Readers in Western Massachusetts may have noticed adults and young children wearing colorful stickers on June 24 – the grown-ups’ stickers with the motto “Build strong foundations” and the children’s with “My brain grows daily.” The occasion was a day of appreciation for the “invisible educator” and the benefits of high-quality early education and care. Sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Leadership Network in Action (WLNA), it aimed to “shine a light on the work of early childhood and out-of-school-time educators and the issues they face.” Among the issues WLNA cites is compensation that averages $25,000 a year.
“Early childhood care and education are the first steps to ensuring that the future generations have access to equal learning opportunities as they grow,” WLNA notes. “But what happens when the work of people to whom we entrust our children goes unrecognized and undervalued? Without quality [early education and] care, children and families are the first to suffer.”
In Northampton, some 40 early educators and their supporters marked the day by gathering on the steps of City Hall in a light drizzle, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports. Mayor Clare Higgins, herself a former early educator, read a proclamation. State Senator Stan Rosenberg and Representative Ellen Story made remarks.
“Beneath colorful stickers and signs that read ’Build strong foundations INVEST in quality childcare,’ the issue speakers and attendees continually brought up was the ‘tri-lemma,’” the Gazette reports. “This three-part dilemma encompasses the following: early childhood educators who are not receiving adequate compensation, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds in need of pre-kindergarten care but not getting it and concerns about maintaining quality of care with recent funding cuts.”
WLNA engaged providers, families and community members in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties for the day of appreciation.