Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

There’s no need to wait for the federal government to invest in early education and care, as a WGBH news story reports. Cities and states can and are taking the lead now.

One example WGBH points to is the city of Lawrence, Mass., which has created a child care scholarship program.

“The childcare nonprofit The Community Group helped design a scholarship program for the city of Lawrence using federal funding to help get more low-income and middle-class families into subsidized daycare.

“ ‘You’re helping a parent be able to go to work and make a better living and learn skills to be able to create a better life for themselves, and hopefully get to a point where they don’t have to have the program because they can’t afford the childcare,’ said Martha Velez, Lawrence’s director of health and human services,” WGBH notes.

We’ve blogged about Lawrence’s efforts here and here.

There’s also leadership at the state level. Massachusetts lawmakers have filed the Common Start bill, which would expand access to child care. Massachusetts also has “ a state commission focused on early education and care, co-chaired by Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley, Weston, and precinct 4 in Wayland), who is also co-chair of the state’s education committee. The commission’s final report is expected in March, and Peisch said it will include a range of short- and long-term recommendations.

Peisch expects the recommendations to cover “everything from staffing challenges to quality of the programs,” as well as how to boost access to high-quality early education and care for the families with the most need.

To learn more about Common Start, check out our blog posts here and here.

As local leaders move forward, there is even some hope for federal action.

“The federal Build Back Better legislation championed by President Joe Biden would have dramatically expanded childcare access. It failed to get the 51 votes necessary to pass the Senate late last year, but it turns out the childcare part of that legislation may not be entirely dead,” WGBH explains.

“Congresswoman Katherine Clark spoke confidently about the issue recently on a call with members of the business community.

“ ‘It is the issue that has survived all the iterations, and it is going to be the issue that we are able to get over the line within the Build Back Better agenda,’ Clark told the group.”

While funding city, state, and federal efforts can be challenging, Lawrence shows the power of creating more access to child care for financially vulnerable families.

As WGBH explains:

“The Lawrence scholarship has a higher income limit than the state subsidy. And for families on the state’s waiting list, the scholarship can serve as a bridge to get them daycare until they get that state voucher.

“ ‘So a family that comes in that is already on the state waitlist is able to get a voucher right away so they don’t have to wait and they are able to get a job and start on their job right away,’ said Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group. ‘Once that family qualifies for a state voucher, then we transition that family so it acts as a bridge between now and when they finally come up on the state waitlist for childcare subsidy.’ ”

The impressive result:

“The scholarship program has placed 289 Lawrence children in daycares around the city. Gonzalez Moeller and other advocates for childcare say the Lawrence program is a model that could expand access to early childhood programs across Massachusetts.”