Yesterday, hundreds of early educators from across the state — many wearing green and snapping cell phone pictures – gathered for a rally at the State House steps for Advocacy Day. An upbeat band, featuring tuba and trombone players, wove through the crowd, filling Beacon Street with music.
“It really is about the workforce,” Leo Delaney said. He’s the president of the board of MADCA (the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care), and he was the first speaker. “Without quality staff, you don’t have quality.”
Delaney told the assembled early educators that they were there to do two things: to thank the House for its historic budget investment in the rate reserve; and to ask the Senate to match the House’s fiscal action.
“Please tell your stories,” Senate President Harriette Chandler said, encouraging early educators to speak up once they were in the State House. “Nobody can say it quite like you do.”
“You don’t have to sell me on the value of early education,” Senator Sal DiDomenico said. “I’m a product of Head Start.”
DiDomenico also gave the crowd this advice: Don’t just ask if legislators support your cause, ask them how they are going to support your cause. Don’t let legislators hide behind a study or an amendment, ask them to vote.
“When they say, ‘we’re going to support,’ you’re going to say…” DiDomenico chanted.
“How?” the crowd responded.
Tom Weber, the commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care said, “You’re not only closing the opportunity gap for families, you’re also closing the achievement gap for children,” helping to achieve “the dreams that we all have for ourselves and for each other.”
“Let’s have a big mouth today,” Clare Higgins, the executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, said. “We need to tell them that we need a strong foundation for children in the Commonwealth.”
“We have three asks,” Bill Eddy, the executive director of MADCA said. First, as Delaney said, is asking the Senate to join the House in investing in the rate reserve. Second, asking the Senate to back the House’s call for a workforce council. And third, increasing funding for Head Start.
After the rally, the crowd streamed into the State House to go meet their elected officials, thanking members of the House and encouraging members of the Senate to invest in the workforce.
“I understand the challenges,” Higgins said. “But I also understand the joy of a kid coming back and saying, ‘remember me?’ This is what I became.”
Didn’t make it to the rally? No problem. Join the advocacy effort by reaching out to your elected officials by phone or email. You can find contact information for state senators here. And the contact information to thank House representatives is here.
Massachusetts has made real progress, and with your help, it can make even more.