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Archive for the ‘MA Legislature’ Category

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

A new poll has found widespread, bipartisan support for expanding pre-K in the commonwealth.

“Massachusetts voters are strongly supportive of spending measures designed to expand access to high-quality pre-K,” according to a memo describing the results of the poll.

“Not only do voters support spending to improve access to pre-K, but they believe the state should invest significant resources in the effort. Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans support spending at least $250 million, as do majorities of every demographic group.”

Voters also “believe expanding access is essential to giving kids from lower-income families a fair chance of keeping up in school.”

The poll is based on a March telephone survey of 605 Massachusetts voters, and designed to be representative of the population of registered voters in the state. The survey was conducted by Anderson Robbins Research, and commissioned by Stand for Children on behalf of the Pre-K for MA Coalition. The coalition — which is led by Strategies for Children and by Stand for Children — “is a coalition of education, business, and civic leaders who know that early education and care can help close the state’s achievement gap and create more opportunities for disadvantaged children.”  (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

On Tuesday of this week, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released a $38 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2016. The proposal represents a 3.1 percent spending increase over FY15. It relies on $572 million in one-time funds and does not recommend any tax changes.

The committee’s proposal is themed “Lifting All Families,” and “makes targeted investments to foster shared prosperity, encourage overall economic growth and create new opportunities for people in all corners of our commonwealth.”

Among these targeted investments are increases to early education and care. The Department of Early Education and Care and its programs are funded at $545.51 million, roughly $6 million higher than in the House of Representatives’ FY16 budget. This includes a $12 million investment to serve children on the state’s income eligible waiting list for early education and care subsidies. The Senate proposal also consolidates two major subsidy access accounts, Supportive Child Care and TANF. (more…)

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Jim Peyser. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Jim Peyser. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

How do you make progress in education reform? By tackling the tough question of how to pay for it.

This was the topic yesterday at the Union Club in downtown Boston where the Building on What Works Coalition hosted a panel discussion called “Financing Education Reform: The Next Chapter.”

“Time is of the essence in making progress,” Tripp Jones said, welcoming the audience of nearly 150 people. “We felt it was important to say, look, there are communities ready to move,” on education reform. They just need access to funding.

Jones is a board member and the co-founder of the nonprofit think tank MassINC, which is part of the Building on What Works Coalition along with Massachusetts 2020, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, and Strategies for Children.  (more…)

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State Senator Sal DiDomenico. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

State Senator Sal DiDomenico. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

When it comes to preschool, Sal DiDomenico has a lot of credentials. He’s a product of Head Start, he proudly explained in a recent interview. His two sons went to preschool in Everett’s public school system. And now as a state senator (D-Everett), he’s an elected champion of early education and care.

“Some people think it’s babysitting,” DiDomenico says of early education and care programs. “I get frustrated when I hear people say that.”

Because if you’ve seen high-quality early education in action, he explains, you know how important it is. DiDomenico sees this in his personal history. He went from Head Start, to being second in his class in high school, and on to the State Legislature, where he is vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. He also sees how well-prepared his sons and other preschool graduates are now that they are in grade school.

What’s ironic, he says, is that when he was young, Head Start officials had to convince people to enroll. Now there isn’t enough room in Head Start and other preschool programs. Even in his hometown of Everett, DiDomenico says there’s a waiting list to access the public school preschool program.

So DiDomenico is pushing Massachusetts to increase access to preschool programs, while maintaining quality.  (more…)

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“If Massachusetts is serious about closing the achievement gap and leveling the playing field by giving our least advantaged students the same chance to succeed in life as their better off counterparts, then it is time we commit to providing those students access to high-quality Pre-K.

“Too many children today show up for school already behind and many of them never catch up. The achievement gap stems in part from the dramatic disparity in how soon children are exposed to a wide vocabulary, other children, books and simple math. High-quality Pre-K has been shown to have short — and long-term impact on children’s educational, health, social and economic outcomes.”

Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), House chair of the Joint Education Committee, and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Senate Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair, in a South Coast Today opinion piece, April 15, 2015. Peisch and DiDomenico are co-sponsors of the bill, “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education”

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

A statement from Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children:

“We are encouraged by today’s House Ways and Means proposal for early education funding in fiscal year 2016. The targeted funding increase for early education, made amid a challenging fiscal climate, signals the overarching commitment by the House to close the achievement gap and give all children a level playing field for success in school.

Earlier this year, House Speaker DeLeo spoke about the importance of providing more children with access to high-quality early education and listed this as a priority issue for the House.

The proposed funding increases, including $5 million to serve children on the state’s subsidy waiting list and $5 million for early educator quality supports and salaries, are steps in the right direction. However, many more children remain on the state’s waiting list. To serve all young children through high-quality Pre-K, the state needs a long-term funding plan. Given the state’s ongoing fiscal challenges, new Pre-K funding should be phased in over multiple years, and initial preference should be given to the highest-needs communities to level the playing field.”

For details on the House’s budget proposal, visit our website.

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

While the state waits for new revenue to significantly expand early education and care opportunities for young children, it’s important to ensure that the existing subsidy system is operating as effectively as possible.

This was the intention of state legislators in FY14 when they approved $500,000 in funding to conduct a two-year, independent study of The Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) child care access accounts. These accounts are commonly referred to as Income Eligible, TANF, and Supportive Child Care. They consist of federal funds and required state matches, and they make up the majority of EEC’s budget.

Now, two years have passed and the research results are in.

The Urban Institute, a D.C.-based policy research organization, has released its findings in a series of policy reports that look at:

• improving the efficiency of the system

• analyzing gaps in the availability of subsidies, and,

• assessing the balance between providing quality early education for children and providing workforce support for guardians

Massachusetts wins praise for its strengths and gets feedback on ways to improve its vision and its delivery of services.  (more…)

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