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Melissa Charles picture

Melissa Charles

Melissa Charles

I am a student at Bunker Hill Community College pursuing my associate degree. However, this fall I will transfer to Smith College and study economics.

I was born in Geneva Switzerland and left the country at age three. By the time I started kindergarten in the United States, French and Haitian Creole were my first languages. As a child. I was not celebrated for my multilingual abilities. In fact, compared to my peers, I was seen as having a deficit. Fortunately, I learned English quickly, and within a few months, I had completely adapted.

During my internship at Strategies for Children (SFC), I have been carrying my early childhood experience with me. I am interested in early education and care that includes a focus on emerging multi-language learners and on families who rely heavily on assistance programs and would benefit from supportive, grassroots policies.

In my policy and advocacy work, I hope to grow SFC’s social media presence through outreach and campaigns, drawing on my experience as a marketing intern for my hometown of Stoneham, Mass. Through my work with the SFC team, I hope to advance budget and policy ideas that may have not been prioritized in the past. Continue Reading »

Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak graduated from Wilson College with a degree in environmental studies. But her original major was equestrian studies.

Peak loved horses.

Horses, however, didn’t seem like enough to build a career on, and after Peak graduated, jobs related to her environmental studies major were hard to come by, so, following a stint as a Five Guys manager, Peak decided to work with children.

Which led her back to horses.

Peak volunteered at therapeutic riding centers, including Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center in Bristol, Conn., where volunteers work with children and adults who have special needs, including autism, depression, and multiple sclerosis.

From there, Peak took a job with a private company as a play therapist. She traveled to different sites to work with children. And what she saw in this job were teachers who didn’t have enough knowledge about children with special needs. It was a gap that Peak believed she could fill. Continue Reading »

KIDS COUNT 2021

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KIDS COUNT Screenshot

 

The new 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out.

Released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this 32nd edition describes “how children across the United States were faring before — and during — the coronavirus pandemic.”

“This year’s publication continues to deliver the Foundation’s annual state rankings and the latest available data on child well-being. It identifies multiyear trends — comparing statistics from 2010 to 2019.” The KIDS COUNT data center provides more details.

This year’s good news: Massachusetts ranks an impressive #1 among all 50 states in overall child well-being.

The caveat: Massachusetts and all the other states still have to do substantial work to create equitable systems that serve all children and families and that provide access to high quality early education and care to everyone.

“The rankings in this edition of the Data Book, which are based on 2019 data, show that despite gains since the Great Recession, the nation was not ensuring every child had the opportunity to thrive.” Continue Reading »

“California will expand the state’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program to all four-year-olds if a current placeholder budget is enacted on July 1st. If approved, the state would phase in the program incrementally over three years starting in the 2022-23 school year.

“TK was started in 2010 as a new grade level in California’s public schools for four-year-olds with fall birthdays. California had one of the youngest kindergarten entry dates in the nation at the time, which meant children started kindergarten as young as age four. The new grade level was meant to rectify that problem, but it also created new inequities because it was only available to a small number of children.

“Now it looks like that’s about to change.”

“California Moves Toward Universal Pre-K,” by Sarah Jackson, New America blog post, June 21, 2021

More than a year into the pandemic, the Hechinger Report is looking at how the early education and care field is doing.

The verdict: despite hardships and heartbreak, there is also resilience and hope.

In its Early Childhood newsletter, Hechinger shares some details.

On program closings:

“Researchers estimated early on that the pandemic would devastate the already fragile child care industry, possibly causing up to half of all child care centers to close permanently. And while many centers have closed, new data from Child Care Aware of America (CCAOA) found the losses have been far less than anticipated. Among 15 states that are currently tracking the number of permanent child care closures, 3 percent of centers and 4 percent of family child care homes, on average, have closed—a percentage that could increase as states update their information and emergency funds run out.”

Continue Reading »

“ ‘This is a critical component to our success,’ Whitmer said. ‘Data shows that child care is the biggest single monthly expense for lower income working families with kids. So right now, we’ve got an opportunity in front of us, an opportunity to make an historic, long-term investment in child care.’ ”

“Lawmakers in the Michigan Legislature from both parties have been receptive to Whitmer’s child care proposal, with House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, saying in a statement earlier this week ‘I am confident we will find common ground to move forward and make a real difference helping Michigan families meet their child care needs.’ ”

“Whitmer pushes plans for back to work incentive, increased child care access in Grand Rapids,” by Arpan Lobo, the Holland Sentinel, June 16, 2021

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Screenshot: New America

“Providers need predictable, stable, and adequate funding,” New America says in a new policy brief.

