Universal child care just got a boost in Massachusetts where a new bill – nicknamed “The Common Start Legislation” – was filed yesterday at the State House.

The bill would “establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline.”

This universal system “would cover early education and care for children from birth through age 5, as well as after- and out-of-school time for children ages 5-12, and for children with special needs through age 15.”

The bill is backed by the Common Start Coalition, a “statewide partnership of organizations, providers, parents, early educators, and advocates” that includes Strategies for Children. A press release is posted here. And a fact sheet explains some of the logistics.

The bill was filed in the House (HD.1960) by Representatives Kenneth Gordon (D-Bedford) and Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston). The Senate version (SD.1307) was filed by Senators Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Susan Moran (D-Falmouth).

The Department of Early Education and Care would be responsible for administering the program.

“At foundational level, it’s an economic development bill for the Commonwealth,” Senator Moran told WBUR. “It’s going to allow parents to get back into the workforce. It’s going to allow children to get a jumpstart on their education.”

CommonWealth Magazine adds, “Under the proposal, families would get subsidies that would make childcare free for families earning less than 50 percent of median income – today, $62,668 for a family of four. Families earning more than that would have to pay no more than 7 percent of their income for childcare.”

“Almost all families would be eligible for some state support. For example, a family with an infant and a four-year-old in a childcare center pays on average $34,381 per year. That family would get a subsidy as long as they earned less than $491,100, although the subsidy would decrease as income rises.

“The bill would also give public money directly to early education providers, a huge shift for a system that today is primarily private pay. Childcare providers would receive a ‘bedrock’ sum based on how many children they serve.”

The Boston Globe notes, “The premise is that early education should be funded like the rest of the educational system, with public support to make it available to everyone.”

“Proponents bill the effort as a timely correction for both gender and racial inequities after nearly a year of the pandemic, and wider public awareness of the uneven costs of caregiving. Working mothers have dropped out of the workforce en masse over the past year as they shouldered responsibilities for children stuck at home. The fragile child care system that remains relies on a woefully underpaid workforce that is almost entirely comprised of women — disproportionately, women of color.”

 And as Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children Early Education for All Campaign, said on WBUR, even before the pandemic and even at full enrollment “the child care market was broken. Too few children had access to high-quality early ed settings; too many early childhood educators were living on poverty wages; and too many programs were one rent payment away from closing down.”

Massachusetts would be taking a historic step forward if it passed these bills into law. As Senator Lewis says in a statement, “More than 150 years ago, with the vision and leadership of Horace Mann, Massachusetts pioneered the revolutionary idea that K-12 education should be a public good, accessible to all children and families.

“Now it is time for the Commonwealth to once again lead our nation by establishing that high quality early education and child care should also be a public good. This investment would yield tremendous benefits for child development and working families, and help foster a stronger, more just economy for all.”