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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

“As Governor Maura Healey takes the helm of Massachusetts state government, a new report is detailing an uphill battle for one of her key priorities: The high cost of child care.

“The new data from the Department of Labor show parents in two Massachusetts counties pay the third-highest child care prices in the nation. The annual cost of infant center-based child care in Middlesex and Norfolk counties was more than $26,000, according to the data, eating up nearly 20 percent of median family budgets. Only parents in Arlington County in Virginia and San Francisco County in California paid higher sums.

“Though Middlesex and Norfolk topped the list, Suffolk and Essex counties also ranked in the top 20 for infant child care costs, and all 14 Mass. counties appeared in the top 100 among more than 2,800 counties nationwide for which data were available.”

“ ‘All across the country, families are facing burdensome childcare expenses. The last few years have highlighted the tension parents experience when they need to go to work to provide for their families, but have difficulty doing so if they can’t access affordable child care,’ Labor Dept. Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon said in a press release.”

“Eastern Mass. has some of the highest child care costs in the country,” by Christina Prignano and Ryan Huddle, The Boston Globe, January 31, 2023

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“A child is born in Massachusetts… then what happens?”

That’s the important question that the new website EC 101 tries to answer for parents, providers, policymakers, and philanthropists who want to promote healthy childhood development across Massachusetts by mapping out the state’s many early childhood programs and resources.

Ideally, Brian Gold says, the answer to What happens after a child is born? should be that children “grow and thrive.” Gold is the executive director of the Massachusetts Early Childhood Funder Collaborative, a group of individuals and foundations that worked with the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy to create EC 101 (short for Early Childhood 101).

But Gold — as a professional, a former foster parent, and the father of a 15-month-old child — sees a clear need for more clarity.

To create this clarity, EC 101’s goal is to tame the state’s complex early childhood system by creating “a visual, accessible format that allows for clear understanding of the current conditions of the early childhood landscape.”

To do this, the website draws on feedback from parents, stakeholders, and experts as well as on state and national research to create an interactive tool that’s full of information. The website can also be translated into multiple languages, everything from Albanian and Chinese to Thai and Yiddish.

An EC 101 webinar is posted above.

One important distinction that EC 101 makes is that there are early childhood systems – and there’s a “non-system.”

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Screenshot 2023-01-31 at 2.04.53 AM

Screenshot: Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation

The good news: since the start of the pandemic, Massachusetts has seen increased investments in child care, up to $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2023.

The bad news: these investments aren’t paying off the way they could.

A new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) — Preparing for Child Care Reform: How to Improve the Subsidy System to Maximize Future Investment — points to a key problem, noting:

“The subsidized child care system in Massachusetts is complicated and inefficient. The result of a state-federal partnership, it serves three different eligible populations with two different forms of subsidies and uses multiple funding streams.”

“Massachusetts is to be commended for its substantial investment in child care in recent years; unfortunately, the subsidy system is complex and inefficient,” Doug Howgate, MTF’s president says in a press release.

Among the results of this systemic failure, the report says, is “lagging enrollment numbers, financially unstable providers, and disruptions and delays in care for families.”

According to MTF’s previous research, this complicated inefficiency comes at a high cost: “due to inadequate child care, Massachusetts loses roughly $2.7 billion a year in lost earnings for employees, additional costs and lower productivity for employers, and in reduced tax revenues.”

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The Early ChildhoodAgenda’s plan has been released! To learn more, check out the Agenda’s website and read about the Agenda’s 10 priorities for improving the early childhood environment in Massachusetts.

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The Early Childhood Agenda has been released!

On Tuesday, early education advocates gathered at the Massachusetts State House for the release event. Watch a video replay here. And check out #EarlyChildhoodAgenda on Twitter.

“The Early Childhood Agenda imagines, prioritizes, and builds collective action around equitable and impact-driven solutions by providing a space for the early childhood community to work across sectors for better policy development,” a newly released brief explains.

It’s an exciting plan for unified action that can improve the experiences of young children and families in Massachusetts.

The Agenda includes the input of more than 1,000 people who contributed to a conversation that identified 10 priorities. They are:

1 Work with state government to “pass and implement comprehensive early education and care legislation that addresses family affordability and establishes a career pathway and funding mechanism to drive investments in workforce compensation.”

2 Ensure “early childhood professionals across multiple sectors have access to competitive wages and an affordable benefits package (health care, paid leave, retirement, child care)” by drawing on “operational grants, state-funded benefits, an opt-in group health plan, unionization, and premium assistance programs”

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Join us TODAY for the release of the work done by the Early Childhood Agenda – a unified plan that draws on many voices to improve early childhood programs in Massachusetts. 

You can register here and meet us at the Grand Staircase inside the Massachusetts State House at 11 a.m.

