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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

In most of Massachusetts, full-day kindergarten classes are a free part of what local public schools provide.

But as our past intern Cheyanne Nichter found when she researched the issue, there are 38 school districts in Massachusetts that have charged tuition for full-day kindergarten during the last few years. Nichter’s work helped us develop a fact sheet on full-day kindergarten tuition costs.

Kindergarten enrollment, as the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education explains, “is encouraged but not required in Massachusetts. All school districts are required to provide free half day kindergarten to families but many provide a full day option (either free or tuition based).”

Charging tuition for kindergarten creates a financial burden for parents and an inequitable situation since the amounts parents pay vary by district.

In Acton-Boxborough, for example, kindergarten tuition was $4,500 in the 2019-2020 school year. There was no kindergarten program in 2020-2021. And the tuition for the current 2021-2022 year is $3,750.

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The Massachusetts Legislature is poised to take an exciting step forward. 

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education has just released a bill, An Act to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care.

It’s an investment in young children and the early education workforce that promises to make the state stronger as these children grow.

The bill draws heavily on the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which released a report in March. The bill also includes many of the policies advocated for by the Common Start Coalition in a bill it worked to file in 2021.

When it’s fully implemented, this legislation “will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts,” according to a statement released by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester).

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee released its $49.68 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

This budget includes several key provisions for early education and care, which are outlined in Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues’ executive summary.

Highlights include:

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, a previously, federally-funded program that has helped stabilize the early education and care field during the pandemic

• $25 million for a new Early Education and Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape

• $25 million in a rate increase for early educators, and

• $15 million for preschool expansion through the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative.

The Boston Globe covers the budget story here. And MassLive covers it here.

Visit our website to see comparisons of budget line items over time, including the FY23 House budget.

While the Senate budget would allocate more early education and care funding overall than the House budget, most notably through C3 grants, the Senate’s proposal differs from the House’s in a few ways. The Senate budget calls for a smaller sized rate increase and does not fund the workforce development initiative (which is allotted $10 million in the House budget).

Senators have until 1 p.m. on Friday, May 13, 2022, to file budget amendments, and they will begin debating these amendments on May 24.

Join the 9:30 Call tomorrow, Thursday, May 12, 2022, (at, yes, 9:30 a.m.) to hear a budget update from Ashley White, senior policy researcher at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Click here to get more information and Zoom link.

If you have questions or need additional information, contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org.

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The Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is having a meeting today at 1 p.m., the first meeting with Acting Commissioner Amy Kershaw, who was appointed in March.

You can watch the meeting live by clicking here. Afterwards, a recording of the meeting can be found here.

The three items that will be discussed are:

• Early Learnings and Proposed Framework for Strategic Action Plan Implementation

Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3)

                      • Stabilization Grants Update & Preliminary Outcomes

                      • Workforce Bonus Funds, and

• a Market Rate Study

Please tune in! Watching the board meeting is a great way to hear directly from state-level policymakers!

As Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, says, “This is not a time to slow down or stall. It is a time to continue the important work of EEC, to ensure a stable early education and care field.”

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Screenshot: Community Change Action website

On Monday, May 9, 2022, “child care providers, parents, and families across the country are hosting A Day Without Child Care: A National Day of Action.”

It’s a one-day initiative to support:

• living wages for child care providers

• an equitable child care system built on racial justice, and

• affordable child care for all families

As the initiative’s website explains, “For generations, we have been fighting for equitable access to affordable child care and better pay and working conditions for providers but our needs are still not being met.”

The pandemic has also boosted public awareness about the importance of child care, but the country has not yet invested in building a better early education and care system.

To highlight these unmet needs, some providers are choosing to participate in this day of action by closing for the day or by opening late. Other providers will stay open and raise awareness. Massachusetts providers can share their plans by filling out this form.

As the National Day of Action website says: 

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Screenshot: Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report

“The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report on Thursday that outlines the detrimental impacts the childcare shortage is having on the state’s economy. Among the eye-popping stats: Inadequate childcare cost businesses in Massachusetts an estimated $97 million a month last summer and fall, or more than $1 billion a year — largely because of employees who have left jobs to care for their kids and the disruption that turnover caused.”

