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“ ‘I had a parent tell me to f*** off last week,’ Cori Berg said. She directs the Hope Day School, a church-affiliated early childhood program in Dallas.

“The unhappy mother took her two children out of Berg’s center after each of their classrooms were closed for quarantines, saying she’d hire a nanny. Wanting to return, she emailed, called and finally showed up in the middle of the day. Just as Berg had warned her, her spots were taken.

“The mother, according to Berg, threw a fit before coming back and apologizing. ‘She was like a toddler — she was jumping up and down.’

“The people who take care of and educate children under 5 years old — both parents and providers — are in a special kind of hell right now. These children are too young to be vaccinated, and it’s difficult for them to wear masks consistently. Many child care directors, like Berg, are still following 10- or 14-day quarantines, closing entire classrooms after a single positive test, which has caused nonstop disruptions given the current record numbers of COVID-19 cases. Recently, Berg’s infant room had ‘double-decker’ quarantines: closed for two weeks, back for one day, then closed for another two weeks.”

“Parents and caregivers of young children say they’ve hit pandemic rock bottom,” by Anya Kamenetz, NPR, January 20, 2022

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pexels-ivan-samkov-6816532

Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

In early education, challenges can sometimes overshadow progress, but today we’re happy to blog about inspiring progress that has been made in the city of Washington, D.C.

The Under 3 DC Coalition, which shines “a spotlight on the need for more public investments to support families with infants and toddlers,” has announced that its efforts have led to an investment of “$75 million that DC will use to begin to publicly fund increases in early childhood educators’ compensation.”

Raising salaries has been an uphill trudge for the field, mostly resulting in small salary increases that lag far behind the earnings of public school teachers doing comparable work. Now, however, the coalition – along with its partners DC Action and Educare DC – have advocated for “a tax increase for individuals with annual incomes above $250,000” that has “led to $75 million that DC will use to begin to publicly fund increases in early childhood educators’ compensation.”

As Under 3 DC explains, “Building a sustainable workforce by adequate compensation is one of the first steps to create high-quality programs that are accessible to families.” (more…)

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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“In 2019, Virginia received federal funding from a Preschool Development Birth through Five grant (PDG), and allocated a considerable portion of their funds for direct financial incentives to early educators. The goal of this program, the Teacher Recognition Program (TRP), was to recognize teachers’ hard work, lower their financial stress, reduce turnover, and create more stable early learning opportunities for children.”

“Teachers at sites that were randomly assigned to the TRP were far less likely to turn over. About one-quarter of all teachers at sites without access to incentives left their site within eight months (see Figure 1 below). Only 14% of teachers eligible for the incentive did.

“The results were even more striking among child-care teachers: The financial incentive cut turnover rates in half, from 30% to 15%.” 

“President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would provide this type of transformative funding, giving states the financial resources and supports needed to meaningfully improve child-care quality in part through compensation reforms. However, getting the bill through the Senate has proved difficult, with growing calls to cut key pieces. Finding a way to pass this legislation, including the investments in the teachers who care for and teach our youngest children, is essential – not only for the struggling child-care sector, but for the economy as a whole. Public investments in early educators are long overdue, and they are imperative for meeting the needs of children, parents, and society.”

“How can we improve early childhood education? Use public dollars to pay teachers more.” by Daphna Bassok and Justin B. Doromal, Brookings, January 5, 2022

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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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The CARES Act gave more money to Delta Airlines, just that one company, than the entire child care industry as a whole.”

— Claire Suddath, Bloomberg Businessweek Senior Writer, on Amanpour & Company, December 8, 2021

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In October, the Prenatal to 3 Policy Impact Center released a video that looks at how families fare in different states.

“The Same Family, Different Support simulation brings the Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap to life and compares the level of resources available to a sample family of three based on each state’s actual policy choices,” the center says on its website.

“This unique analysis clearly illustrates that there is substantial variation in available resources during the critical prenatal to age 3 period, based on state policy choices.”

One key finding: “the level of resources a family has available to meet their basic needs varies substantially, from over $42,000 per year in DC, to less than $22,000 in North Carolina.”

The center found that “state minimum wage policies and child care subsidy policies drive most of the variation.”

(more…)

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U.S Capitol

Photo: Thuan Vo from Pexels

The federal Build Back Better bill would make a historic investment in helping the country recover from the pandemic – including funding for early education and care that could revolutionize programs for young children.

The first step would be to reverse the damage caused by the pandemic.

As an article from the Center for American Progress explains, “While the relief funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act have limited the fallout from [the pandemic’s] unprecedented challenges, the fact remains that a market-based child care system cannot adequately serve American families.”

The article adds:

“The United States currently spends less than 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on early care and education, ranking near the bottom of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

“The effect of this chronic underinvestment is that under current law, very few children access subsidized care—even among those who are eligible. The Administration for Children and Families estimates that in 2017, of the 13.5 million children who were eligible for child care subsidies, only 1 in 7 received them.” (more…)

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This is a guest blog post by Anne Douglass, professor of Early Care and Education at UMass Boston and the founding executive director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation.

Anne Douglass

Anne Douglass

Early educators are smart, kind, engaging, and supportive and dedicated.

Here at UMass Boston, we also know that early educators are entrepreneurial leaders. That’s why our programs provide an education that boosts their leadership, creativity, and innovation – all to create a better early learning experience for children.

Examples of early educators’ entrepreneurship abound. Last month, the Cape Cod Times featured a front page story about Nature Preschool Explorers, a nature-based preschool at the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable. The four-year-old school was touted as an example of the wave of educational programs focused on the outdoors that are popping up across the country.

The school was cofounded by Diana Stinson, an alum of UMass Boston’s Post-Master’s Leadership Certificate in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice (PMC) offered by our Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (Early Ed Leadership Institute). (more…)

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“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation holds the position that childcare is a two-generation workforce issue because it is essential to supporting the workforce of today and vital to developing our workforce of tomorrow. There is not enough access to affordable, quality childcare which makes it difficult for parents trying to enter, re-enter, or stay in the workforce. In addition, the pandemic exacerbates existing issues in the childcare system and creates an impossible situation for parents, employers, and childcare providers. There are working parents who struggle to balance home childcare and work, children who miss valuable educational opportunities, childcare providers who are fighting to stay open and serve their communities, and employers wondering how and when their employees with children can return to work.

“Successful solutions can only be reached by jointly addressing gaps across affordability, access, flexibility, and quality.”

“Untapped Potential: Economic Impact of Childcare Breakdowns on U.S. States,” Center for Education and Workforce at The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, November 30, 2021

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