Yesterday, a dozen early educators and leaders submitted testimony at a State House hearing of the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission.
And there’s still time to email more testimony to the commission. To have the most impact submit your testimony by this Thursday.
The commission, as Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), a commission co-chair, explains on his website, “is tasked with investigating accessibility, affordability, and other concerns surrounding early education and childcare in the Commonwealth, and making recommendations to the state legislature for policy and funding solutions.”
“With a growing consensus among the public, the business community and policymakers that high-quality, affordable, accessible early education and childcare are indispensable, this commission has a unique opportunity to lay out a roadmap for bold, transformative policy action.”
Lewis is co-chairing the commission with Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley).
Among those who submitted testimony to the committee is Jessica Seney, vice president of the board at Charlestown Nursery School in Boston, who said in part:
“Charlestown Nursery School believes that there must be greater access to affordable childcare for all families across the Commonwealth. We also believe that the care must be high quality as the ages of 0-5 are proven to be incredibly formative years and experiences matter. We believe that three things are fundamentally necessary to ensuring care is high quality: providing EEC teachers with a living wage, funding and providing access to professional development, and establishing principles and setting standards to define and ensure that care is high quality.”
Kelly Marion, CEO of the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center in Pittsfield, submitted testimony saying:
“I urge the Commission to be bold with financing strategies. Make multi-year investments with a set minimum for annual rate increases that are not tied to private pay rates, but to the quality of programming and the needs of children served.”
“As an agency, we have invested all we can in our staff, we have given increases to their hourly rates, provide them with health insurance, paid time off, life insurance, retirement benefits. However, we need our legislators and our Governor to invest in early education and out-of-school time care so that we can pay our teaching staff with hourly rates and benefits that match public education.”
Melora Balson is a partner at the Commonwealth Children’s Fund, a foundation that supports Massachusetts’ early childhood sector. In her testimony she notes:
“The early education and care ‘system’ is most definitely not a system, due in part to the fact that there is scant infrastructure in place at the state and local levels.
“This lack of infrastructure means that families are left to navigate the critical early years of their children’s lives alone.”
“You all have likely heard it said that ‘kindergarten finds you.’ School districts actively reach out to families of age-appropriate children and, once those children enter the K-12 system, a robust infrastructure springs into action to support children and their families.
“But before a child enters kindergarten, no such infrastructure exists, and families are left to navigate alone.”
Laura Frogameni of Northampton, who has worked as a teacher and director in both a private early education setting and in a public setting, submitted testimony that praises the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (CPPI).
Thanks to CPPI, Frogameni explains, educators in Northampton have “shifted from striving for mutual support to a full, formal partnership with consistent results that are benefiting children, families, educators, centers, and family child care providers as well as supporting the public school mission to serve children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.”\
This includes having “a full public school itinerant special education team working in 10 EEC sites in our city,” as well as instructional coaching and professional development programs on providing differentiated instruction.
“I urge you to ensure the continuation of funding existing for CPPI communities and expansion to other communities,” she adds.
Sarah Slater is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow as well as the director of the Harbor City School, a preschool program in East Boston. In her testimony, she says:
“Working in this field during the pandemic has been physically and mentally exhausting. We educators knew that the pandemic would cause challenges for our students and families, but we never could have imagined working the staffing crisis, teacher shortages, various behavioral concerns of our students, and the additional social emotional supports that have needed to be implemented in the classroom.
“Over the past eighteen months however, what has felt the most different about the field, is the overwhelming amount of support from the state. There have been funding opportunities, more mental health supports for staff and students, and even more time off granted last year for schools which wouldn’t reduce any funding from vouchers.
“Now, we have an opportunity to take the lessons we have learned and develop policy solutions for the future.”
Now it’s your turn.
Add your viewpoint by sending your written testimony to the commission.
Testimony can be emailed to Representative Peisch at Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov – or to Senator Lewis at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov. Be sure to put “EARLY EDUCATION AND CARE ECONOMIC REVIEW COMMISSION” in the email’s subject line.
Submit your testimony by Thursday (October 28, 2021) to ensure it is shared with the entire commission. (Testimony will be accepted after Thursday, but submitting by Thursday will have the most impact.)
Sharing your experiences and ideas will help create truly effective and transformative early education and care policies in Massachusetts.