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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced a new way to protect the state’s early educators and young children: a Covid testing program called Testing for Child Care that will add more layers of protection for early childhood programs.

Thanks to the acquisition of 26 million rapid antigen tests, this new effort will enable child care programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to provide free tests for children and staff and access testing resources, training, and protocols.

As the State House News Service reports:

“Center and family-based child care providers enrolled in the program will be given free rapid COVID-19 antigen tests to be used on children and staff age 2 and older who are close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual. Students and staff who test negative daily for five consecutive days could be allowed to remain in their classrooms, officials said.

“Tests will also be available for day care centers that want to engage in symptomatic testing to isolate positive individuals and rule out COVID-19 in other children and staff who might have symptoms similar to those that come with the virus.”

Knowing, within minutes, the Covid status of children and staff members will help programs stay open and be able to send those who are Covid-positive home so they can rest and recover.

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Within every challenge lies vast opportunity,” David Jordan, president of the Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates, writes in a new CommonWealth magazine article.

The challenge Jordan is referring to is the shortage of early education and care staff members.

The opportunity to address this shortage, he says, is to set up an apprenticeship program.

Jordan explains, “The path to becoming a credentialed Child Development Associate, which enables one to become a preschool teacher and, with additional training, a lead teacher, is difficult and costly.”

And asking budding early educators to leave work and then go to school at the end of the day ignores the fact that many are parents who need to get home to their own children.

As Jordan explains, an apprenticeship program would address this problem:

“An on-the-job – we call it ‘learn while you earn’ – training program coupled with virtual classroom education form the core of an apprenticeship program that is a vital way to encourage retention and promotion in the child care workforce. Onsite mentoring provides the professional support for the apprentice’s adaptation of classroom learning to practice.”

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baker crop

Governor Charlie Baker

It’s state budget season, and a diverse group of 80 stakeholders — Strategies for Children as well as businesses, early education providers, advocates, community organizations, health care providers, and philanthropies — have sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker asking him to prioritize young children and families as he puts together his FY ‘23 budget proposal.

The letter asks for “the designation of $600 million, as projected by the Department of Early Education and Care, to extend and study the (EEC) Child Care Stabilization Grants through Fiscal Year 2023 to position the program for sustained support and success into the future.”

This funding would provide crucial support as providers recover from the pandemic and move forward.

You can read the full letter here. To sign on, please complete this form. We will send an updated letter in early January.

As the letter explains:

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the childcare sector. We are in the midst of a childcare staffing crisis that is the result of years of chronic underinvestment and low wages. As a result, the workforce that cares for our children and serves as the backbone of our economy has been depleted. The Commonwealth will continue to lose its early education and care workforce to the many other sectors able to offer higher wages and more generous benefits unless we address educator compensation.” (more…)

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“The Baker-Polito Administration, along with CEDAC’s affiliate Children’s Investment Fund (CIF), has announced $7.5 million in Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund (EEOST) capital improvement grants. Lt. Governor Polito joined Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy at East Boston Social Centers to announce the thirty-six organizations that received grant awards to fund expenses for capital improvements related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

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“Our Administration is pleased to support childcare providers across the Commonwealth who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to care for children and support families returning to work. Since the start of this grant program, we’ve invested more than $39.2 million in capital funding at childcare programs that impact the learning experiences of more than 9,000 children in communities across Massachusetts.”

— Governor Charlie Baker (more…)

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As they steer Massachusetts through the pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have released a new report on the future of work. It’s an economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy that includes new plans for child care.

Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had a thriving economy with a conventional “look” that included commuters traveling by car or public transportation to offices in busy commercial areas.

But now — in the wake of layoffs, less business travel, and more Zoom meetings – Massachusetts could see less demand for office spaces, shifts in employment, and the worsening of pre-existing social inequities.

To address these challenges, the report explores “what work could look like… in both the near term (to 2025) and the longer term (to 2030),” across the state’s “regions, economic sectors, commercial centers, local downtowns, transportation, and public spaces.”

Among the top eight insights in the report: (more…)

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Thank you for advocating for high-quality early education and care in the Massachusetts state budget. 

Your advocacy has paid off! 

All $44 million at stake for early education and care was included in the conference committee’s FY22 budget, released last Thursday and passed by the Legislature on Friday. 

For early education and care, all line items received the higher funding amount between House and Senate budgets. This includes $20 million for a rate increase for center-based early educator salaries, $8.95 million for the Department of Early Education and Care’s parent fee sliding scale reserve, $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies, $10 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative, and more.

View our state budget webpage for details.

While we applaud recent federal stimulus investments in child care, and proposals for further investment in the American Families Plan, it is critical that our state leaders continue to invest state dollars into high-quality early education and care. 

Our early educators, young children, and families are all counting on us to help Massachusetts fully recover from the pandemic and build a stronger, more sustainable, more equitable early education and care system.

The budget has been sent to Governor Charlie Baker who has 10 days to sign it into law. He can also choose to make line item vetoes.

 Encourage Governor Baker to sign the budget into law and thank him for investing in early education and care. 

And please visit strategiesforchildren.org for more news, budget updates, and advocacy resources. 

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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced that the state will revise its COVID-19 policies, a move that includes good news for early education and care providers.

“…the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June,” a press release from the governor’s office explains, and “all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.”

Massachusetts will also update its guidance on masks and face coverings to be consistent with recent mask updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, individual businesses and employers in Massachusetts will still be able to set their own mask rules.

On June 15, 2021, Baker will end the state of emergency that was triggered by the pandemic.

What does this mean for early educators?

The governor and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)are providing answers.

As the governor’s press release says, as of today, the Department of Early Education and Care will “no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess.” This guidance will “remain in effect beyond May 29.” Children and adults should, however, continue to wear masks when they are indoors.

EEC also has a list of frequently asked questions regarding the current version of the state’s Child Care Playbook that provide additional useful information. Some partial examples are:

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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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