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baker crop

Governor Charlie Baker

It’s state budget season, and a diverse group of 80 stakeholders — Strategies for Children as well as businesses, early education providers, advocates, community organizations, health care providers, and philanthropies — have sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker asking him to prioritize young children and families as he puts together his FY ‘23 budget proposal.

The letter asks for “the designation of $600 million, as projected by the Department of Early Education and Care, to extend and study the (EEC) Child Care Stabilization Grants through Fiscal Year 2023 to position the program for sustained support and success into the future.”

This funding would provide crucial support as providers recover from the pandemic and move forward.

You can read the full letter here. To sign on, please complete this form. We will send an updated letter in early January.

As the letter explains:

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the childcare sector. We are in the midst of a childcare staffing crisis that is the result of years of chronic underinvestment and low wages. As a result, the workforce that cares for our children and serves as the backbone of our economy has been depleted. The Commonwealth will continue to lose its early education and care workforce to the many other sectors able to offer higher wages and more generous benefits unless we address educator compensation.” (more…)

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Screenshot: The Boston Foundation website

 

A new report from The Boston Foundation – “When the Bough Breaks Why Now Is the Moment to Invest in Massachusetts’ Fragile Child Care System” — sounds an important alarm.

“The early education and care system in Massachusetts is at a breaking point. The Commonwealth has the second most expensive child care market in the United States. Families routinely pay upwards of $20,000 a year for care for their young children,” the report says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made an already very challenging situation worse.”

“Without public investment in early education and care, the Massachusetts economy will be unable to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The report is based on interviews with local stakeholders who are parents, providers, and advocates, including Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children.

“The directors I talk to are panicked,” O’Leary says in the report. “They are in their classroom from morning until night because they can’t find enough staff.”

“When programs are not able to open, when child care centers close their doors, people are going to be mad,” O’Leary adds. “And they are going to say, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us that this was about to collapse?’” (more…)

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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston website

The title of new article posted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston makes an optimistic point: “The solution is no secret, we can fix child care.”

Child care is broken, the article’s authors Sarah Ann Savage and her colleagues concede, but “child care providers, program directors, and other field experts know how to make high-quality care and early education accessible to all. It’s really no secret: Major public investment and committed political will are what’s needed.”

“The task is big, but it is not unprecedented,” the article adds. “It took both political will and public investment to implement our public K-12 system. And today there are bellwethers suggesting the time may finally be ripe to revisit our relatively minimal public investment in child care.”

This willingness and public investment would help address nagging challenges such as the high cost of early education and care, especially for low-income families.

“Models indicate that eliminating child care expenses for low-income families and capping child care expenses at 7% of income for others would decrease poverty by 40% among New Englanders in families that use child care. Covering or mitigating child care costs would also be a small step toward equity, as the poverty reduction is greatest for Black and Hispanic families.” (more…)

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Last week at the State House, early education was in the spotlight.

The Joint Committee on Education held a hearing and heard testimony on “bills related to Early Education and Care, Kindergarten, and Literacy.”

“During a virtual hearing of the Joint Committee on Education, child-care providers and advocates joined lawmakers in calling for systemic changes to an industry known for its harsh economic imbalance,” the Boston Globe reports. “Massachusetts has some of the highest child-care costs in the nation, yet the state’s child-care workers earn a median salary of $37,000 a year, barely a living wage for someone with children.”

Video of the hearing and a list of the bills is posted here.

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Among the bills that were discussed is the Common Start legislation (H.605S.362), which “would establish a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline,” according to a fact sheet. Strategies for Children serves on the Common Start steering committee, and our executive director Amy O’Leary was one of more than 70 individuals who submitted written testimony in support of the bill. (more…)

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Get ready for next week’s virtual State House hearing, where the Joint Committee on Education will hear testimony on “bills related to Early Education and Care, Kindergarten, and Literacy.”

To watch the hearing, tune in on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, at 11 am.

Want to testify? The deadline for signing up is the day before, Monday, November 22, at noon.

You can also email written testimony to Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov and Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov. Please include “Education Committee Testimony, [Relevant Bill Number]” in the email’s subject line.

Need to learn more about the bills? Keep reading.

Strategies for Children will provide testimony in support of two bills. One is the Common Start legislation, a bill (H.605S.362) that “would establish a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline,” according to a fact sheet. (more…)

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Amy O'Leary and Ellis

Screenshot: Ellis Early Learning’s LinkedIn page

 

Behind every good award, there’s a good story about people working for change.

