Monday at the State House was Advocacy Day for early education and care and school-age programs. The message for this year was best summarized in a hashtag: #ValueEarlyEducators.
“About 200 early education supporters rallied outside the State House Monday, thanking lawmakers for their efforts to boost the salaries of early educators but urging them to do more to help young learners and workers whose wages place them on the edge of poverty,” according to the State House News Service.
The event was organized by MADCA, the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care, along with the Put MA Kids First coalition.
Speaking at the event on the State House steps, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Second Suffolk district) reflected on her own experience, saying, “Look, I’m here because I know where my kids are today and they’re with tremendously talented educators, and I don’t worry.”
Tom Weber, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, called early educators “the Commonwealth’s unsung heroes,” State House News says. And Jesse Mermell, president of the Alliance for Business Leadership, said that supporting early educators and their salaries, “will help address income inequality.” The business community has increasingly taken notice of the critical issue of early education and care. In February, House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Suffolk) released a report by the Early Education and Care Business Advisory Group, which he convened last fall.
Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Middlesex and Suffolk) announced that he’ll be releasing the Senate’s Kids First report early next month that “will address a holistic approach to educating children from the time that they are born until third grade.”
And one rally participant held up a small sign that said, “My super power as an early educator is to give kids a head start in life.”
After the rally, educators headed into the State House to meet with their legislators, encouraging them to support investments in early education and care, and pressing House members to support an amendment to add funding to the salary rate reserve.
The advocacy worked — on Monday night, the first day of the budget debate, the House voted to add $5 million to the early educator rate reserve, bringing the total to $20 million, which represents a 5.88 percent increase for early educators who work in subsidized programs.
But there’s much more work to do. Stay tuned, as we cover the Senate’s budget proposal due in May, Governor Charlie Baker’s support of the workforce, and the state’s long-term commitment to investing in the early educators who prepare young children for lifelong success.