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Posts Tagged ‘#earlyed’

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Screenshot: Community Change Action website

On Monday, May 9, 2022, “child care providers, parents, and families across the country are hosting A Day Without Child Care: A National Day of Action.”

It’s a one-day initiative to support:

• living wages for child care providers

• an equitable child care system built on racial justice, and

• affordable child care for all families

As the initiative’s website explains, “For generations, we have been fighting for equitable access to affordable child care and better pay and working conditions for providers but our needs are still not being met.”

The pandemic has also boosted public awareness about the importance of child care, but the country has not yet invested in building a better early education and care system.

To highlight these unmet needs, some providers are choosing to participate in this day of action by closing for the day or by opening late. Other providers will stay open and raise awareness. Massachusetts providers can share their plans by filling out this form.

As the National Day of Action website says: 

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Photo: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

What happens when a foster parent learns about an early learning center that’s willing to try a new approach?

Progress.

That’s the story Kate Audette tells about a child placed in her care by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), the state’s child welfare agency.

It was 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and after George Floyd was murdered, when Audette, who has been a licensed foster care provider since 2017, accepted the placement of an infant whom we’ll call Jordan to protect the child’s privacy. 

Audette was working from home at the time and planned to keep the baby home “until it felt safe for them to go to school.”

But she did take the baby to a neighborhood rally in support of George Floyd. The event was organized by Dorchester People for Peace. It was outside. Everyone wore masks. It felt safe.

It also turned out to be life changing.

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state house

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Today the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee released its $49.6 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

For early education and care, this budget includes several key provisions:

• $60 million in a salary rate reserve for providers who accept child care subsidies (line item 3000-1042). This line item also includes an additional $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare, a new initiative.

• $5 million for navigation support and outreach to families, including language continuing EEC’s recent policy of paying subsidies based on child enrollment instead of attendance (part of line item 3000-1000). 

• Increases for: Access Management (3000-2000, for resource and referral agencies); Head Start (3000-5000); and Workforce Development (3000-7066)

• Level funding for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (3000-6025) and early childhood mental health (3000-6075).

In total, the House budget proposal provides $91 million more for early education and care than the FY23 budget proposal that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

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Cheyanne Nichter

Cheyanne Nichter and her son

This Spring, I will be graduating from Bunker Hill Community College with honors and an associate degree in Early Childhood Development. Over the course of the semester I have been working as an intern for Strategies For Children, exploring issues and opportunities in our field as well as my own abilities and passions. I have also reevaluated my goals and future pathways in both my academic and professional pursuits. As a result of the pandemic, and the fact that I live in a child care desert, I took on these challenges with my young son on my hip. 

During my time at Strategies, I saw first-hand how early childhood programs, families, diversity, sociology, research/data collection, and the pursuit of societal justice all intersect in the world of advocacy and engagement. This led me to do an independent research project that draws on my analysis of how the use of digital platforms and trends corresponds to social shifts, and how advocacy organizations can capitalize on digital resources to reach more deeply into the community. My presentation, “Modern Engagement: Making Advocacy Accessible”, covers how organizations can use interactive social platforms for effective communication and engagement. This approach uses modern communication tools and strategies that meet communities where they are, allowing them to access and participate in the dialogue and to use the advocacy resources within their personal bandwidth.

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Screen Shot 2022-03-22 at 8.53.38 PM

Happy second anniversary to The 9:30 Call

After the pandemic hit, Strategies for Children set up the 9:30 Call on Zoom as a fast, easy way for the early education field to share, well, everything, from government updates to coping strategies to fears.

Over time, the list of 9:30 Call attendees grew. Guest speakers logged on, including former Commissioner of Early Education and Care Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, State Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), and State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).

Even better, members of the early education and care field from across Massachusetts could talk to each other every morning.

Last week, participants on the 9:30 Call talked about – drumroll — the 9:30 Call, producing a word cloud that sums up the amazing power of connecting through conversations.

Now even as the pandemic wanes (hopefully), the 9:30 call will continue. Sign up here to join us, Monday through Thursday every week at, yes, 9:30 a.m.

