The new budget season will begin in January when Governor Patrick presents his state budget recommendations for fiscal year 2015.
So this month, the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) met to approve its FY15 aspirational budget. FY15 starts on July 1, 2014.
Last Year’s EEC Budget
Last year’s FY14 EEC budget was $509 million. It included:
– $15 million to reduce the wait list for early education and care for children from income-eligible families. The FY 14 budget also had
– $11.5 million for a rate reserve to support early educators’ salaries and benefits
– level funding for universal pre-K, full-day kindergarten and the early childhood educator scholarships
– funding for a special commission to study the cost of administering early education and care services
– funding for a two-year independent study of the state’s provision of child care supports
FY15 Budget Proposal
This year the EEC Board is asking for an increase of $93.7 million. This increased investment is a wise step that would expand children’s access to early education and care and increase the quality of early learning across the state.
The Board’s FY15 presentation is available here.
$74 Million to Expand Access
About 42,000 children, ranging from birth to school age, who come from low-income families are on a waiting list to get subsidized early education and care. Placing these children in high-quality programs would help them prepare for school and support working parents.
To shorten the waitlist, the EEC Board approved a request of $50 million to serve an additional 5,784 income-eligible children.
The Board also asked for $6.6 million to fund a pilot program that would provide early education and care subsidies for 500 children who are being served by the Department of Children and Families. Spending would focus in part on rural areas.
The Board is requesting $17.6 million to improve transportation by increasing the rate paid to transportation providers and adding one adult monitor to every vehicle carrying infants, toddlers and preschool children.
$19.5 Million to Improve Quality
The Board is requesting $13.6 million for a 3 percent rate increase that would fund salaries, benefits and stipends for early education and care workers. This modest increase is a small step toward attracting a qualified, committed workforce that can help produce better social, emotional and educational outcomes for the children in their care.
To improve the state’s QRIS – the Quality Rating Improvement System – the Board is requesting $5 million. QRIS helps early education and care programs improve so that they provide better experiences and outcomes for children.
The Board is also requesting $822,000 to hire new staff. This would include hiring five new licensing specialists.
As the board explains, licensors carry a caseload of 280 licenses for family child care providers. For group care, the caseload is 104 licenses.
Adding five new licensors would lower caseloads to 250 for family child care providers, and 85 for group care providers.
This would be a modest step toward the recommended national standards of 75 licenses for family child care providers and 50 for group providers.
The Budget Process
We applaud the EEC Board for taking this promising early step in the budget process. And we encourage the Governor and the Legislature to make these important, strategic investments in the state’s youngest children.
Research has repeatedly shown that high-quality early education and care programs help children succeed in school and throughout their lifetimes. Now, Massachusetts needs to make an investment that puts this knowledge into action.