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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

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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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child-care-center-

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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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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survey

Photo: Kampus Productions from Pexel

The Boston Opportunity Agenda, a public/private partnership, wants to know what early educators think.

Please, let them know by filling out the MA Early Education Professionals Survey. It is available in eight languages.

“Your responses will improve our understanding of the field and inform critical decisions about early education and care practice, policy, and funding,” the opportunity agenda’s website explains

Here are some frequently asked questions – with answers:

Who should take this survey?
Any early educator, assistant or administrator who has worked or is working in a center or family childcare.”

“What is this survey for?
We asked early childhood educators from centers and family child care, systems, administrators, researchers, funders, policymakers, and advocates about what information is needed right now to help make better decisions about the early education and care field in Massachusetts.”

“How can I be part of the process?
We want all early educators in Centers and FCCs to understand the results and how data can help you and the field. Please share your name, email, and phone number so we can communicate with you. There will also be a space in the survey for you to share what kind of information is important for you to know, as an early educator, business owner, or administrator.”

To learn more, go to the survey’s website or contact Pratima Patil at the Boston Opportunity Agenda. Her email is pratima.patil@boston.gov.

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Photo: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

During the surge of Omicron infections, early education and care providers were once again feeling the crushing weight of the pandemic. Children were getting sick, and so were providers. Staffing shortages were chronic.

Stories of these struggles reached the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, where the staff came up with a plan that could be called rapid-response philanthropy.

“We talked about what we could do to support educators and staff at our partner agencies and the local child care industry in general,” Xavier Andrews, the United Way’s communications director, says. “We came up with the ideas of soliciting corporate support.”

“In January,” a press release adds, “United Way launched the Childcare Appreciation Fund to show appreciation for staff at area childcare centers.”

“To boost morale and cultivate needed equipment, United Way issued a call to action to corporate partners to ‘adopt’ a childcare center either with a financial gift or a gift of testing and protective supplies.”

The responses:

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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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Amy Kershaw

We’re excited to welcome Amy Kershaw as the new acting commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

Or, more precisely, we’re excited to welcome her back.

As EEC Board Chair Nonie Lesaux says in an EEC press release, “Commissioner Kershaw’s professional roots in early education policy and her very strong track record of public service and leadership in Massachusetts will greatly benefit EEC, especially at this pivotal time.”

Kershaw is currently the commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance. But long before this, she worked in early childhood, first as the director of Research and Policy here at Strategies for Children, and then as a deputy commissioner and later as acting commissioner of EEC. 

She is scheduled to become acting commissioner on March 28. Until then, Education Secretary James Peyser will serve in the position.

As acting commissioner, Kershaw will be able to steer the field through what appears to be the dwindling of the pandemic and on to what could become a period of great progress.

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