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Screenshot: The Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project

Five months ago, in the middle of the pandemic, Elizabeth Charland-Tait and Sheila Gould launched a Zoomcast series.

They nicknamed it the Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project (IBZP), although the formal name is “The More We Get Together: Conversations that Build Bridges in Early Childhood.”

Gould is a Holyoke Community College (HCC) professor and the coordinator of the Early Childhood Programs. Charland-Tait is an early childhood lead coach for Massachusetts’ Western StrongStart Professional Development Centers.

Their goal is to have meaningful conversations that connect early childhood professionals in Western Massachusetts.

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Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

 

How, specifically, can the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – a federal COVID-19 relief package — help child care?

Here are some new, national tools and reports that have good answers.

Infants and toddlers: Get details on the opportunities for infants and toddlers on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at noon, when the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center will host a webinar. The policy impact center has also released a research brief that says in part: “The American Rescue Plan represents an unprecedented increase in funding for programs that improve the lives of families with young children. From the expanded child tax credit to economic stimulus payments and billions more in child care funding, this law provides a buffer for families, workers, caregivers, and child-serving organizations during an economic and public health emergency.”

The brief also explains how the American Rescue Plan ties into the impact center’s early childhood policy roadmap, which we blogged about here. The impact center is based at the University of Texas Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Fixing child care – and making it stronger than before: Last year, Opportunities Exchange, an early childhood nonprofit, published Louise Stoney’s article, “REINVENT vs. REBUILD: Let’s Fix the Child Care System.” Stoney, the co-founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance, writes about the financial instability that early education and care programs have faced both before and during the pandemic. Stoney also recommends a “Child Care Come-Back Plan” that federal Covid funds could support. This plan explains how “public and private sector leaders” can “effectively lead a child care come-back effort” that includes provider-based technology, business coaching, and new rate setting strategies. Continue Reading »

“Over this past year, the devastating toll of the pandemic has underscored the critical importance of connecting what science is telling us to the lived experiences of people and communities.”

“Now, a year later, early childhood policies and services are at a critical inflection point—and the need to build a stronger ecosystem has never been more compelling. Longstanding concerns about fragile infrastructure and chronic funding constraints have been laid bare.”

“The science of early childhood development (and its underlying biology) continues to advance, and tenuous ‘systems’ that were in place to support families before the pandemic began need to be rethought, not just rebuilt. Early childhood policy must be about the foundations of both lifelong health and readiness to succeed in school. The reconstruction of a more robust ecosystem that forges stronger connections at the community level among primary health care (both physical and mental), early care and education, social services, child welfare, and financial supports is essential.”

“Re-Envisioning, Not Just Rebuilding: Looking Ahead to a Post-COVID-19 World,” by Jack P. Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, March 10 2021

Photo: Gagan Kaur, from Pexels

We are thrilled that Congress has passed and President Joseph Biden has signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

This new funding will spread much needed aid across the country, and it includes $39 billion to rebuild child care. 

According to estimates, Massachusetts will receive an additional $510 million for child care. This investment is critical for stabilizing the state’s early education and care system.

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) “plans to use the federal stimulus funds as part of a larger set of grants to child care providers to ensure the viability of the industry, while also fostering innovation across the field to meet the evolving needs of working families and employers through COVID recovery period,” the department explains in its stimulus funds document.

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The Common Start Coalition is holding a rally tonight to support last month’s filing of the Common Start bill – proposed legislation that would, as we’ve blogged, “establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline.”

You can RSVP here.

The bill’s lead sponsors — Representatives Kenneth Gordon (D-Bedford) and Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston) and Senators Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) — are expected to attend along with parents, providers, early educators, and business leaders who will discuss the importance of passing the Common Start legislation.

Please join the virtual effort! Tweet @CommonStartMA! And help rev up public excitement for high-quality early education and care!

Here are the rally flyers in English and Spanish: Continue Reading »

“The COVID-19 pandemic helped expose how critical reliable child care is to working parents. Now many employers are trying to figure out how to incorporate child care help into benefits plans, says Alyssa Johnson, the vice president of global client management at Care.com.

” ‘This past year we saw employers had literally a front row seat into the homes and lives of their employees and the challenges that many of us with small children and children at home are facing,’ said Johnson told 3 On Your Side. ‘As a result, there’s really been a fundamental shift in seeing the whole person at work, not just the worker.’

“According to the company’s survey of hundreds of HR leaders:

• 98% plan to expand benefits, and for half, child care benefits are a priority
• 82% say their organizations have become more aware of the care challenges their employees are facing during the pandemic
• 64% report high attrition rates, with employees almost always citing child care concerns as a major factor
• 50% believe the positive impacts outweigh the added cost of child care benefits”

“More employers are looking to help working parents with child care,” Susan Campbell, azfamily.com, March 2, 2021

Photo: Naomi Shi from Pexels

 

As the country recovers from the pandemic and rebuilds education, policymakers should keep an eye on kindergarten – and take steps to shore up its power.

“Kindergarten is designed for young children, who learn best by doing,” an article in the Hechinger Report noted last year. “And while pre-literacy and math skills are covered, building block towers, playing make-believe and mastering the playground equipment are also key elements of this critical grade.”

“ ‘I don’t want to pit one grade against another,’ said Laura Bornfreund, the director of early and elementary education policy at New America, a progressive think tank. ‘But the foundational knowledge, the skills to be able to learn and do well in school later are so important. Kindergarten matters a lot.’ ”

This year, New America is sharing insights from the results of two studies that the organization conducted with “the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Department of Early Childhood before the pandemic, which found that kindergarten is a critical setting for supporting young children’s learning and development.” Continue Reading »

Photo: Gustavo Fring from Pexels

 

Starting tomorrow – Thursday, March 11, 2021 – early educators, out-of-school-time teachers, and K-12 teachers can start signing up for vaccine appointments.

Visit Massachusetts’ COVID-19 website today and develop a plan to sign you or your colleagues up for your appointments.

A state map of vaccine sites is posted here.

Have questions? The state has posted answers to frequently asked questions by educators. Here are two important queries:

Will there be special vaccination clinics for this group?

The COVID-19 Command Center will designate specific days at the seven mass vaccination sites for K-12 and childcare workers to get their shots. More details will be released soon. 

How long will it take to get an appointment?

Vaccine supply continues to be extremely limited in Massachusetts. Therefore, it may take weeks for an appointment to become available.

In other words, when signing up for a vaccine, try to be both persistent and patient.

 

Much needed federal relief for the child care sector is on its way to states. And President Joseph Biden says the investment could cut child poverty in half.

Last week, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was approved by the Senate. The House is expected to vote on the measure by Wednesday morning at the latest.

The plan, which provides sweeping support for COVID-19 recovery, “offers a bold investment in child care relief, finally delivering on the promise of a total of at least $50 billion in direct relief funding,” according to the national nonprofit CLASP (The Center for Law and Social Policy).

 

 

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“What I hope is that we will hang on to some of the lessons we’ve learned, which is one very simple one – that early care and education is absolutely central to family life and to a functioning economy.”

— Stephanie Jones, co-director of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, on the Codcast, CommonWealth Magazine, March 1, 2021

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