Elimination of the child care wait list is a cornerstone of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s proposal to increase investments in high-quality early education. With subsidies for child care frozen for much of the last two years, the wait list for infants, toddlers and preschoolers has swelled to roughly 30,000 children. The result, according to a story in in yesterday’s Boston Globe, is preschool seats left empty and parents unable to find early education and care for their young children.
“Massachusetts early childcare educators say that Patrick’s proposal would help restore balance to a system thrown out of whack by the [child care] voucher freeze,” the Globe reports. “Slots open up as children age out or move out of early child-care programs, but new children cannot enroll because their families cannot access needed subsidies.”
The $131 million early education package that Patrick recommended to the Legislature also includes funding to bolster the salaries and benefits of early educators, a field that suffers from low wages and high turnover. It also includes funding to help programs improve the overall quality of their offerings.
“There is no guarantee the governor will get what he wants in early education or other state programs. Leaders in the Legislature, which must approve Patrick’s budget plan, have suggested some elements might have to be scaled back,” the Globe reports. “But should the Legislature pass the budget, child-care providers, big and small, have wish lists ready. Classrooms will be reopened, retirement benefits restored, salaries increased and training programs replicated.”
Wayne Ysaguirre, president of Associated Early Care and Education, for instance, hopes to offer raises to teachers whose salaries did not increase after they earned their BA degrees. He wants to provide coaches who will help teachers improve curriculum. He wants to restore the 120 seats his programs have closed over the last two years.
“These are critical years in a child’s life, a time when achievement gaps emerge,” the Globe reports, “and the prime moment to intervene.”