This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.
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My name is Cecile Tousignant, and in 1975 my husband and I converted a defunct night club into Busy Bees Preschool Center in Fitchburg. In 2006, I retired as proprietor/teaching director and sold the center. Now I’m supporting a bill that has been filed in the State House that could change our profession.
I’m a 1991 M.S. alum of Wheelock College, and I have many post-graduate courses under my belt, the latest ones were about coaching early educators. Though I no longer work in direct service with children and families, I have found my way back into the early childhood classroom as an independent, early childhood consultant, coach, and trainer for public school, center-based and family childcare programs
Advocacy and developing public policy are my passion. Volunteering my time to improve the lives of young children and their families has been a critical way to meet the needs of families and the needs of early care providers as we’ve navigated the ever-changing landscape of the past 40 years.
My diverse work with the Early Childhood Advisory Council of Fitchburg (which evolved from the Chapter 188 Council), the MontachusettAEYC board, the Monty Tech Early Childhood Advisory Committee, Region 2 EPS Sub-Committees and now the MassAEYC Governance Sub-Committee has kept me afloat amid the currents of policy changes that affect families of young children and the early childhood workforce.
We cannot achieve change unless we engage at the local, state, and national levels where we can have an impact on families as well as early childhood educators. Among the most pressing issues is that families in the commonwealth are hard-pressed to afford quality childcare, which can cost as much as a year of college tuition.
Sadly, we are seeing talented, qualified early educators leaving the field. Unable to attract and retain teachers, centers are forced to close classrooms and family childcare programs are closing their doors. Those left in the early childhood classrooms have added responsibilities and are experiencing burnout.
Fewer college students are enrolling in higher education’s early childhood programs because the word is out: Early childhood graduates are underpaid and cannot “make a living” in this profession.
That’s a shame, because as the report “Time for Action: Building the Educator Workforce Our Children Need Now” explains, “states must strengthen and organize the educator workforce” to create “a talent system that gives every student great teachers every year.”
Governor Charlie Baker, Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg along with other legislative leaders have acknowledged this need with various proposals, including increasing rates and engaging the business community as well as highlighting the importance of starting at birth. Struggling families need much more support, and early educators need much higher salaries so that they can afford the basics for themselves and their families. Public/private partnerships have helped but more must be done. We absolutely need a dedicated funding stream for early education from birth through age five.
To move things forward, I researched the legislative process and discovered that a private citizen in Massachusetts can file legislation. Former House Representative Steven DiNatale filed the bill on my behalf in 2015, and Senator Jennifer Flanagan submitted the bill in January 2017. It has many legislative names, but it is now known as S255, “An Act relative to early education funding.” It says in part:
“One and three-quarters per cent of the collections of the excise imposed at a rate of 6.25 per cent shall be distributed to the Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC) for the purpose of investing in compensation commensurate with qualifications for early childhood educators and providers. This program shall be known as the early educator rewards program.”
The bill is now before the Joint Committee on Education and is expected to have a public hearing this legislative session. Please give this bill your support! You can sign a petition in support of this bill here.
Please take action and urge friends and relatives to champion S255. This is our bill, and it could have a huge impact on our children and our early educators.