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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

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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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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federal

Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

 
Although the pandemic has devastated early education and care programs, states have been able to create some stability thanks to federal Covid relief funds.

This historically high funding was delivered through three federal acts:

• the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), March 2020

• the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), December 2020, and

• the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), March 2021

“This influx of funding was a historic and critical investment for a system in crisis,” according to a new analysis of the impact of federal relief funds on the child care sector from the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation (MTF).

The relief funding invested $28.5 billion in the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, including $372.7 million for Massachusetts. These funds were used for vital efforts, including reopening grants; subsidized spots for children; covering operational costs; workforce investments; and technical assistance to support the distribution of grants.

In addition, MTF explains, “ARPA allocated $23 billion to a new child care program for states: the Child Care Stabilization Fund. This program was created to address the financial burdens faced by providers during the pandemic and prevent a further reduction in the supply of child care as states recover.”

Massachusetts has also received $5.3 billion in Fiscal Recovery Funds. And while this funding is not designated specifically for child care, it does “offer policymakers options for child care investment.” (more…)

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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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Screenshot: The Boston Foundation website

 

A new report from The Boston Foundation – “When the Bough Breaks Why Now Is the Moment to Invest in Massachusetts’ Fragile Child Care System” — sounds an important alarm.

“The early education and care system in Massachusetts is at a breaking point. The Commonwealth has the second most expensive child care market in the United States. Families routinely pay upwards of $20,000 a year for care for their young children,” the report says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made an already very challenging situation worse.”

“Without public investment in early education and care, the Massachusetts economy will be unable to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The report is based on interviews with local stakeholders who are parents, providers, and advocates, including Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children.

“The directors I talk to are panicked,” O’Leary says in the report. “They are in their classroom from morning until night because they can’t find enough staff.”

“When programs are not able to open, when child care centers close their doors, people are going to be mad,” O’Leary adds. “And they are going to say, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us that this was about to collapse?’” (more…)

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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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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Get ready for next week’s virtual State House hearing, where the Joint Committee on Education will hear testimony on “bills related to Early Education and Care, Kindergarten, and Literacy.”

To watch the hearing, tune in on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, at 11 am.

Want to testify? The deadline for signing up is the day before, Monday, November 22, at noon.

You can also email written testimony to Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov and Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov. Please include “Education Committee Testimony, [Relevant Bill Number]” in the email’s subject line.

Need to learn more about the bills? Keep reading.

Strategies for Children will provide testimony in support of two bills. One is the Common Start legislation, a bill (H.605S.362) that “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. (more…)

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Early education and care providers are in the middle of several crises. There’s the pandemic. There’s the shrinking workforce. And there’s the pandemic-related mental health crisis that’s playing out in children’s lives.

To stabilize and strengthen the field, the Department of Early Education (EEC) is building a new professional infrastructure. These initiatives are part of the strategic action plan, EEC’s guiding vision for 2020-2025.

Earlier this month, EEC’s Advisory Council and its Workforce Council held a joint meeting to discuss a range of workforce issues and solutions.

“We wanted to get some insights on some of the very specific initiatives that are both being conceptualized at the moment as well as [those that] are ready to start launching,” EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy said in her introduction. The goal is to build “the systems that we need to fuel our growth and recovery.”

The topics on the meeting’s agenda were:

• Status of EEC Workforce

• Launch of a Professional Registry

• Educator Credentialing, and

• EEC Professional Pathways

Here’s a summary of what was discussed. (more…)

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webinar

Photo: Artem Podrez from Pexels

The new federal investment in early education and care promises to have a broad impact.

To explore the details, the Alliance for Early Success has shared a new webinar explaining what to expect.

The webinar’s Spanish interpretation is posted here.

“We are very, very excited about this,” Danielle Ewen says in the webinar about the new federal funding. Ewen is a principal at EducationCounsel, an Alliance member and an education consulting firm. “This is a major, major opportunity to change the trajectory of life for children and families and providers.

“When you look at the Build Back Better proposal, the early childhood provisions are the second largest piece. We have never been the second largest piece of a major piece of legislation, ever.”

Build Back Better is still making its way through the legislative process, so it may change somewhat. But here are some key components as they stand now.

Part of the bill addresses income and health care, including: (more…)

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