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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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Binal Patel. Photo courtesy of Binal Patel.

“Now more than ever, being an early educator or administrator means automatically being an advocate, it has become impossible not to see the inequities and to continue not saying anything about it,” Binal Patel says, sharing her experience of going from an assistant preschool teacher to working in policy and systems building for the field of early childhood.

Patel studied economics and computer science in college. After she graduated, she worked for a few years in marketing, but deep down always knew that being a teacher was her calling. 

“A close friend died in a car crash and that jolted me,” she says. “It just hit me that if I was really passionate about working with kids, and I know that teaching is what I want to do, then what am I waiting for, life is too short.” 

And that’s what she did. She earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from New York University, and then worked as a preschool teacher at the Phillips Brooks School in California. 

“I remember the school being nothing short of magical, a Reggio-inspired preschool where the children and their curiosity drove our curriculum and work. I was lucky to have been mentored and coached by a wonderful director, Debra Jarjoura, who saw the potential in me. Ever since then, I’ve never looked back.” 

It was the beginning of a journey. Patel went on to work as a teacher for 4- and 5-year-olds at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols, an independent school in Cambridge, Mass.  (more…)

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Yesterday was the launch of the new budget season. The Baker-Polito administration released its $45.6 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2022.

As WWLP reports, the budget “continues the Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and addresses critical priorities including promoting economic growth, fully funding the first year of the landmark Student Opportunity Act, and supporting cities and towns across Massachusetts. This balanced proposal does not raise taxes on the Commonwealth’s residents and preserves substantial financial reserves for the future.”

The budget would take more than $1.6 billion from the state’s rainy day fund, according to The Boston Globe. And the budget does not “include any broad-based new taxes, nor does it make any major changes to social safety benefit programs, CommonWealth Magazine notes.

Governor Baker’s FY22 proposal for early education and care is $76 million lower than the current FY21 state budget, but very similar to his FY21 proposal from October, 2020. The FY22 proposal does not fund a rate increase nor does it fund the sliding scale parent fee line item. The proposal does makes $20 million in increases to child care access through the supportive and income eligible accounts. The governor does not continue funding the new $25 million reserve for Coronavirus-related supports for early education programs and workforce, which were established in FY21.

Visit Strategies for Children’s state budget page for details. And check out the full budget proposal here.

And please stay tuned: the release of the governor’s proposed budget is the first step in a six-month state budget process. The House and Senate are expected to release their budget proposals in April and May, respectively.

So get ready to advocate in 2021!

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The Covid testing announcement starts at the 15:27 time mark.

 

Good news on Covid testing was announced yesterday:

“Early education providers in Massachusetts will soon be able to access COVID-19 testing at eight sites through a new state pilot program and will be able to order protective equipment at no cost, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Monday,” a State House News article published by MassLive.com reports.

As we blogged earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker had announced a Covid testing plan that only covered K-12. To address this inequity, Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations sent a letter to the governor, which said in part:

“The Commonwealth cannot continue to deny early education and care and after-school staff, students, and families the critical health and safety supports provided to K-12 schools.”

Now, we want to thank the Baker administration for listening and taking action. (more…)

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Screenshot: Early educator Camila Pontes 

 

Earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker overlooked the needs of young children and their families as well early childhood programs when he announced that rapid COVID-19 testing would be available to K-12 schools, but not early education and care and afterschool programs.

Since then, advocates — including Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations – have sent a letter to the governor asking him to reconsider this decision.

Last week, Strategies for Children and Neighborhood Villages also hosted a panel discussion on this pressing issue, “Prioritizing COVID-19 Testing in Early Education and Care.” A recording of this event is posted here.

“… equity demands that public health measures made available to K-12 [schools] also be applied to early education and afterschool as well,” Binal Patel says in her introduction to the panel discussion. Patel is Neighborhood Villages’ Chief Program Officer.

“We know that testing works. It catches positives [test results] before teachers enter classrooms. And it allows us to identify and address potential exposures early.” (more…)

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Photo: Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

 

Please ask Governor Charlie Baker for equity in COVID-19 testing. And check out a panel discussion on testing being held this afternoon. It’s organized by Neighborhood Villages and co-sponsored by Strategies for Children.