This story is about early childhood programs, Amy O’Leary, an award, and all the work that is being done to revolutionize the experiences very young children have in Massachusetts.

We’ll start with the award. 

Congratulations to Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, for winning the 2021 Ellis Early Learning (S)Hero Award. She’ll be honored at the Ellis Annual Benefit Event, which will be held virtually on Thursday, October 28, 2021. 

“This is a brand new award that was inspired by Amy herself,” Lauren Cook, the CEO of Ellis Early Learning Center explains. “We wanted to shine a light on how much she does for the field, for adults and children alike.”

Patti Keenan, Ellis’ vice president of Advancement, Community and Equity, says, “I have been struck by how much the power of advocacy makes our work possible.” 

Keenan also praises Amy’s prodigious outreach and education work, especially during the pandemic when Amy and the Strategies team have been hosting “the 9:30 call,” a daily Zoom meeting for the field that features guest speakers, policy updates, and chances for early education professionals to connect with each other. 

And Cook adds, “Amy is so important to the sector, and so important to the history of Ellis.”  (more…)

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JD Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, was interviewed at the Ready Nation 2018 Global Business Summit on Early Childhood, which was held late last year in New York City.

 

 

Interviewer: “Why use and focus on early learning as a key driver to close the achievement gap?”

JD Chesloff: “One of the members of the roundtable used a really great analogy. He said if you’re Michelin Tires and you have a hole in your supply chain of rubber, you immediately go to the beginning of that supply chain and fix it. And when we talk to a lot of employers, they’ll tell you that there’s a hole in the supply chain of workers. And if you’re going to use a strategy to go fix that supply chain, it makes a ton of sense to start at the beginning, and early childhood is that strategy.”

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“When you think of America’s western mountain states, what comes to mind? Wide, open spaces? Majestic peaks? Infinite blue skies? Pervasive lack of investment in pre-K?”

“Five states—Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wyoming—still do not provide any state funding towards pre-K. And all but one of the five are in the mountainous west.”

“This region’s failure to act on pre-K may be accounted for by a combination of the following factors:

• Political and cultural values that put an emphasis on libertarian ideals of government

• Low percentage of children in single-parent households

• Low poverty rates

• Low population density

“While none of these factors alone can explain these states’ lack of investment in pre-K, taken together, they may help to describe the unique environment that exists there—one that lends itself to inaction when it comes to pre-K.”

“One Part of the Country Still Doesn’t Invest in Pre-K. Here’s Why.” By David Loewenberg, New America Weekly, October 20, 2016

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Photo: Wrentham Public Schools

Photo: Wrentham Public Schools

A message from Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children (SFC).

“As September starts, children and families across Massachusetts are heading back to school. Even programs that run for a full calendar year are enrolling new children and families and supporting these children as they make this transition. Some children are starting kindergarten and entering an elementary school for the first time. Some children are also entering a classroom for the first time because they’ve had no prior preschool experience. Indeed, national, state, and local data confirm that there is great variation in young children’s experiences during their first five years, and this is, unfortunately, where achievement gaps take root.

“There has been great interest in expanding high-quality early education opportunities for children in the commonwealth. Legislators filed several bills to do this work, however comprehensive pre-K expansion did not become state law this past legislative session. The state’s revenue picture remains challenging, and without additional revenue expanding access to high-quality early education and care will be difficult. (more…)

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“ ‘We believe that preschool is an integral part of the public school system and public school should be universally available because every child can benefit from it,’ said Josh Wallack, Deputy Chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education. ‘Therefore, preschool should be universal.’ ”

“ ‘Trying to do something this quickly presents a lot of challenges,’ Wallack said. But so far, he said, the push for universal preschool here has proven to be ‘a great example of what a municipal government can do when focused on a really ambitious goal.’ ”

“ ‘I feel like children are learning so much more now,’ said [Lauren] Kendall, who was inspired to leave a communications job at Lehman Brothers, the now-defunct investment bank, and become a teacher after Sept. 11, 2001. When she got her first preschool classroom in 2003 though, she said she had to write her own curriculum and figure out what her kids needed.

“Now, Kendall gets support from the district, including a curriculum that helps her plan classroom activities and personal coaching that helps her understand how to best engage young learners.”

“ ‘What’s perplexing to me is: How come we haven’t moved?’ [Marcy Whitebook] said. ‘There were all these excuses you could make 40 years ago about why we were stuck. But now, there’s no excuse.’ ”

“What it will take to create quality preschool for all,” by Lillian Mongeau, The Hechinger Report, via PBS NewsHour, August 16, 2016

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