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Posts Tagged ‘#earlyed’

sfc advocacy

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

As the summer winds down, it’s time to get ready for election season. 

Your voice matters! Please let your candidates know that they should make early education and care a priority! 

Elections in Massachusetts are just around the corner. The state’s primary is Tuesday, September 6, 2022. The statewide election will be Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

So, now is the time to remind candidates that Massachusetts should build on this year’s momentum by continuing to make early education and care a policy and a funding priority!

To learn more, please check out Strategies for Children’s Election Year 2022 webpage. It includes a wide range of information, including where to vote, who the candidates are, and how we are advancing our advocacy work.

Please join us as we call for “early education and care to be treated as a public good – just like public schools or our physical infrastructure of roads and bridges.” This will make a huge difference for children and families.

And please be sure to vote in the upcoming elections. 

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For the past two months, I have had the great opportunity to be a summer intern with Strategies for Children (SFC) through the Early Childhood Policy and Leadership certificate program at Boston College’s Institute of Early Childhood Policy. From the first staff meetings with Amy, Titus, Marisa, Nery, Marge, and Jenna, I have felt welcomed as a member of the team.

During these staff conversations, the team has often discussed how advocacy work is relationship-based. And being included in various meetings since the start of the internship has helped me to see these relationships in practice. The meetings with partners and collaborators are imbued with the feeling of “we:” the goal is shared, the work is shared, and the information is shared. If one person or organization does not know information or feels that someone else may be a more helpful resource, Strategies staff connect people with one another, with organizations, and with resources. Sharing time, information and resource, during meetings and in follow-up emails highlights Strategies’ culture of connection and respect.

The projects I have participated in also reflect this sense of teamwork and shared goals. One project involved collaborating with a team of community partners in Haverhill, Mass., to design a family survey to help inform early childhood partners about families’ early education program and resource needs and to be a tool that Haverhill could use annually. Each meeting with the community partners gave me more insight into how to create and administer a survey. Additionally, I was able to attend a recent Boston Opportunity Agenda Birth-to-Eight Data Committee meeting where surveys were discussed. The themes at the meeting echoed ideas that the community partners had recommended: keep the survey short, have the intended audience test the survey, and have paper and digital options.

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

We have another advocacy opportunity for you!

But first, thank you for taking action on the state budget and continuing to support early education and care legislation.

The next step: right now the Legislature is focused on its Economic Development Bill. The House and Senate passed versions of this bill this week — each with substantial funding proposals for early education and care:

  • $150 million for grants to support and stabilize the early education and care workforce and address varied operational costs at state child care programs supervised by the Department of Early Education and Care (Senate bill); and
  • The i-Lottery program with dedicated revenue for an Early Education and Care Fund (House bill)

Next week a conference committee will negotiate differences between the bills.

Join us in signing an advocacy letter supporting both House and Senate proposals for early education and care. Our deadline is Monday, July 25, 2022, at 5 p.m. Act now!

Now is the time to advocate for including critical funding for early childhood education and care in the legislation, including sufficient funding for the C3 stabilization grants to be extended through Fiscal Year 2023.

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

On Sunday, the Massachusetts Legislature’s six-member conference committee, drawn from the House and the Senate, completed its work of negotiating the final FY23 state budget, releasing a $52.7 billion budget proposal.

Though the House and Senate budgets funded several key early education and care items at different amounts, the conference committee budget includes the higher amount of funding in each case.

And yesterday, the House and Senate voted unanimously to pass the budget bill.

This includes:

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants [line item 3000-1045]

• $60 million for a rate increase for early educators [3000-1042] 

• $25 million for a new Early Education & Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care, assist families in navigating the early education landscape, and help early educators with costs associated with personal childcare [3000-1046]

• $15 million for preschool expansion in the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative [3000-6025]

• $15 million for resource and referral agencies [Access Management 3000-2000], and 

• $3.5 million for early childhood mental health [3000-6075]

We’ve posted the full breakdown for early education and care here

Next the bill goes to Governor Charlie Baker who has 10 days to sign the budget into law. He can also make line item vetoes. 

Click here to ask Governor Baker to sign the budget as is into law so that Massachusetts can move forward and strengthen its early education and care system.

For more information, please contact Titus DosRemedios, deputy director of Strategies for Children. 

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The FY23 state budget is late this year, but legislators are very close to a deal. A 6-member conference committee is meeting now to finalize differences between the House and Senate budget proposals.

For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That’s the difference between the House and Senate proposals. There’s $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal, and $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal child care. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget.

If you have already taken action in recent weeks, take action again. As they finalize the state budget, our legislators need to hear from advocates for early education and care.

Our state continues to have record revenue surpluses. Not only can Massachusetts easily afford to fully fund early education and care – we can’t afford not to!

State funding is essential for continued recovery of our field. 

