The Massachusetts Legislature is listening!

Last week, the Joint Committee on Education held an informational hearing on early education and care in Massachusetts. Thanks to Committee Co-Chairs, Representative Denise Garlick and Senator Jason Lewis for organizing the hearing and listening to many different perspectives on the state of early education and care across the state. A recording of the event is posted here.

Speaking at the hearing, Patrick Tutwiler, the state’s education secretary, said that as Massachusetts moves through the pandemic, it is essential “stabilize, heal, and transform” early education and care.

And Amy Kershaw, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), added that EEC has two roles, providing young children with the foundation they need to do well in school, and providing child care that helps parents participate in the workforce.

Among those who also testified is Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children. In her testimony, O’Leary drew on feedback she solicited from participants of Strategies’ 9:30 Call

“I am here today to offer thanks and appreciation for your focus on this issue over the past few years,” O’Leary said. “Opportunities, like today, get us that much closer to establishing the system of care and education in the Commonwealth that children, families and the workforce deserve.”

O’Leary added that Covid has taken a toll on providers, but even before the pandemic, the state’s EEC system was fragile.

Some stability came from federal Covid relief funds that Massachusetts and other states used to stabilize EEC programs. And in Massachusetts, legislators have decided to invest state money in efforts to continue stabilizing programs. 

However, there is more work to do. As O’Leary explains:

“The substantial investments included in the state budget this year have provided a lifeline for programs — stabilizing an industry in decline. However, in order for these investments to have the biggest impact we need it to be a part of a comprehensive plan. Your investments would go further if we had a permanent structure.”

O’Leary pointed to the importance of the recommendations in the Legislature’s Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission report, adding:

“We look forward to the early education and care bill hearing next month [Tuesday, October 17, 2023] and the opportunity to pass comprehensive legislation this year in line with the Common Start vision and as outlined in the commission report.”

Testimony was also shared (in order of appearance) by:

• JD Chesloff, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable

• Tom Weber, executive director at Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education

• Bill Eddy, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care

• Michelle Haimowitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Head Start Association

• Kate-Marie Roycroft,CEO of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs

• Donna Denette, executive director of Children First

• Ellen Dietrick, director of Early Childhood Learning at Temple Beth Shalom

• Amanda Storth, past president of the Massachusetts Association for the Education of Young Children

• Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, co-president and chief strategy officer of Neighborhood Villages

• Alejandra Tejeda, family child care coordinator of SEIU 509

• Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group

• Kim Dion, assistant vice president at the Seven Hills Foundation

• Allan Cameron, superintendent of Wrentham Public Schools

• Ligia Noriega-Murphy, superintendent of Malden Public Schools

To learn more and stay up to date, check out the video of the hearing.