Instead of rebuilding the old system of funding child care slots for low income children based on children’s daily attendance, states should, as the brief’s title says, “Make Child Care More Stable: Pay by Enrollment.”

Now is the time to act because Congress has invested $50 billion in Covid relief funds for child care.

As the brief explains, the attendance-based subsidy system has two glaring flaws. Subsidies often don’t cover the cost of providing child care, and they often don’t provide enough financial help to families.

“In most states, many providers serving children eligible for subsidies are paid several weeks after services are rendered and the amount can vary based on individual child attendance and reimbursement rates, even though provider costs are not determined by how many days a child is present. This monthly variation makes it difficult to make informed decisions around budgeting, staffing, and enrollment.”

This “perpetual underfunding” and “fragmentation in delivery” result in “uneven quality and access to services” that “places financial burdens on families, and perpetuates inadequate wages for the ECE workforce.”

The national nonprofit Child Care Aware of America concurs. In a blog, Child Care Aware notes:

Continue Reading »

AG Headshot

Attorney General Maura Healey

Earlier this month, we were excited to welcome Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to Strategies for Children’s 9:30 call, our daily briefing for members of the early education and care field.

Healey, a longtime advocate of early education, was joined by Angela Brooks, the director of Healey’s Children’s Justice Unit.

Healey’s story:

Responding to the question of how she became attorney general, Healey said she didn’t grow up wanting to be a politician. In fact, after college, she was a professional basketball player in Europe. When she returned to Massachusetts, she enrolled in Northeastern University School of Law, and went on to work for the Boston law firm Wilmer Hale. She the joined the Attorney General’s office as chief of the Civil Rights Division. And in 2014, she was elected attorney general.

One insight from her time abroad:

“I remember living in Europe. It was amazing to me, the recognition of the role of child care providers, early education providers, and the primacy of that from day one.”

Fighting for child care during a global pandemic:

When the pandemic first hit, Healey and her office took on unexpected but needed roles, trying to secure personal protective equipment for first responders and searching out hotels for families in which one family member had COVID-19.

Last summer, Healey led “a coalition of 22 attorneys general urging the United States Senate to provide robust financial support [$50 billion] for childcare providers” in a federal stimulus bill.

The letter said in part: Continue Reading »

“Child-care workers have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. But a new report finds that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour could benefit more than half a million employees. 

“The progressive Economic Policy Institute estimates that if the federal minimum wage is gradually increased from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by 2025, roughly 560,000 workers in the child-care sector will benefit. 

“Prior to the pandemic, workers earned an average of $11.65 in 2019, an hourly wage that covers basic living expenses in just 10 states, according to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Wage increases would primarily benefit women and minorities since 95% of child-care workers are women and 36% are Black or Hispanic.” 

“About 560,000 child-care workers would benefit from increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour,” by Megan Leonhardt, CNBC, June 9, 2021

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EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

Dear Program Leaders, 

Thank you all for the continued partnership and feedback as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time. As we continue to receive questions and feedback about the transition to post-COVID conditions, we wanted to assure you that EEC will continue to provide information and support throughout the months ahead as communities work to recalibrate our work through the summer. 

The Baker-Polito Administration announced that the remaining COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted beginning May 29, and EEC retired the Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety. We recognize that child care programs still face many challenges and our stakeholders need time to ensure the appropriate policies are put in place to meet the needs of the families you serve. EEC continues to be committed to supporting programs through this transition and assist you as you work to identify the path forward that works for your programs. As previously referenced, EEC will be establishing revised guidance around regulations and monitoring throughout the month of June and will not begin on-site monitoring until July. During the month of June we will send weekly communications to update providers and provide answers to the on-going questions received through office.commissioners@mass.gov.
 
EEC introduced Suggested Strategies for the Prevention and Response to COVID-19 in Early Education and Care Programs. We will continue to update this document with answers to frequently asked questions received through the months ahead.
 
To continue the ongoing dialogue with you all, I will be hosting a Conversation with the Commissioner on June 29th at 6pm. I look forward to hearing from you about the progress in your programs and to strategize together as we forge ahead.
 

Thank you for your commitment to the children and families of the Commonwealth and to the field of early education and care as a whole. We are building a better future together. 


Samantha Aigner-Treworgy
Commissioner of Early Education and Care
 

Continue Reading »

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