Preschool — as well as Amy O’Leary, director of the Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children.

Setting the policy stage, Amy explained that, “The Governor working alongside the Commissioner of Early Education and Care closed child care. Many states never made this choice… So with closing chid care and then opening in emergency sites, we are seeing an opportunity, as we think about reopening, [to think] about what it looks like to reopen stronger than we were before.”

Check out the rest of the segment and leave a comment sharing your experiences.

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Source: NIEER

 

This year, in its annual Yearbook, NIEER is taking on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the midst of this devastating crisis, NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) is wisely calling on the country to act by drawing on some of the valuable lessons learned from the Great Recession.

As its executive summary explains, the Yearbook offers government policymakers “valuable information for planning short- and long-term responses to the crisis” that includes “information on where children are served, operating schedules, and other program features relevant to planning the education of children in a post-COVID-19 world.”

Since NIEER launched its Yearbook in 2002, states have made consistent but slow progress on investing in early childhood programs.

When the Great Recession took its toll, states cut early childhood spending.

Now: “Despite a brief upturn, pre-K’s long-term growth rate remains lower than before the Great Recession.” And some states “had not fully reversed their quality standards reductions by 2018-2019.” (more…)

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Source: Department of Early Education and Care

 

At a virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday, Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy shared plans for reopening Massachusetts’ early childhood programs.

A recording of the event is posted here.

“We’re looking toward the future and trying to think [about] and design strategies that can ensure that we are building a more supportive and more solid foundation for child care providers,” Commissioner Sam said at the town hall.

She is proposing a phased opening that builds on Governor Charlie’s Baker’s order that all schools and EEC programs remain closed through June 29, 2020.

As the slide below explains, EEC will engage in a three-step reopening process of assessing the EEC landscape, designing strategies that “addresses health and safety, sustainability, workforce, and financing,” and preparing to put these strategies into action. (more…)

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