Parents and educators cite near-poverty wages and affordable childcare waitlists as significant barriers the Commonwealth must address
SPRINGFIELD, MA – Local elected officials and community leaders will join educators at the Springfield City Library Monday for a roundtable discussion on early childhood education. The 6:30pm gathering will address a host of barriers in delivering quality, affordable early education and childcare for Western Massachusetts families – and comes as the State Department of Early Education & Care meets with providers to negotiate new terms and policies for home-based early education.
Studies consistently show that early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers greatly influence academic and economic success for years to come. And for many parents, the ability to find dependable care plays a significant role in their ability to enter or remain in the workforce. Yet more than 24,000 children remain on a waitlist for affordable childcare throughout the Commonwealth – including over 1,500 in Springfield and bordering communities alone. At the same time, early childhood educators have seen state payments languish at near-poverty levels, forcing many of the best and brightest to leave the field altogether.
WHAT: Roundtable discussion on barriers to quality, affordable early education and childcare in Western Massachusetts
WHO: Early Childhood Educators and Parents
Senator Jim Welch, Representatives José Tosado and Carlos Gonzalez
Council President Mike Fenton, Vice President Orlando Ramos
Councilors Melvin Edwards, Adam Gomez, Justin Hurst, Bud Williams and Marcus Williams
WHEN: Monday, March 21 at 6:30PM
WHERE: Springfield City Library
220 State Street – Springfield, MA
To speak with participating providers and parents, contact Jason A Stephany at (617) 286-4430 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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SEIU Local 509 represents more than 19,000 human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth, including more than 3,400 family childcare providers and early childhood educators. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational opportunities from early learning to higher education. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States. For more information, visit http://seiu509.org.
A group of more than two-dozen early childhood education organizations and out-of-school programs have formed a new coalition to help shape public policy on a critical part of the state’s education system. Among the coalition’s active partners are SEIU Local 509 early educators and child care providers.
“Early education and care is not an option – it is an essential element of a successful education system,” said Marie St. Fleur, president and CEO of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children and the former Chair of the House Education Committee. “We need to strengthen early education and out-of-school time by investing in successful, high-quality programs, as well as developing a well-qualified and fairly compensated work force.”
The launch of Put MA Kids First, a Coalition to Promote Early Education and Out of School Time, comes amid heightened attention to the state’s commitment to early education and care and out-of-school time.
Over the last 15 years, state spending on early education and care has dropped by $114 million – more than 50 percent — just as research has conclusively demonstrated that children’s brains develop rapidly through the birth-to-5 age period.
“Our level of commitment to children has swerved in the wrong direction at the wrong time,” said St. Fleur, spokesperson for the coalition.
Massachusetts’ students have scored near the top of national standardized tests, but persistent gaps in achievement among Black and Hispanic children have raised questions about equity and appropriate ways to invest in early learning to create a long-term foundation for literacy and math skills.
Federal programs pay for 92 percent of the state’s early education services. Private, community-based early education centers, family child care providers and programs including Head Start and YMCAs are significant providers of these services. But there is a huge gap in pay for early education teachers – salaries for degreed teachers start at about $25,000, far less than for K-12 teachers. The low pay has resulted in turnover rates of about 28 percent, which exacerbates the chronic underfunding of the system.
Support for early education and care, as well as out-of-school time programs, appears to be growing in Massachusetts and nationally.
The National Council of State Legislatures recently issued a report asserting that more states are boosting investment in early education as part of an economic development strategy, following research that shows children who participate in high quality early education programs have significantly better outcomes in educational attainment and careers. These children are less likely to repeat a grade, require remedial services, engage with the criminal justice system, are more likely to complete high school and graduate from college, and they will pay more in taxes and require less health care spending.
In Massachusetts, the state’s Department of Early Education and Care has requested a 9 percent budget increase for 2016 Fiscal Year, and legislators are calling for universal pre-K and other significant commitments to early education and out-of-school time.
In addition, last month, President Obama announced $60 million in grants over four years to early education programs in five Massachusetts cities: Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Springfield and Holyoke.
In January, the Rennie Center issued a report urging the development of a “community-based, mixed provider approach to expand access to quality pre-kindergarten options so that more Commonwealth students have access to these foundational learning experiences.”
“We must seize the opportunity now to demonstrate our commitment to early education and care and out-of-school time,” said St. Fleur. “We can give all children a smart start in life by making the right investments now.”
The following organizations are members of the Coalition:
For more information, visit http://putmakidsfirst.org.
NBC News offers thought-provoking insight on the growing nationwide challenges of securing affordable child care in this feature piece by Maria Shriver.
From the feature:
The need for quality, affordable child care is something working parents grapple with across income brackets and from state to state. For most, that need is neither temporary nor based on special circumstances but is a daily, ongoing concern that impacts family finances and parents’ ability to work. So why is child care policy not at the forefront of political campaigns and debates? And why are Western European countries so far ahead in terms of broad-based child care policies?
Shriver interviews Elizabeth Palley and Corey Shdaimah, co-authors of a new book, In Our Hands: The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy. The book delves into the history of child care policy, the key stakeholders whose decisions have shaped the availability of child care across the country — as well as the significance of the recent White House Summit on Working Families.
Check out the full feature via NBC News.
EARLY ED ADVOCATES PUSH FOR SENATE’S HIGHER FUNDING AMOUNT
Early childhood education advocates and providers called for increased funding for pre-kindergarten educational and child care programs Thursday morning. The rally held on the State House steps was organized by KidsFirst Massachusetts and featured Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) and Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury).