Starting at 11 a.m., we will also livestream the event on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We’ll be sharing “a targeted list of policy priorities… shaped by community voice and needs, and the different perspectives and lived experiences of partners to highlight the field’s top priorities for the next two years.”

These priorities cover five broad areas:

• Financially Secure Families

• High-Quality Experiences

• Thriving Early Childhood Workforce

• Robust System Infrastructure and Local Partnerships, and

• Healthy Beginnings

So please join us live — or via our livestream — to ensure that Massachusetts is a place where all young children can thrive.

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“There was never much doubt that House and Senate Democrats would return Ron Mariano [the House Speaker] and Karen Spilka [the Senate President] to the top posts in the Legislature for the two-year term that started Wednesday, but the occasion did produce glimpses into the policy areas where each veteran legislative leader will attempt to wield their supermajority margins in the coming months.”

“Mariano and Spilka voiced mutual interest Wednesday in addressing the slow-burning crisis in the early education and child care sector, where providers are coping with widespread staffing shortages, workers are languishing on low wages and families are struggling to pay for care, if they can even find available slots.

“ ‘We know how important early education and care is, both to addressing the “she-cession” that worsened during the pandemic and in preparing our children to learn. Simply put, it is past time to update the way we imagine and support this crucial sector,’ Spilka said.

“The Senate unanimously approved a bill in July seeking a years-long expansion of subsidies, increased pay and benefits for workers, and permanent grants to stabilize providers, but the timing of the bill’s passage left the House with little time to fashion a response.

“Mariano’s comments on Wednesday could signal that he wants his chamber to get more involved in the issue this time around, though he stopped short of embracing the expansive proposal backed by the Senate last session.

“ ‘This session, the full attention of the House will be directed at examining ways to further support our vital early education and care workforce,” Mariano said. “This workforce is made up largely of women and often women of color. As we work to build a system to provide affordable access to quality child care for Massachusetts families, I was proud of the work done last session to increase salaries and other key supports for EEC workers, and I’m confident that the Legislature can do more on this critical issue.’ ”

“Speaker Mariano and President Spilka share some top priorities in new legislative session,” by Chris Lisinski and Sam Drysdale, State House News Service, posted on WGBH’s website, January 4, 2023

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“The strength of Massachusetts is its families. And they sorely need our help. Our state has some of the highest child care costs in the country. Our care workers don’t make a livable wage.

“So today, let us pledge to be the first state to solve the child care crisis. Let’s finally pass legislation in line with Common Start to make sure every family pays what they can afford, and that care workers are paid what they deserve. This is something our families, workers, and businesses all agree on.”

“Read Gov. Maura Healey’s inaugural speech,” WBUR Newsroom, January 05, 2023

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2022 has been an incredible year for Strategies for Children – and we couldn’t have done it without you!

Our allies in advocacy, 9:30 Callers, policy partners, Advocacy Network members, interns and fellows, consultants, thought partners, the hundreds of folks working together to develop the Early Childhood Agenda, and our generous funders – you all help make Strategies for Children what it is – a thriving organization working hard day in and out to advocate for young children, families, communities, and early childhood professionals. 

We offer thanks and appreciation to our elected and appointed leaders. In this time of transition, we have been reflecting on the last eight years of the Baker-Polito Administration, especially since March 2020.

To say that the decisions made by leaders in the Administration, by Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker Ron Mariano, members of the Massachusetts Legislature, and local leaders over the last three years saved lives may sound dramatic. But we believe it is true.

We continue to remember the incredible stories of the educators, program directors, family childcare providers, school age staff, CEOs and community leaders who show up for children and families every single day. We continue to be inspired by this dedicated and resilient workforce and their commitment to problem solving, building partnerships, and providing high-quality learning experiences under incredible continuing circumstances.

We are ready for 2023, and look forward to seeing you at the release of the Early Childhood Agenda at the State House on January 24.

On behalf of the entire SFC team and Board of Directors, thank you.

Onward!


– Amy O’Leary

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poll photo

Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

The results are in!

A new statewide poll sponsored by the Common Start Coalition has found that “73 percent of the state’s voters” back “the Common Start proposal to create a universal childcare program in Massachusetts.” Only 18 percent of respondents oppose the idea.

“Support is up nearly 10 points from two years ago, when the corresponding margin on this question was 64%-23%,” according to a memo from Beacon Research, the organization that conducted the poll.

The poll was conducted last month and surveyed 817 Massachusetts voters.

Most of these voters acknowledge three facts that are driving “the push to create a universal childcare program:”

• too many families can’t afford the high cost of child care

• child care workers are significantly underpaid, and

• state government should play a role in addressing these challenges

The poll also found that 58 percent of respondents favor “increasing taxpayer funding for childcare programs in Massachusetts,” a jump up from two years ago when 48 percent of respondents supported this idea.

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