On December 20, some 50 people gathered at the nation’s first consolidated Department of Early Education and Care for the Executive Office of Education’s public forum on the fiscal year 2013 Massachusetts state budget. The forum, convened by Secretary of Education Paul Reville, took place just days after Massachusetts was awarded $50 million and earned the second highest score in the country in the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge.
“The fact that we are in this room at this time is a powerful symbol of the commonwealth’s commitment to high-quality early education and the tremendous opportunity we have to propel this work forward,” testified Amy O’Leary, director of Early Education for All (EEA), a campaign of Strategies for Children. “Now is the time to build on this momentum and act on the governor’s commitment to early literacy and closing the achievement gap by increasing state investments in high-quality early education and care.”
When Governor Deval Patrick unveiled his education agenda in November, he reiterated his commitment to closing the achievement gap. “First,” Patrick said, “every child must read well by the third grade.” The benchmark strongly predicts children’s chances of success in school and beyond. Yet 39% of third graders in Massachusetts scored below proficient on the latest Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). Among children from low-income families, 60% lag in reading.
“Research clearly indicates that the path to reading proficiency begins at birth and includes high-quality early education,” O’Leary testified.
Advocates of high-quality early education, including Titus DosRemedios, EEA’s senior research and policy associate, testified at an earlier budget forum in Worcester.
EEA urges the administration and Legislature to maintain or increase funding for all line items in the Department of Early Education and Care, as well as other line items related to high-quality early education, including:
- Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) grant Program (3000-5075) to improve the quality of pre-kindergarten programs delivered by a mix of public and private providers: $12.14 million to restore funding to the FY09 GAA level
- QRIS (3000-xxxx) to further the implementation of the statewide QRIS: $4 million
- Massachusetts State Scholarship Program (Early Childhood Educators Scholarship) (7070-0065) to help currently employed early educators pursue associate and bachelor’s degrees: $87.61 million, with $3.4 million for the Early Childhood Educator Scholarship
- Department of Early Education and Care administration (3000-1000): $12.51 million
- Access management (3000-2000) for the coordination of early education and care programs and services: $6.05 million
- Income eligible (3000-4060) for early education and care and out-of-school-time services for low-income children qualifying for state aid: $236.4 million
- Head Start (3000-5000): $9 million
- Mental health (3000-6075) for mental health services in early education and care programs: $1 million
- Services for infants and parents (3000-7050) to provide coordinated family and community engagement services: $19.2 million
- Kindergarten expansion grants (7030-1002) for the expansion and quality enhancement of full-day kindergarten: $23.95 million
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