“It’s not just for the children, it’s for the families too because if we have working families out in the community working, we have money and income going into the state,” early educator Melanie L’Etoile told the News Service.
During a lobbying session held after the group rallied on the State House steps, advocates dropped off letters to members of the House asking them to support the Senate budget’s version of early education voucher funding, which includes $17.5 million for programs. The House-passed line item calls for $10 million. The letter says close to 3,000 children currently on the waiting list for subsidies will have access to early education under the Senate’s terms.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer said Wednesday there are roughly 25,000 pre-schoolers on waiting lists. – M. Deehan/SHNS
Our friends at Strategies for Children have put forward an initial analysis of early education funding in the Senate budget proposal released May 14. Details below from the ‘Eye on Education’ blog:
…the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its $36.25 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2015. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and its programs were funded at $525.43 million, a level that is $5 million higher than the House budget and a roughly $28 million increase over FY14 appropriations.
The Senate proposal includes $17.5 million in new funding to serve children on EEC’s income-eligible waitlist, which currently consists of 24,000 children birth – age five. The Senate provided $1 million for a new pre-kindergarten grant program targeted to children in level 5 schools and districts, and jointly administered by EEC and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Senate proposal also cut $1 million from the Universal Pre-K grant program and $4 million from full-day kindergarten grants.
Carolyn Lyons, Strategies for Children president and CEO, issued the following statement:
“Strategies for Children applauds the Senate Ways and Means Committee for increasing early education access funding for income-eligible children. The $17.5 million in new funding will serve thousands of children currently on the state’s waiting list. This amount is higher than both the House and Governor Patrick’s proposals.
Today in Massachusetts, too many children show up for kindergarten already behind, and too many will never catch up. Research clearly demonstrates the lasting short- and long-term positive impact of high-quality early education – on everything from reduced grade retention and special needs placements to improved school readiness, high school graduation, college attendance, adult earnings and health.
The Senate proposal will provide more children with the start they need to succeed in school. However, in expanding access to pre-k programs in the mixed delivery system we must also ensure that we invest in quality programs with well trained and compensated teachers, rich curriculum, developmentally appropriate assessment of child development, and high standards. As the commonwealth increases funding for preschool access, it must simultaneously ramp up program quality funding to ensure that preschool experiences are effective enough to impact children’s kindergarten readiness, and narrow the achievement gap.
We will continue to advocate for increased investments in high-quality early education and care during the Senate amendment process. By targeting funding to early learning programs, we can help close the achievement gap and ensure all of our children have a chance to succeed in school and in life.”
Amendments to the Senate budget must be filed by Friday, May 16. Stay tuned for additional updates as the budget process moves forward!
Massachusetts, according to Jason Williams of Stand for Children Massachusetts, is trailing other states in providing funds for low-income parents to enroll their children in early education programs like their middle- and upper-class counterparts.
From his guest opinion in the Fall River Herald News:
In Massachusetts right now more than 50,000 children receive early education programming each year through state funding, while an additional 43,000 children languish on early education waiting lists. This includes more than 770 children in Fall River alone. Every child on a waiting list has a parent who recognizes what studies have proved — their son or daughter will do better in school and in life if he or she can get a quality early education seat and a jumpstart on reading, math and social skills.
Governor Patrick is trying to reduce the waitlist. A line item allocating $15 million in early childhood funds would help up to 1,700 students get off the early education waitlist. So far, the House budget has committed $7.5 million to that line item, helping about 1,250 children. “That is only a start,” writes Williams.
Read the full piece in the Fall River Herald News.
According to a new report that examines options available to lawmakers hoping to achieve universal pre-kindergarten, expanding affordable access to early education and care for all 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts could cost as much as $1.5 billion.
From the State House News Service:
The MBPC [Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center] estimated that there were roughly 158,000 3- and 4-year-olds old living in Massachusetts in 2012, of which 52,000 receive public support to help fund their early education through the federally funded Head Start program, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s offerings, or subsidies through the Department of Early Education and Care for private services. The remaining 105,500 children are either not in a program or their families are paying full price for private schooling and care, according to the report, which also estimated that roughly 19,000 children living in families under 200 percent of the poverty line were getting no assistance.
Read the full article about the report in the Tewksbury Advocate.
“Ensuring that their children are safe and well cared for while they go about the business of earning a living is among parents’ top priorities,” writes Nicole Muller. But some local families fail to meet this priority because of high costs and waiting lists.
From the Falmouth Bulletin:
“The state awards us a certain number of slots of care, we bring in the eligible families, provide the childcare and bill the state to pay the provider,” [Cape Cod Child Development CEO Pat] Messner says. “These subsidies provide affordable, quality childcare on a sliding scale so the parents don’t have to sacrifice food or electricity. Still, there are waiting lists for all kinds of care.”
Read the full article in the Falmouth Bulletin.
Massachusetts ranks among the least affordable states in the nation for child care, according to a recent report by Child Care Aware of America. As the 7th least affordable state for child care, Massachusetts offers financial assistance for child care. More than 40,000 families, however, are on the subsidy waiting list.
From the Mansfield News & Enterprise:
In 2012, it cost an average of $12,176 a year to place a preschool child in a day care center in Massachusetts. That is roughly 11 percent of the income for a married couple earning the state median of $109,090. Add an infant to that family and the cost goes up $16,430 more – more than a quarter of the family’s income…
…Massachusetts is the seventh least affordable state when comparing day care costs for a 4-year-old for 2012, the resource center’s most recent report said.
Read more about the choices Massachusetts families are making in the Mansfield News & Enterprise.