Last week, the governor announced that COVID-19 pooled testing would be made available to the state’s schools and school districts, building on earlier testing.

“This new pooled testing resource that we’re going to be providing going forward will give districts the ability to bring more students back into the classroom,” the governor said, according to WBUR.

Unfortunately, this announcement leaves out early education and out-of-school time providers, even though these organizations have been providing essential care for more than 100,000 children.

To address this inequity, Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations sent a letter to the governor, writing in part: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

“We recommit ourselves to achieving racial equity in early childhood and school-age programs through advocacy, action, and policy change. Together we will stand up, speak out, and work to dismantle the historical systems of racism and inequity.”

These are the last two lines in our Collective Statement on Racial Justice that over thirty organizations signed on to in June 2020.

As we reflect on the horrific events this week – a violent assault on our democracy – we must redouble our efforts to work for the change we want to see in local communities, in Massachusetts, and across our country. 

NAEYC has resources on trauma, stress, and violence for early childhood educators working to support children in many different settings along with the guidance in NAEYC’s Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education position statement to support your conversations with them, as well as families and colleagues. If you need more resources or would like to sign your organization on to our Collective Statement, email us.

Despite the trauma of this week, democracy continues. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Extending from Tuesday’s deadline to the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the 2019-2020 state legislative session has come to a close. Wednesday also saw the beginning of the first day of the 2021-2022 legislative session, as legislators were sworn into office.

Where does the final FY21 state budget stand? This budget includes much-needed investments in the child care sector, to help mitigate the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The FY21 state budget includes a $165 million (25 percent) increase for early education and care over FY20 spending amounts.

Governor Baker had signed the budget into law on December 11, making several vetoes including $16.5 million in vetoes to early education and care line items. However, by Monday, the Legislature had voted to override all of the early education vetoes.

Here’s a recap of what the final FY21 budget for early education and care: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Your advocacy has paid off!

Last week, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed the Conference Committee’s state budget proposal for fiscal year 2021. The budget includes substantial public investments in early education and care, a sector that has lost so much due to the ongoing pandemic, but nonetheless remains resilient, hopeful, and as essential as ever.

Today, we are asking you to take two actions:

Email Governor Charlie Baker today! Encourage him to sign the FY21 state budget into law and thank him for his continued investments in high-quality early education and care.

Then:

Thank your state legislators for their historic investments in early education and care in the FY21 state budget.

The Conference Committee budget funds the higher dollar amounts for each line item in the House and Senate budgets. This includes a $40 million sliding fee scale reserve to help reduce parent fees; a $25 million reserve for Coronavirus-related support for early education programs and for the workforce; a $20 million rate increase for early educator salaries in subsidized programs; $15 million for Head Start; $5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative; and more.

For more details, visit our state budget webpage.

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Photo: EVG Culture at Pexels

 

Last month, Governor Charlie Baker announced the launch of a COVID-19 rapid testing program for public school districts, charter schools, and other educational settings.

Unfortunately, Phase 1 of this program leaves out early education and care providers.

To address this omission, Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, has written a letter to the governor, which says in part:

We ask for equity and to be recognized and supported as essential infrastructure.”

Programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) need rapid testing “to mitigate virus spread for children, families and staff” and “to remain sustainable and open.” But, despite months of advocacy, rapid testing requests from child care providers have gone “largely unanswered.”

Public radio station WBUR looked at the COVID-19 challenges that EEC programs face.

“As more people get COVID-19 across the state, it’s inevitable that cases will pop up in preschools and child care, despite health precautions such as wearing masks and rigorous cleaning,” WBUR reports.

“That’s what happened at Nurtury, which operates six centers and supports 130 family child care providers in Greater Boston. Since they reopened their facilities in July, they have had a few isolated cases of the coronavirus. The daily health screenings usually caught any potential cases before a child or caregiver came through the doors.

“But in late October, that changed… A teacher at one location had tested positive. At a different location, a parent had COVID-19. A third site: another positive teacher.” (more…)

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