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Happy Holidays!

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Happy holidays!

Enjoy the winter break. The blog will return in January.

Photo: Gagan Kaur, from Pexels

 

On Sunday, Congress hashed out a second, $900 billion stimulus package to help the country weather the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Congress passed the bill.

It’s an investment that includes $10 billion for child care providers who have struggled during the pandemic.

“Although the vast majority of child-care programs opened back up after the spring stay-at-home orders lifted, many daycare center and preschool owners are taking on huge financial losses — both personal and professional,” a CNBC story explains.

The story adds:

“About 56% of child-care providers report losing money by staying open, according to the latest survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Moreover, 42% of the December survey respondents say they have taken on debt using personal credit cards to pay for supplies and other items.

“That’s because many centers are still operating at lower capacities, even as costs rise. The survey found that 91% are paying extra for cleaning supplies, 73% have taken on extra expenses for personal protective equipment and 60% are paying additional staff wages.”

The stimulus will help, but there is, as CNBC adds, an important caveat: Continue Reading »

“The pandemic has shined a harsh light on what has been a long-festering problem. The world’s largest economy notoriously lags other industrialized countries in investing in child care and early education: The U.S. spends less than 1% of gross domestic product, putting it ahead of only Turkey and Ireland among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. ‘Almost all developed countries have things like subsidized child care, paid family leave, universal health care,’ says Sandra Black, an economist at Columbia University. ‘The economics make sense.’ ”

“The lack of family-focused policies isn’t just inconvenient for working parents, it’s become increasingly clear it’s holding women—and by extension the country—back. According to a report from S&P Global Inc., the U.S. could add $1.6 trillion to GDP if women entered and stayed in the workforce at a rate similar to Norway’s, which has government-subsidized day care.

“One estimate found that if American mothers continued to cut back on work at the same rate as during the first wave of Covid in April, the accumulated loss in wages would amount to $64.5 billion annually. This reality may finally be sinking in for policymakers. ‘We’re in the mainstream discussion of economics,’ says Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women. ‘We were fully excluded before.’ ”

 

“The U.S. Child-Care Crisis Is Torturing Parents and the Economy,” by Cynthia Koons, Bloomberg Businessweek, December 10, 2020

 

Across Massachusetts, after closing because of the pandemic, early education and care providers have been reopening, navigating the challenges created by COVID-19.

“We still are ahead of many, many states in our reopening capacity,” Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, said at a recent department board meeting, public radio station WBUR reports. “While that is really great, what we’re hearing back is many of those [providers] are at a level of vulnerability that could easily put us behind the country quickly as well.”

WBUR adds:

“Eighty-two percent of the state’s licensed providers reopened as of Nov. 23, according to the latest survey from the Department of Early Education and Care. But, many providers told the state that reopening has come with a slew of financial challenges. Many reported struggles to find qualified staffers, or families to fill available slots. Some were forced to contend with the costs of temporary closures because of suspected or confirmed exposure to the coronavirus.” Continue Reading »

“The situation is dire for child care providers—the ones that are still open. Add to that the thousands of providers that have already closed and the magnitude of this national crisis is much, much greater.” — Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO, NAEYC

“We are temporarily closing as of tomorrow. I cannot find or keep staff. I have a waitlist and empty classrooms.” — Tanya Going, child care provider, Pryor, Oklahoma

“We are foregoing purchases that impact quality programming in an effort to save funds. The uncertainty and the increased expenses have caused us to postpone the purchase of needed materials, supplies, staff professional development and equipment.” — Melissa Colagrosso, child care provider, Oak Hill, West Virginia

 

“Am I Next? Sacrificing to Stay Open, Child Care Providers Face a Bleak Future Without Relief,” NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), December 2020

 

A few months before the pandemic hit, the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey of the early education and care workforce.

The survey results are a pre-pandemic snapshot of a shaky situation that policymakers can use to understand the toll that the pandemic has taken on providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that early care and education is a key piece of infrastructure for the economy,” Anne Douglass, the executive director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, says in a blog post. “Parents need early care and education options that are high quality and affordable because when child care isn’t available, parents can’t work.”

The institute released a report on the survey results along with UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and its Center for Social Policy. The survey was commissioned by the Department of Early Education and Care.

