What a year it has been at Strategies for Children! Here are some of our highlights:
• Looking back to look forward
In December of 2018, we gathered at the State House to celebrate the tenth anniversary of An Act Relative to Early Education and Care, which became law in 2008. “It’s like getting the band back together,” Pat Haddad (D-Somerset), Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, said of the many colleagues who joined us. At the event, Amy O’Leary moderated, and we heard from a lineup of speakers including Haddad, House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), other state officials, and local early education program directors. Many of the speakers remarked that though they have had different roles over the last ten years, their commitment to high-quality early education for all remains strong.
It was also a year of transition at the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). In June we thanked Commissioner Tom Weber for his six successful years of leadership. We then welcomed new EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy back to Massachusetts with a “meet-and-greet” co-hosted by the early education field. We look forward to working with Commissioner Sam on a shared vision for her department’s future.
• Advocacy matters
Fiscal year 2020 was the seventh consecutive year of state budget increases for early education and care. During our “First Years Tour,” Amy O’Leary met with our newly elected state legislators, and we sent hundreds of advocacy emails, made phone calls, and met with elected officials. We helped plan State House Advocacy Day, which was attended by 250 early educators. In July, we organized a panel of educators to testify on behalf of preschool expansion legislation. And now that the Student Opportunity Act – a historic school funding reform effort — has become law, we are excited that local school districts will have new funding, some of which they can choose to invest in high-quality preschool. This sound investment in K-12 schools also means that the Legislature can shift its attention to funding for early education and care. #EarlyEdIsNext.
We still have a long way to go to win the public investment needed to build a statewide system of high-quality early education for all, but our collective advocacy has kept Massachusetts on the right track.
• Stronger together: Coalitions and partnerships
There are many groups, tables, advisories, and coalitions working to improve early education in Massachusetts. Through the new coalition for affordable child care, we are helping spread the message of universal, affordable, high-quality child care for all. On the Kids Count advisory, we are raising awareness about Census 2020 and the importance of counting all kids. And we participate on the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership to spread the message that Massachusetts is only #1 for Some, and that education equity must start in early childhood. We are also proud to be facilitating the new Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers, a public-private partnership of forty-plus organizations that are prioritizing the needs of our youngest children. And thanks to our continued partnerships with area colleges and universities, all of this work is supported by our terrific interns.
• SFC on the road
To engage with the top early education experts and advocates in other states, we have attended national conferences, including The Ounce Policy Exchange in July; the Migration Policy Institute’s home visiting symposium in October; the Alliance for Early Success Partner Summit, also in October; and a special Alliance workforce summit in September. Our funder The W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation convened an important equity discussion for its grantees in September.
Just as important as these national meetings are our local visits here in Massachusetts. We have gotten a sneak peek at Educare: Springfield, supported coalitions in Lowell, continued our collaborations in New Bedford, and attended Boston’s UPK announcement in April. Massachusetts communities continue to collaborate, innovate, and lead the way.
• Mic check: Panels and presentations
Amy and Titus are not shy about speaking up in public. This year, Amy was a featured speaker at many public forums including one at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, and another led by Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell. Amy also spoke at the NAEYC Annual Conference in Nashville.
We continue to share early educators’ experience and ideas in our Voices from the Field blog series.
We are thankful for these opportunities to advocate and collaborate on behalf of young children, families, and early educators. There’s much more in store for 2020. So keep in touch, share your words, support our work, and we’ll see you in the New Year!
– Amy and Titus