“Massachusetts has the most expensive childcare costs of any state in the US — an average of roughly $21,000 per slot, for infants, and $15,000 for toddlers — so employers recognized this was an issue even before the pandemic.

“However, Eastern Bank chief executive Bob Rivers said the pandemic drove home the problem for executives. Rivers said he worries about the impact on the state’s competitiveness, particularly given the high cost of housing here, too. He began building a coalition to address the issue in 2019, but gained far more traction among other companies after the pandemic hit. By the time Eastern Bank’s foundation launched the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education in February 2021, more than 70 employers were on board.

“ ‘When the pandemic hit, and the childcare system was obliterated, all of a sudden it’s like “Oh yeah, it’s a real issue,” ’ Rivers said.”

“It’s not just about public policy. Rivers said he hopes the new report will help spur private-sector employers to improve their childcare benefits.”

“ ‘Businesses are starting to learn from each other,’ Rivers said. ‘We can’t just look to government to solve all this entirely.’ ”

“The bill to companies for ‘inadequate’ daycare in Mass.: $1 billion-plus a year,” by Jon Chesto, The Boston Globe, April 28, 2022

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state house

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Today the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee released its $49.6 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

For early education and care, this budget includes several key provisions:

• $60 million in a salary rate reserve for providers who accept child care subsidies (line item 3000-1042). This line item also includes an additional $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare, a new initiative.

• $5 million for navigation support and outreach to families, including language continuing EEC’s recent policy of paying subsidies based on child enrollment instead of attendance (part of line item 3000-1000). 

• Increases for: Access Management (3000-2000, for resource and referral agencies); Head Start (3000-5000); and Workforce Development (3000-7066)

• Level funding for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (3000-6025) and early childhood mental health (3000-6075).

In total, the House budget proposal provides $91 million more for early education and care than the FY23 budget proposal that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

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Please come to the Common Start Coalition’s rally – and support proposed legislation to build a stronger system of early education and care in Massachusetts!

The rally is being held this Saturday, April 9, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Command.

“Learn how you can get involved to help create a more equitable childcare and early education system,” the coalition says on its Facebook page.

As we’ve blogged, the coalition — a statewide group of advocates and organizations, including Strategies for Children — supports a bill known as The Common Start Legislation that would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and care in Massachusetts.

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Rendering of the new child care facility at 585 Andover St. in Lawrence, courtesy of Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. and Davis Square Architects.

“MassDevelopment has issued a $7.1 million tax-exempt bond on behalf of Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. (GLCAC), which will use proceeds to demolish its outdated existing child care center at 585 Andover St. in Lawrence and build a new two-story, 28,790-square-foot child care center in its place. The organization will construct the new child care center in the existing parking lot of the current facility, and repurpose the land where the current building lies, once it is demolished, for a playground and parking.”

“ ‘Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. is a community leader in providing individuals and families with the resources they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives,’ said MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera. ‘MassDevelopment is proud to help the organization further invest in Lawrence through the creation of a brand-new child care center that will serve nearly 60 additional children, create jobs, and support working families.’ ”

”$7.1M Builds Child Care Center in Lawrence: Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. Uses Tax-Exempt Bond from MassDevelopment & Eastern Bank to Build New Child Care Facility, Expand Enrollment & Create Jobs,” by Matthew Mogavero, MassDevelopment, March 2, 2022

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Happy second anniversary to The 9:30 Call

After the pandemic hit, Strategies for Children set up the 9:30 Call on Zoom as a fast, easy way for the early education field to share, well, everything, from government updates to coping strategies to fears.

Over time, the list of 9:30 Call attendees grew. Guest speakers logged on, including former Commissioner of Early Education and Care Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, State Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), and State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).

Even better, members of the early education and care field from across Massachusetts could talk to each other every morning.

Last week, participants on the 9:30 Call talked about – drumroll — the 9:30 Call, producing a word cloud that sums up the amazing power of connecting through conversations.

Now even as the pandemic wanes (hopefully), the 9:30 call will continue. Sign up here to join us, Monday through Thursday every week at, yes, 9:30 a.m.

As we’ve discovered there’s so much that meaningful conversations can accomplish.

So, here’s to another year of calls and to making daily connections with the inspiring and resilient early education and care community here in Massachusetts.

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