High-quality, affordable child care.

“Pennsylvania’s child care system is in crisis stemming from a historic staffing shortage driven by low wages. On this Mother’s Day, we are asking Pennsylvania policymakers to focus on what the Commonwealth’s working mothers really need – child care.

“So, please skip the flowers and find the resources necessary to stabilize our child care system by paying these qualified educators a livable wage.

“Female labor force participation contributes $7.6 trillion to the US GDP every year. In Pennsylvania, women comprise almost two-thirds of the essential workforce (i.e., health care, retail food, and distribution) and were key to providing vital infrastructure services and helping to keep the economy running during the pandemic.

“In the current labor shortage that is impacting all sectors, it is vital to the success of our economy to maintain the female labor force. This means supporting the ‘workforce behind the workforce’; child care.

“The average wage of child care teachers in Pennsylvania is $12.43 per hour. At this wage, approximately 21% of child care staff rely on SNAP benefits and 21% are insured by Medicaid.”

“Don’t send us flowers for Mother’s Day. Stabilize Pa.’s child care sector instead,” an opinion piece by Tameko Patterson, Diane Cornman-Levy, and Cindy Hall, The Pennsylvania Capital-Star, May 11, 2023


Sharon Scott-Chandler

Sharon Scott-Chandler has spent years trying to make change.

“When I went to law school, I wanted to be a public defender. I wanted to represent my community. I grew up in Mattapan, and I wanted to provide people who couldn’t afford really good attorneys with a really good attorney,” Scott-Chandler says, recalling the days when she attended Northeastern University’s School of Law.

“But when I was in law school, I did a couple of co-ops,” Northeastern’s required, full-time job experiences, “and I decided being a public defender wasn’t the right place for me to make change.”

The right place, it turned out, was in the community.

Late last year, Scott-Chandler became the president and CEO of ABCD — Action for Boston Community Development — one of the country’s largest community action agencies. And ABCD’s mission is rooted in change, in helping people go “from poverty to stability and from stability to success.”

A big piece of this work focuses on young children.

Scott-Chandler was exposed to early childhood policy in the 1990s when she worked for Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, and she was inviting Dr. Barry Zuckerman to conferences. Zuckerman was a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center as well as the co-developer of the Reach-out and Read literacy program, and a powerful advocate for protecting children by promoting the well-being of their parents.

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Parents are sounding the alarm: in Boston, it’s hard to find child care.

A new report – (Re)Building Boston’s Early Education and Care Sector: Supply, Affordability and Quality Needed – offers policy solutions.

“Boston should be the best place in the country to raise a family, with high-quality, supportive child care programs and facilities accessible to all our residents,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu writes in a letter in the report’s opening pages. “But too often parents and caregivers across Boston’s neighborhoods face immense challenges finding quality, affordable care.”

The report, released by the Boston Opportunity Agenda’s Birth to Eight Collaborative, provides the proof. An analysis of Boston data from 2017 and 2020-2022 found in part that:

• in 2022, 76 percent of children age 2 or younger did not have access to formal child care

• In the past five years, the city lost nearly 20 percent of its family child care providers

• in 2022, on average, an estimated 39 percent of children aged birth to 5 years old lacked access to formal early education and care. “The access gap varied across neighborhoods, ranging from 5 percent in Roxbury to 61 percent in Charlestown.”

• “In 2022, the city-level quality gap for 0–5-year-olds in Boston was 69 percent.” The report defines the quality gap as the difference between “the total number of identified ‘high-quality’ education and care seats… and the number of children birth to 5 years of age… in a given geographical location, assuming all of these families would desire formal care near their homes.”

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In 2020, Barbara J. Cooper was appointed Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education by Governor Kay Ivey. Cooper is also a member of NAEYC’s Governing Board

Last month, as NPR reported, Governor Ivey replaced Cooper “over the use of a teacher training book, written by a nationally recognized education group, that the Republican governor denounced as teaching ‘woke concepts’ because of language about inclusion and structural racism.”

The book in question was NAEYC’s Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8, Fourth Edition, also called DAP.

In response, to the circumstances of Cooper’s dismissal, the national nonprofit organization Zero to Three released a statement, which says in part: 

“When young children enter the classroom, we should be united in making their success our top priority. That means acknowledging years of research underscoring the simple fact that kids can’t learn math, science, and reading if they don’t feel seen, safe, and supported.

“NAEYC’s Developmentally Appropriate Practice Book represents the best guidance from the early childhood education community, based on broad consultation with educators and experts, including ZERO TO THREE. Governor Ivey’s decision to reject DAP based on a few cherry-picked excerpts puts politics ahead of the best interests of Alabama’s children. 

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“Welcome to the world, baby. Your parents have to return to work just days after you were born thanks to America’s lack of paid leave. Which means you’re on your own, baby!

“The average mommy or daddy loses $4,600 in just six weeks without paid leave, and you cost even more!”

“Get your sh$t together baby,” Glamour 

Parisa Maryam Fakhri

Parisa Maryam Fakhri grew up in Iran, where she always wanted to be a preschool teacher, but as the oldest child, her parents wanted her to pursue medicine.

When it was time for her to go to college, the Iranian Revolution had shut down the local universities, so Fakhri’s parents said she should study in Europe or the United States.