Ongoing staffing shortages mean that early education and care programs are open but operating with lower enrollment and closed classrooms.

Many industries are experiencing similar shortages, but a workforce shortage in child care means people cannot return to work and our state and local economy cannot fully recover.

Ask the conference committee to invest in high-quality early education and care, for young children, families, educators, and communities. 

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“Just as the Senate led on transforming the Commonwealth’s K-12 education system through the Student Opportunity Act, today’s bill would similarly transform the early education system,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Unfortunately, high-quality early education remains out of reach for most Massachusetts families, and our providers struggle to keep their doors open. This bill will address those issues and make our Commonwealth stronger by making early education more affordable, investing in our early educators, and ensuring the sustainability of our providers.”

“With this bill, we are creating a framework to support the early education and care sector; making clear that the Senate understands the vital importance of early childhood to our economic recovery and to the health and wellbeing of Massachusetts families,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I am proud of this bill and the work that has gone into it. I thank the Senate President for her leadership in prioritizing this issue, and I want thank Senator Lewis for thoughtfully and collaboratively putting this important legislation together.”

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“Mayor Michelle Wu today announced a $20 million investment in early education through Boston’s Universal Pre-K (UPK) program, a partnership between BPS [Boston Public Schools] and the Office of Early Childhood. This investment builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all infants, toddlers, and children under five.”

“For the second year in a row, Boston UPK will increase the number of seats available to both 3- and 4-year-olds at community-based providers. Specifically, UPK will now offer up to 992 seats at community providers, with up to 627 seats for 4-year-olds and up to 365 seats for 3-year-olds.“

“ ‘The greatest investment we can make in our future is to support and center our young people,’ said Mayor Michelle Wu. ‘With this historic investment in early childhood education, we can kickstart an increase in high-quality Pre-K seats, bring family child care providers into the UPK network, and ensure all of our families have access to free and accessible early childcare and education.’ ”

“Mayor Wu Announces $20 million investment to expand Boston’s universal pre-K program,” Boston Mayor’s Office, July 6, 2022

See also: “Boston to spend $20 million to expand pre-K program,” by Stephanie Ebbert and Adria Watson, The Boston Globe, July 6, 2022

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We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here and here and here

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Anna Ricci-Mejia is an example of how multifaceted a Bostonian’s life can be. She grew up in Boston’s North End neighborhood. She’s an early educator at the East Boston Social Centers. Her parents immigrated to Boston from Italy. Her husband is from Central America. She speaks English and Italian. And in high school she learned to speak Spanish. 

When Ricci-Mejia heard about Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network, she was immediately interested. She wanted to speak up for people. In any of her three languages.

“I know a lot of people, especially undocumented immigrants, are afraid to speak up or even get quality childcare for their children. And I always say, it doesn’t matter what your immigration status is. Your kids have to learn, and they have to learn and socialize when they’re young, because if they don’t, it will be harder later on.”

In the classroom, Ricci-Mejia speaks whatever language children in her care respond to, creating the kind of supportive environment she didn’t have as a kid who went straight from her mother’s care into kindergarten. She didn’t speak English. Other kids teased her. But over time she learned this new language. 

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We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here and here.

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Kelly Marion first came to the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center when she was 11 years old. Her father had just passed away. He had been the victim of a violent crime. And Marion’s mother wanted Marion and her siblings to stay engaged with the community – and the world.

Today, Marion is the CEO of the community center, where she has worked for over 30 years. The center currently serves 2,500 families in and around the Western Massachusetts city of Pittsfield, in Berkshire County. 

“The majority of our families are socio-economically challenged,” Marion says. “We have a lot of single-parent households and grandparents raising their grandchildren.”

The center has a number of programs that support children, all the way from birth to age 13, including child care programs and an array of programming for middle and high school students. Once they’re old enough, many of these children are hired as center staff.

Thanks to her work, Marion is a seasoned advocate. So for her, joining Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network was a chance to connect with other early educators from across the state — and share a vital message. 

“I don’t think people see how important early childhood education is, and how important high-quality early education is,” Marion says. 

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In case you missed it, here’s a recap of yesterday’s virtual screening of “Starting from Zero: Reimagining Education in America.”

As we’ve blogged, the film is “an exciting exploration of the value and potential of early education and care programs.”

The film looks at “Key features of high-quality early childhood learning environments and experiences are outlined and then brought to life as the film delves into the evolution of Alabama’s #1 nationally ranked state Pre-K program,” its website explains.

“The film brings together the voices of policymakers, educators, academics, business leaders, pediatricians, parents, and children. It features five current and past governors who are champions of early childhood education: Governors Steve Bullock of Montana, Kay Ivey of Alabama, and Ralph Northam of Virginia, as well as former Governors Jim Hunt of North Carolina, and Phil Bryant of Mississippi.”

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