Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children
Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

The Children’s Investment Fund has been shepherding proposed legislation through the State House that would create bond funding to build or improve early childhood education (ECE) and out-of-school time (OST) spaces.

“The MA Legislature recently passed a bill authorizing bond financing for capital improvements,” the Fund said in a recent email. This is money that will go to nonprofit early childhood and afterschool centers. “While we continue working with a coalition of supporters to get the bill through the conference committee, signed and eventually funded, we want to help get projects ready for funding.”

A substantial need

As the Fund says on its website, “space matters: there is substantial research on the importance of the physical environment on children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.”

The need is considerable, as the Fund found in a survey of ECE and OST programs located across the state. A report of this work – “Building an Infrastructure for Quality: An Inventory of Early Childhood Education and Out-of-School Time Facilities in Massachusetts” — sheds light on a host of problems, including ceiling holes, poor air quality, inadequate heating and cooling systems, and inadequate play spaces. An executive summary is available here. To download the full report register here.

We wrote about the Fund’s efforts last year and again this summer in June.

Information sessions coming soon

To get the word out about the bond funding, the Children’s Investment Fund is sponsoring information sessions that will also cover Building Stronger Centers, “a unique training program on capital planning for ECE and OST facilities.”

According to the Fund, “The information sessions will cover the selection criteria for the training, describe the program and answer your questions.”  Three sessions will be held on:

–  Thursday, September 19, 1:00 – 3:00 pm, at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley in Boston

– Tuesday, September 24, 10:00 am – noon, at the United Way of Pioneer Valley in Springfield

– Wednesday, September 25, 10:00 am – noon, at the United Way of Central Massachusetts in Worcester

The Fund then plans to select up to 20 providers to participate in the three-and-a-half day “Building Strong Centers” training program, which covers “how to design, finance and manage a major capital project.” The program is designed for organizations that plan to make physical plant improvements in the next two to three years. Selection is based on project readiness. (Not ready this year? Don’t worry. Next year, the Fund will pick another group of participants.)

The Fund runs the training program and brings in experts. So participants will hear from a project manager, an architect, and from organizations that have successfully completed their own projects.

The training program will take place October 15 and November 13-15, 2013, followed by “twelve months of technical assistance, a peer learning network, and access to financing as your project develops.”

Physical spaces can be a “third teacher” for children, Mav Pardee the Fund’s program manager says in this video.

Pardee adds, “Our notions of quality are just too narrow.”  She’s right. Instead of making do with mediocre spaces, our children deserve high-quality learning environments.