“It was hard to get a visa to come to America,” Fakhri recalls. “It would have been easier to go to Europe. But Iranian women are some of the strongest women, so even though it was hard, I knew there was more opportunity in the U.S. And in my geography class, they talked about Massachusetts. I liked the name, and I used to dream that one day I would go there.”

People said a visa would be impossible to get. But when the customs officer asked why she wanted one, Fakhri firmly said it was because she wanted to study. Three weeks later she had her visa. She was the only one she knew of who was awarded one. Cousins and friends said that Fakhri, who enjoyed life at home, would not succeed in America. But her parents told her that she could.

And she did.

Fakhri lived with an American family and went to college. She spent long days studying English and immersing herself in American culture. A year and a half later, she met her future husband. Marriage and motherhood led her to pause schooling to take care of her family.

“I wasn’t taking any courses. I was home,” she says, but life slowly drew her toward interacting with more young children and eventually working with them. “I was going to the playground, watching my son play with other children. I would go to the gym and leave my son in the gym’s child care. A neighbor would ask me to take care of their child.”

“The fire that started in my heart in Iran grew. I decided that I wasn’t going to do the work my parents wanted.”

Instead, she got a job at ABCD, an anti-poverty agency in Boston, as an assistant in an early childhood classroom.

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MIT pic

Photo: Yan Krukau, Pexels

“Children who attend preschool at age four are significantly more likely to go to college, according to an empirical study led by MIT economist Parag Pathak.

“To conduct the study, Pathak and his colleagues followed more than 4,000 students who took part from 1997 to 2003 in a lottery the Boston public school system conducted to allocate a limited number of preschool slots.

“The lottery created a natural experiment, allowing the researchers to track the educational outcomes of two otherwise similar groups of students when one group attended preschool while the other did not. In decades of research on preschool programs, this approach has rarely been applied. 

“The result: among students of similar backgrounds, those who did attend preschool were 8.3 percentage points more likely to enroll in college right after high school. There was also a 5.4-percentage-­point increase in college attendance at any time.

“ ‘It’s a pretty large effect,’ says Pathak. ‘It’s fairly rare to find school-based interventions that have effects of this magnitude.’ ”

“The preschool boost,” by Peter Dizikes, MIT Technology Review, April 25, 2023


Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

The Department of Early Education and Care has posted up-to-date early educator scholarship information on its website.

As the website explains, “The Early Childhood Scholarship provides financial assistance if you are currently employed in an early childhood field. This includes all licensed and funded EEC program types.”

The scholarship is for early childhood staff who are “enrolled (or plan to enroll in) a higher education certificate, associates, bachelors or masters degree program at an approved institution in Massachusetts.”

Eligible majors include: ” Early Childhood Education, Child Development, Family Studies, Child Care Administration or fields that directly name early child development as its specific areas of inquiry.”

There’s more detailed information on the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) website.

The Early Childhood Scholarship was funded as a pilot program back in the fiscal year 2006 state budget. It has since been awarded to thousands of early educators, and its popularity has led to continued public support, with annual funding of more than $3 million per year. 

You can register for a Zoom information session (with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish and Portuguese) that will take place on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at 7 p.m.

And you can download a scholarship guide that explains how to apply. 

For more information contact the Early Education and Care Help Desk at (617) 988-2450 or submit a report request.

Check it out and consider applying for a scholarship!

“Covid provided an opportunity to really highlight this issue in ways that we’ve never seen. To have babies sitting behind Zoom cameras, to have toddlers trying to be busy while people were working from home; suddenly all the things we knew [about families’ early education and care needs] were in the public eye.

Ellis and SFC at BPR

Lauren Cook and Amy O’Leary at WGBH

“We have not changed our priorities even though the the brain science tells us how critical these early years are. So that’s what I’m hopeful for. It’s not just the people who work in this field, who have young children who are fighting for this. There’s been this bigger awareness of why we need high-quality programs starting at birth…”

— Amy O’Leary, “Boston Public Radio Full Show 4/18: Tax Day,” WGBH, April 18, 2023

Sidney Hamilton

“I was born and raised in Pittsfield, Mass.,” Sidney Hamilton says, “and I’m still here.”

A dozen years ago, Hamilton started working as an intern at the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center. She was a room assistant helping with logistics and making sure children were safe. 

Today, Hamilton works at the Brigham Center as the Empowerment Director & Eureka! Coordinator, and she’s working hard to immerse girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She’s also a member of the second cohort of our Advocacy Network.

“When I started working with kids, it came easily to me, and I really enjoyed it. A lot of people go to work for the money, and money is great, but I’d rather have a job that I can go to every day that I know I’m going to enjoy. That’s super important to me.”

Over the years, Hamilton worked as the coordinator of one of the Brigham Center’s after school programs and as a substitute teacher in its early education program. She did outreach work, educating teenagers about healthy sexuality, self defense, and financial literacy. And along the way, Hamilton earned an associate degree in human services at Berkshire Community College as well as a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work at Westfield State University.

Today, she continues to be engaged by the challenges and joys of building relationships with kids.

“To be able to get to know the kids, understand them better, help them with what they need is an awesome thing. And I love being in a place where we see kids grow up. We’ve had kids from birth who are still in our programs. I started working with a young girl when she was seven, and now she’s a senior who will be graduating high school. So there are a lot of full circle moments.”

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