The Massachusetts Legislature is poised to take an exciting step forward. 

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education has just released a bill, An Act to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care.

It’s an investment in young children and the early education workforce that promises to make the state stronger as these children grow.

The bill draws heavily on the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which released a report in March. The bill also includes many of the policies advocated for by the Common Start Coalition in a bill it worked to file in 2021.

When it’s fully implemented, this legislation “will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts,” according to a statement released by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester).

As a summary explains, the bill once it becomes law would in part:

• expand and prioritize early education and subsidy eligibility

• require the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to annually evaluate and eliminate barriers to access

• increase reimbursement rates for early education and care subsidies

• base reimbursements on enrollment rather than attendance

• direct EEC to develop a cost of quality care methodology to be used as the basis for setting reimbursement rates

• create a scholarship program and a loan forgiveness program for early education and care providers

• make early education and care a priority field for workforce development efforts

• enable providers who accept subsidies to offer discounts and scholarships to their teachers and other families, and

• require EEC to report annually on subsidy usage, waitlists, operational grant distribution, and workforce data

The proposed legislation is a team effort. As Peisch and Lewis note in their statement, “We are grateful to the many legislative leaders and early education stakeholders who have been active participants throughout this process, and we look forward to continued collaboration in the months ahead as we build on the critical progress we have made supporting the Commonwealth’s students and families.”

Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, adds in the Common Start press release, “We are encouraged by the collaborative process by which this bill was created – informed by the diverse voices of the people who are doing the work and lessons we have learned through the pandemic.

“We especially appreciate the inclusion of responsive policies like operational grants to be used for educator compensation and credentialing, enhancement of program quality and sustainability, and establishing an early education and care educator scholarship program in legislation.”

Deb Fastino, Statewide Director of the Common Start Coalition and Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice, says in the press release, “We look forward to working with the Legislature in the coming weeks to ensure that we adopt and fund the reforms that children, families, educators, providers, and employers desperately need.”

Now that the bill has been filed, it will continue to move through the legislative process, so please stay tuned for updates and advocacy opportunities. The bill has until the end of the legislative session (July 31, 2022) to pass.

In the meantime, please start getting ready to advocate for this bill. If you don’t know who your legislators are, you can look them up here

And Strategies for Children will share an overview of the bill on our 9:30 call this Thursday. If you haven’t already, please sign here to join the 9:30 call.

Helping this bill become a law will help Massachusetts make a historic commitment to early education and care that will benefit young children and their families for years to come.