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future of work

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

There’s a new report in town produced by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Future of Work Commission that says “Massachusetts will need to adapt its workforce training, public transit and child care systems to better support workers in a post COVID-19 economy,” a State House News story reports, adding:

“The report also warned that regional and racial disparities in income will also widen without intervention as white collar professions shift more easily to hybrid and remote work models, while service and manufacturing jobs offer less flexibility.”

As the report itself explains, “The Commission was formed in the spring of 2021 to investigate and evaluate the impacts of technological change and automation on work by 2030.”

The report takes into account old factors and new factors, including the impact of the pandemic.

Among the challenges the report points to, “Demand for greater access and flexibility in childcare is far outpacing supply.”

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Screenshot: Website of the 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Looking for excitement?

You might not think you’d find it in a fiscal year 2023 budget meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

But here’s the exciting part: Massachusetts is on the edge of greatness. This state could make wise, strategic investments in early education and care that could lead to powerful change. Residents of every city and town could have access to affordable, world class preschool programs that help young children thrive and grow into successful adults.

“This will take time,” Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director, said in her testimony to the joint committee.

It will also take visionary action.

Fortunately, Massachusetts has a blueprint for action, the final report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which explains that “Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families.” 

There is a huge need for progress. As O’Leary explains in her testimony: 

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Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

A long awaited and welcome report from the Massachusetts Legislature has been released this week, and it charts a policy course for early education and care.

“Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families,” the report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission says.

The commission was chaired by Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester), and was composed of “a variety of stakeholders… including legislators, providers, professional organizations, business leaders and employers, advocates, and state agency leaders.”

As Chair Peisch says in a press release, “Long a leader in K-12 public education, Massachusetts now has an opportunity to build on that success in the early education and child care sectors by acting on the recommendations contained in this report.” 

“This work is critical to our goals of advancing racial justice and an equitable economy that works for all,” Chair Lewis adds.

Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group in Lawrence, Mass., adds: 

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Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

For two and a half years, Samantha Aigner-Treworgy served as commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, and here at Strategies for Children, we are grateful for her leadership.

Commissioner Sam, as she asked people to call her, has been a bold, innovative leader who has made transformational changes in a field that has historically been undervalued and overlooked. She stepped down today. And at the Department of Early Education and Care Board meeting , she thanked the field saying it was an honor to do this work. She has also shared this letter.

Her outreach and engagement with the field – with directors, educators, family child care providers, school-age staff, and families – has been unprecedented and inspiring. Through town halls, Zoom events, strategic planning sessions, and in-person visits, she connected with people across the state. 

She has also built partnerships with likely and unlikely allies, based on her belief that everyone can help leverage public and private resources to build a stronger system of early education and care.

And six months into her tenure, she faced the demands of leading through a global pandemic. This was a test of her professional strength and her problem-solving skills, and she met the challenge, developing policies that were models for the rest of the country. These include: 

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Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

There’s no need to wait for the federal government to invest in early education and care, as a WGBH news story reports. Cities and states can and are taking the lead now.

One example WGBH points to is the city of Lawrence, Mass., which has created a child care scholarship program.

“The childcare nonprofit The Community Group helped design a scholarship program for the city of Lawrence using federal funding to help get more low-income and middle-class families into subsidized daycare.

“ ‘You’re helping a parent be able to go to work and make a better living and learn skills to be able to create a better life for themselves, and hopefully get to a point where they don’t have to have the program because they can’t afford the childcare,’ said Martha Velez, Lawrence’s director of health and human services,” WGBH notes.

We’ve blogged about Lawrence’s efforts here and here.

There’s also leadership at the state level. Massachusetts lawmakers have filed the Common Start bill, which would expand access to child care. Massachusetts also has “ a state commission focused on early education and care, co-chaired by Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley, Weston, and precinct 4 in Wayland), who is also co-chair of the state’s education committee. The commission’s final report is expected in March, and Peisch said it will include a range of short- and long-term recommendations.

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Last Saturday morning, parents, advocates, and state legislators came together to participate in a virtual forum to discuss the importance of the Common Start legislation, a Massachusetts bill that calls for establishing “a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline.”

Hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Cape Cod Area and the Common Start Coalition, Cape Cod & Islands Chapter, the forum included:

• Senator Susan Moran, who filed Common Start in the Senate

• Representative Kip Diggs, a member of the Joint Committee on Education

• Janae Mendes, a parent

• Rafaela Fonseca, a family child care provider

• Lynda Allen-wan-N’Tani, executive director of the Crystal Garden Children’s Learning Center

• Noelle Pina, chief of staff of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce

• Debra Murphy, the early childhood coordinator at Cape Cod Community College, and

• Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director

Before the forum, Jane Mendes shared her experiences as a parent with the Cape Cod Times, which reports:

“In the summer of 2019, Janae Mendes was forced to leave her job at a Cape Cod bank because she couldn’t afford summer child care for her 7-year-old daughter. (more…)

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Governor Charlie Baker has released his $48.5 billion fiscal year ’23 budget proposal.

“This is the last state budget that Governor Baker will have his hands on – so he’s using this opportunity to push for tax breaks and fiscal responsibility,” WWLP reports.

“…he wants to invest in schools, MassHealth and transitional assistance, to name a few. Baker’s budget proposal would also give more than $700 million in tax breaks to low income seniors as well as low income families.”

The governor’s proposal also level funds most early education and care line items, sticking to the amounts allocated in the state’s FY’22 budget.

This includes:

• $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies [Access Management, 3000-2000]

• $15 million for Head Start [3000-5000]

• $10 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative [3000-6025], and

• $3 million for early childhood mental health [3000-6075]

The governor’s proposal does not fund: (more…)

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Here at Strategies for Children, we are excited to announce the launch of our new Advocacy Network for Early Education and Care, a year-long advocacy experience for emerging leaders in the field.

To launch the first cohort, we’ve chosen nine new and established leaders from across Massachusetts, including four from Boston. They are all passionate about advocating for children, families, and educators in their communities, and they want to learn new advocacy skills and knowledge to improve programs, communities, and policies. This cohort approach is similar to the one we used to create our Speakers’ Bureau, a program that prepared early educators to use their voices and share their stories with the media or through event panels or at State House rallies.

“Since the pandemic began, the team at Strategies for Children has learned so much about how to engage the field in advocacy,” says Titus DosRemedios, Strategies’ deputy director. “Our daily 9:30 calls informed our approach to the Speakers’ Bureau, which in turn inspired and helped shape the Advocacy Network.”

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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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Last week at the State House, early education was in the spotlight.

The Joint Committee on Education held a hearing and heard testimony on “bills related to Early Education and Care, Kindergarten, and Literacy.”

“During a virtual hearing of the Joint Committee on Education, child-care providers and advocates joined lawmakers in calling for systemic changes to an industry known for its harsh economic imbalance,” the Boston Globe reports. “Massachusetts has some of the highest child-care costs in the nation, yet the state’s child-care workers earn a median salary of $37,000 a year, barely a living wage for someone with children.”

Video of the hearing and a list of the bills is posted here.

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Among the bills that were discussed is the Common Start legislation (H.605S.362), which “would establish a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline,” according to a fact sheet. Strategies for Children serves on the Common Start steering committee, and our executive director Amy O’Leary was one of more than 70 individuals who submitted written testimony in support of the bill. (more…)

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