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“ ‘I had a parent tell me to f*** off last week,’ Cori Berg said. She directs the Hope Day School, a church-affiliated early childhood program in Dallas.

“The unhappy mother took her two children out of Berg’s center after each of their classrooms were closed for quarantines, saying she’d hire a nanny. Wanting to return, she emailed, called and finally showed up in the middle of the day. Just as Berg had warned her, her spots were taken.

“The mother, according to Berg, threw a fit before coming back and apologizing. ‘She was like a toddler — she was jumping up and down.’

“The people who take care of and educate children under 5 years old — both parents and providers — are in a special kind of hell right now. These children are too young to be vaccinated, and it’s difficult for them to wear masks consistently. Many child care directors, like Berg, are still following 10- or 14-day quarantines, closing entire classrooms after a single positive test, which has caused nonstop disruptions given the current record numbers of COVID-19 cases. Recently, Berg’s infant room had ‘double-decker’ quarantines: closed for two weeks, back for one day, then closed for another two weeks.”

“Parents and caregivers of young children say they’ve hit pandemic rock bottom,” by Anya Kamenetz, NPR, January 20, 2022

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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced a new way to protect the state’s early educators and young children: a Covid testing program called Testing for Child Care that will add more layers of protection for early childhood programs.

Thanks to the acquisition of 26 million rapid antigen tests, this new effort will enable child care programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to provide free tests for children and staff and access testing resources, training, and protocols.

As the State House News Service reports:

“Center and family-based child care providers enrolled in the program will be given free rapid COVID-19 antigen tests to be used on children and staff age 2 and older who are close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual. Students and staff who test negative daily for five consecutive days could be allowed to remain in their classrooms, officials said.

“Tests will also be available for day care centers that want to engage in symptomatic testing to isolate positive individuals and rule out COVID-19 in other children and staff who might have symptoms similar to those that come with the virus.”

Knowing, within minutes, the Covid status of children and staff members will help programs stay open and be able to send those who are Covid-positive home so they can rest and recover.

(more…)

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pexels-ivan-samkov-6816532

Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

In early education, challenges can sometimes overshadow progress, but today we’re happy to blog about inspiring progress that has been made in the city of Washington, D.C.

The Under 3 DC Coalition, which shines “a spotlight on the need for more public investments to support families with infants and toddlers,” has announced that its efforts have led to an investment of “$75 million that DC will use to begin to publicly fund increases in early childhood educators’ compensation.”

Raising salaries has been an uphill trudge for the field, mostly resulting in small salary increases that lag far behind the earnings of public school teachers doing comparable work. Now, however, the coalition – along with its partners DC Action and Educare DC – have advocated for “a tax increase for individuals with annual incomes above $250,000” that has “led to $75 million that DC will use to begin to publicly fund increases in early childhood educators’ compensation.”

As Under 3 DC explains, “Building a sustainable workforce by adequate compensation is one of the first steps to create high-quality programs that are accessible to families.” (more…)

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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“In 2019, Virginia received federal funding from a Preschool Development Birth through Five grant (PDG), and allocated a considerable portion of their funds for direct financial incentives to early educators. The goal of this program, the Teacher Recognition Program (TRP), was to recognize teachers’ hard work, lower their financial stress, reduce turnover, and create more stable early learning opportunities for children.”

“Teachers at sites that were randomly assigned to the TRP were far less likely to turn over. About one-quarter of all teachers at sites without access to incentives left their site within eight months (see Figure 1 below). Only 14% of teachers eligible for the incentive did.

“The results were even more striking among child-care teachers: The financial incentive cut turnover rates in half, from 30% to 15%.” 

“President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would provide this type of transformative funding, giving states the financial resources and supports needed to meaningfully improve child-care quality in part through compensation reforms. However, getting the bill through the Senate has proved difficult, with growing calls to cut key pieces. Finding a way to pass this legislation, including the investments in the teachers who care for and teach our youngest children, is essential – not only for the struggling child-care sector, but for the economy as a whole. Public investments in early educators are long overdue, and they are imperative for meeting the needs of children, parents, and society.”