As we’ve discovered there’s so much that meaningful conversations can accomplish.

So, here’s to another year of calls and to making daily connections with the inspiring and resilient early education and care community here in Massachusetts.

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Screenshot: Website of the 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Looking for excitement?

You might not think you’d find it in a fiscal year 2023 budget meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

But here’s the exciting part: Massachusetts is on the edge of greatness. This state could make wise, strategic investments in early education and care that could lead to powerful change. Residents of every city and town could have access to affordable, world class preschool programs that help young children thrive and grow into successful adults.

“This will take time,” Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director, said in her testimony to the joint committee.

It will also take visionary action.

Fortunately, Massachusetts has a blueprint for action, the final report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which explains that “Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families.” 

There is a huge need for progress. As O’Leary explains in her testimony: 

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survey

Photo: Kampus Productions from Pexel

The Boston Opportunity Agenda, a public/private partnership, wants to know what early educators think.

Please, let them know by filling out the MA Early Education Professionals Survey. It is available in eight languages.

“Your responses will improve our understanding of the field and inform critical decisions about early education and care practice, policy, and funding,” the opportunity agenda’s website explains

Here are some frequently asked questions – with answers:

Who should take this survey?
Any early educator, assistant or administrator who has worked or is working in a center or family childcare.”

“What is this survey for?
We asked early childhood educators from centers and family child care, systems, administrators, researchers, funders, policymakers, and advocates about what information is needed right now to help make better decisions about the early education and care field in Massachusetts.”

“How can I be part of the process?
We want all early educators in Centers and FCCs to understand the results and how data can help you and the field. Please share your name, email, and phone number so we can communicate with you. There will also be a space in the survey for you to share what kind of information is important for you to know, as an early educator, business owner, or administrator.”

To learn more, go to the survey’s website or contact Pratima Patil at the Boston Opportunity Agenda. Her email is pratima.patil@boston.gov.

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Photo: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

During the surge of Omicron infections, early education and care providers were once again feeling the crushing weight of the pandemic. Children were getting sick, and so were providers. Staffing shortages were chronic.

Stories of these struggles reached the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, where the staff came up with a plan that could be called rapid-response philanthropy.

“We talked about what we could do to support educators and staff at our partner agencies and the local child care industry in general,” Xavier Andrews, the United Way’s communications director, says. “We came up with the ideas of soliciting corporate support.”

“In January,” a press release adds, “United Way launched the Childcare Appreciation Fund to show appreciation for staff at area childcare centers.”

“To boost morale and cultivate needed equipment, United Way issued a call to action to corporate partners to ‘adopt’ a childcare center either with a financial gift or a gift of testing and protective supplies.”

The responses:

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Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

A long awaited and welcome report from the Massachusetts Legislature has been released this week, and it charts a policy course for early education and care.

“Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families,” the report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission says.

The commission was chaired by Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester), and was composed of “a variety of stakeholders… including legislators, providers, professional organizations, business leaders and employers, advocates, and state agency leaders.”

As Chair Peisch says in a press release, “Long a leader in K-12 public education, Massachusetts now has an opportunity to build on that success in the early education and child care sectors by acting on the recommendations contained in this report.” 

“This work is critical to our goals of advancing racial justice and an equitable economy that works for all,” Chair Lewis adds.

Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group in Lawrence, Mass., adds: 

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amy-kershaw

Amy Kershaw

We’re excited to welcome Amy Kershaw as the new acting commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

Or, more precisely, we’re excited to welcome her back.

As EEC Board Chair Nonie Lesaux says in an EEC press release, “Commissioner Kershaw’s professional roots in early education policy and her very strong track record of public service and leadership in Massachusetts will greatly benefit EEC, especially at this pivotal time.”

Kershaw is currently the commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance. But long before this, she worked in early childhood, first as the director of Research and Policy here at Strategies for Children, and then as a deputy commissioner and later as acting commissioner of EEC. 

She is scheduled to become acting commissioner on March 28. Until then, Education Secretary James Peyser will serve in the position.

As acting commissioner, Kershaw will be able to steer the field through what appears to be the dwindling of the pandemic and on to what could become a period of great progress.

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