One important lesson from the survey, Douglass says, is that “returning to pre-pandemic ways of doing business is not an option.” Continue Reading »

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Your advocacy has paid off!

Last week, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed the Conference Committee’s state budget proposal for fiscal year 2021. The budget includes substantial public investments in early education and care, a sector that has lost so much due to the ongoing pandemic, but nonetheless remains resilient, hopeful, and as essential as ever.

Today, we are asking you to take two actions:

Email Governor Charlie Baker today! Encourage him to sign the FY21 state budget into law and thank him for his continued investments in high-quality early education and care.

Then:

Thank your state legislators for their historic investments in early education and care in the FY21 state budget.

The Conference Committee budget funds the higher dollar amounts for each line item in the House and Senate budgets. This includes a $40 million sliding fee scale reserve to help reduce parent fees; a $25 million reserve for Coronavirus-related support for early education programs and for the workforce; a $20 million rate increase for early educator salaries in subsidized programs; $15 million for Head Start; $5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative; and more.

For more details, visit our state budget webpage.

“It’s important to remember that before Covid, child care did not work in the United States…. I was part of a major study at New America, and it’s one many others have done, that really found that our child care — [that] we don’t really have a child care system. It’s a broken sort of patchwork that parents are expected to pay so much [for] out of pocket. It’s so much more expensive than most parents can afford. It’s very difficult to find quality child care. And the care educators and teachers, they’re earning poverty wages. About half of them earn so little that they qualify for public benefits like Medicaid and Food Stamps.”

“The other thing that’s just really startling is in surveys when people ask child care providers, How are you? Are you going to stay open? So many of them can’t. We are at risk of losing a million child care slots in an already broken system.”

 

“Why Women Are Disproportionately Impacted By The Pandemic Economy,” Brigid Schulte, Director of the Better Life Lab program and The Good Life Initiative at New America, on the Diane Rehm Show, WAMU Radio, December 1, 2020

Photo: EVG Culture at Pexels

 

Last month, Governor Charlie Baker announced the launch of a COVID-19 rapid testing program for public school districts, charter schools, and other educational settings.

Unfortunately, Phase 1 of this program leaves out early education and care providers.

To address this omission, Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, has written a letter to the governor, which says in part:

We ask for equity and to be recognized and supported as essential infrastructure.”

Programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) need rapid testing “to mitigate virus spread for children, families and staff” and “to remain sustainable and open.” But, despite months of advocacy, rapid testing requests from child care providers have gone “largely unanswered.”

Public radio station WBUR looked at the COVID-19 challenges that EEC programs face.

“As more people get COVID-19 across the state, it’s inevitable that cases will pop up in preschools and child care, despite health precautions such as wearing masks and rigorous cleaning,” WBUR reports.

“That’s what happened at Nurtury, which operates six centers and supports 130 family child care providers in Greater Boston. Since they reopened their facilities in July, they have had a few isolated cases of the coronavirus. The daily health screenings usually caught any potential cases before a child or caregiver came through the doors.

“But in late October, that changed… A teacher at one location had tested positive. At a different location, a parent had COVID-19. A third site: another positive teacher.” Continue Reading »

 

“What we know from the research on reading – and what was just confirmed by the national Reading for Understanding Initiative – is that kids need more language. They need more knowledge. And they need foundational mechanical skills to be able to read individual words automatically,” Joan Kelley says.

“The problems that are hardest to address later on are the language and knowledge gaps. Kids need high dosages of rich language, which is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year job for families and educators. But no one tells families what their specific role is or how to get this job done.”

So Kelley came up with an app for that.

An alumna of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Kelley has seen children struggle with reading for years – and so has the rest of the country. As we’ve blogged before, even in Massachusetts, a state known for educational excellence, third grade reading levels have lagged, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. We highlighted this in our 2010 report, “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which Kelley contributed to.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made educational gaps worse by forcing districts to close schools and erode children’s learning opportunities. A study published by the American Educational Research Association says that students experienced a “COVID slide,” a more stark version of the “summer slide” learning loss that normally occurs when schools let out in June. The study estimates that because COVID-19 “abbreviated the 2019-2020 school year,” students would lose “roughly 63% to 68% of the learning gains in reading,” so only about two-thirds of what they would have learned if the pandemic had not occurred. Continue Reading »

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