“How can we improve early childhood education? Use public dollars to pay teachers more.” by Daphna Bassok and Justin B. Doromal, Brookings, January 5, 2022

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This is a guest blog post by Anne Douglass, professor of Early Care and Education at UMass Boston and the founding executive director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation.

Anne Douglass

Anne Douglass

Early educators are smart, kind, engaging, and supportive and dedicated.

Here at UMass Boston, we also know that early educators are entrepreneurial leaders. That’s why our programs provide an education that boosts their leadership, creativity, and innovation – all to create a better early learning experience for children.

Examples of early educators’ entrepreneurship abound. Last month, the Cape Cod Times featured a front page story about Nature Preschool Explorers, a nature-based preschool at the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable. The four-year-old school was touted as an example of the wave of educational programs focused on the outdoors that are popping up across the country.

The school was cofounded by Diana Stinson, an alum of UMass Boston’s Post-Master’s Leadership Certificate in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice (PMC) offered by our Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (Early Ed Leadership Institute). (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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webinar

Photo: Artem Podrez from Pexels

The new federal investment in early education and care promises to have a broad impact.

To explore the details, the Alliance for Early Success has shared a new webinar explaining what to expect.

The webinar’s Spanish interpretation is posted here.

“We are very, very excited about this,” Danielle Ewen says in the webinar about the new federal funding. Ewen is a principal at EducationCounsel, an Alliance member and an education consulting firm. “This is a major, major opportunity to change the trajectory of life for children and families and providers.

“When you look at the Build Back Better proposal, the early childhood provisions are the second largest piece. We have never been the second largest piece of a major piece of legislation, ever.”

Build Back Better is still making its way through the legislative process, so it may change somewhat. But here are some key components as they stand now.

Part of the bill addresses income and health care, including: (more…)

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Mayor Kendrys Vasquez. Screenshot: The Instagram page of the Office of the Mayor of City of Lawrence, Massachusetts

 

Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, former Lawrence, Mass., Mayor Dan Rivera decided to create a $400,000 scholarship program for child care.

The program provided vouchers to low-income families. Some parents were essential workers. And most parents were earning salaries that were essential to their families’ survival.

Lawrence’s City Council approved the investment. But the funding was set to expire on December 31, 2020.

Fast forward to today, and the good news is that Lawrence is still investing in these child care scholarships.

Lawrence’s current mayor, Kendrys Vasquez, announced a two-year reinvestment and an expansion of the program, setting a leadership example that other cities can follow.

Mayor Vasquez knows the need for child care is real. One day when he was having lunch with his chief of staff and economic development director a constituent came up to his table to talk.

“She said, I had to quit my job because I cannot afford childcare, and now all I’m doing is Uber to be able to maintain my family and keep up with our expenses,” Vasquez recalled during a recent Strategies for Children 9:30 Call. The woman was relying on her mother to provide a few hours of child care. (more…)

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SFC radio

Photo: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

This month, WHMP, a Northampton, Mass., radio station featured a discussion on early education on its podcast, “The Afternoon Buzz,” hosted by Ashfield attorney Stewart “Buz” Eisenberg.

This podcast episode welcomed three guests:

• Donna M. Denette, executive director of Children First Enterprises

• Keira Durrett, director of the Williston Northampton Children’s Center, and

• Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley

All three are also regulars on Strategies for Children’s 9:30 calls, where we share the latest news on early education advocacy. Be sure to check out our 9:30 call webpage and sign up to join the call.

On the podcast, Donna Denette talked about the importance of child care as infrastructure, noting, “When we hear that we have to invest in roads and bridges, because people can’t get to work without roads and bridges — Covid made it very clear that people can’t get to work without childcare either.” (more…)

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