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Amy O’Leary

Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, was on Boston Public Radio yesterday talking about the high cost of child care.

Here are some excerpts of what she said:

“One of the things we have learned in the pandemic is we really saw what parent choice looks like. What has typically been a very personal decision, feeling that you’re on your own trying to navigate the bureaucracies really came to light [because] parents were more willing to talk to their employers about what was happening in reality in their homes.”

“We also saw flexibility from the government. So many of our policies are very rigid and have a lot of hoops to jump through for families,” O’Lear says, explaining how the pandemic has changed things. “Suddenly, we’re relaxed because the connection between early education and care programs, and our economy was so clear, even though we’ve had research and data and reports for decades… that tell us how critical early childhood is to brain development and supporting children in the earliest years.”

“We saw policy change pretty dramatically. And I think that has set the stage for what we think about for the future.”

However, O’Leary says, funding will be essential.

“I don’t know many young families who can afford $21,000 for their baby to go to child care.”

“We can’t one-time fund our way out of this decades-long crisis. We really have to think about sustainable, strategic funding and policies.”

To hear more, tune in!

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In case you missed it, here’s a recap of yesterday’s virtual screening of “Starting from Zero: Reimagining Education in America.”

As we’ve blogged, the film is “an exciting exploration of the value and potential of early education and care programs.”

The film looks at “Key features of high-quality early childhood learning environments and experiences are outlined and then brought to life as the film delves into the evolution of Alabama’s #1 nationally ranked state Pre-K program,” its website explains.

“The film brings together the voices of policymakers, educators, academics, business leaders, pediatricians, parents, and children. It features five current and past governors who are champions of early childhood education: Governors Steve Bullock of Montana, Kay Ivey of Alabama, and Ralph Northam of Virginia, as well as former Governors Jim Hunt of North Carolina, and Phil Bryant of Mississippi.”

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The state budget process for fiscal year 2023 is entering its final stages. A six-member conference committee of legislators is meeting now to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That is the difference between House and Senate proposals, including $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal as well as $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget. Specifically, this email says:

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“The School Committee has approved a School Department budget that invests significant funding into schools, including paving the way for expansion of preschool classes to every elementary school in the district, an history making development for Springfield Public Schools.

“ ‘This is a monumental development for our community and something that we’ve been working towards for years,’ said Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick. ‘To have the ability to provide a pre-school foundation for our students before they start kindergarten is going to greatly influence their readiness and really help to set our youngest students up for academic success right from the start.’

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Screenshot: Springfield Public Schools Instagram page.

“In addition to securing preschool classes in every elementary school, the preschool expansion includes the development of a new preschool-only school at 111 Seymour Avenue, which currently houses the administration of the Springfield Virtual School. The School Committee’s approval of the FY23 budget sets the stage for Springfield Public Schools to become the first district in the Commonwealth to provide free, universal full-day preschool for 3- and 4- year old students.”

“School Committee adopts $545 million budget,” City News release, May 6, 2022 

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Next month, please join us for a movie night. 

On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, Strategies for Children is co-hosting the virtual screening of “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America,” an exciting exploration of the value and potential of early education and care programs.

After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring Massachusetts community members who are actively involved in early childhood – and viewers will get to see the premiere of a Massachusetts companion video.

Register here to see the event live at noon.

Or register here to see a recording of the event – with Spanish translation — that will be streamed at 6 p.m.

As its website explains, “Starting at Zero” explores “the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to attain the American Dream.”

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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: Facebook page, New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department

“Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced Thursday that New Mexico will cover the costs of child care for most residents through June 2023. The benefit, which covers families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, makes New Mexico the first state to offer no-cost care over such a broad range of incomes, officials said.

“ ‘It’s free, no more co-pays, no more waiting,’ Lujan Grisham said to a crowd of preschoolers at East Gate Kids Learning Center in Albuquerque. ‘This is the road to a universal child-care system.’ ”

“The state recently expanded a federal child-care subsidy to middle-class families. On Thursday, Lujan Grisham said it would eliminate co-pays for them, too. Officials estimate both changes will make child care free for a total of 30,000 families.”

“New Mexico to offer a year of free child care to most residents,” by Casey Parks, The Washington Post, April 28, 2022.

 

Also check out: ”New Mexico leads the nation as Governor Lujan Grisham makes childcare free for most families,” Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, April 28, 2022

 

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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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