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Archive for the ‘MA state budget’ Category

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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“Who’s going to say they don’t support pre-school? No one is going to say they don’t support it. We should be saying, at what level do you support it? That’s the more important question.”

Massachusetts State Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), at the Pre-K for MA Kickoff Event, March 31, 2015

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Parents Ursula Allston-Hill and Armando Perez at the Pre-K for MA launch.

Armando Perez and Ursula Allston-Hill at the Pre-K for MA launch.

 

 

“It’s time for Massachusetts to lead once again,” Jason Williams, Massachusetts Executive Director of Stand for Children, said yesterday at a Pre-K for MA kickoff event at the State House.

Led by Strategies for Children and Stand for Children Massachusetts, Pre-K for MA 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.

Attended by parents, early educators, advocates, and several young children, the kickoff event also featured a number of state legislators including Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

Peisch and DiDomenico have co-sponsored a bill — “An Act Ensuring High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education” —that calls on Massachusetts to follow New Jersey’s example by providing “access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-and 4-year-olds living in underperforming school districts,” as this fact sheet explains. The bill would set up a grant program; and the grants would be awarded by the Department of Early Education and Care in consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

As more policymakers become champions of early education, “it’s important to remember that pre-K cannot stand alone – the years before and after pre-K are equally important to children’s development,” Abbie Lieberman writes in a post on New America’s Ed Central blog called, “Why Full-Day Kindergarten is a Key Piece of the Early Ed Puzzle.”

Full-day kindergarten is important, “because research indicates that kindergarteners benefit significantly from a full-day in the classroom. In fact, studies suggest that full-day kindergarten improves academic achievement and can lessen the achievement gap.”

Lieberman adds: “more time in the classroom means more time for high-quality interactions with teachers and peers, which translates to more learning. As Alexander Holt explains in Making the Hours Count: Exposing Disparities in Early Education by Retiring Half-Day vs. Full-Day Labels, ‘Time in a classroom does not guarantee opportunities to learn, but it is a necessary doorway to that opportunity.’ In short, it’s difficult for a child attending kindergarten for two hours a day to realize the same benefits as a child in the neighboring school district who attends for six hours a day.”  (more…)

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Avg wages stagnated

In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) into law, launching an on-going era of bipartisan support for this powerful anti-poverty tool. Since then, EITC has been a substantial benefit for families with young children.

Now a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) looks at what would happen if Massachusetts expanded its own state-level EITC program, which was launched in 1997.

According to the IRS, the federal EITC is “a benefit for working people who have low to moderate income. A tax credit means more money in your pocket. It reduces the amount of tax you owe and may also give you a refund.”

And as MassBudget explains in its report, the Massachusetts’ EITC “is a refundable tax break provided by the Commonwealth to lower-income workers in order to increase the after-tax rewards to work. It is available only to tax filers with earned income and provides benefits primarily to workers with children…”  (more…)

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On Wednesday, March 4, Governor Charlie Baker released his first state budget proposal as governor. In an effort to close a projected $1.8 billion budget deficit, Baker’s $38.1 billion budget limits spending increases to 3%, which is less than projected tax revenue growth of 4.8%. The plan curbs state spending at MassHealth, and provides modest increases for local aid, education, and transportation. To learn more, visit Governor Baker’s budget webpage.

The Department of Early Education and Care and its programs are funded at $529.36 million. Most of EEC’s programs were level-funded relative to FY15 current (post-9C) spending levels, including Access Management, Coordinated Family and Community Engagement grants, UPK grants, and early childhood mental health. The Income Eligible waitlist line item (3000-4040), funded at $15 million in each of the past two fiscal years was not funded, however Supportive Child Care, which provides early education for children referred by the Department of Children and Families, received an increase. The governor’s proposal does not include a rate increase for early educator salaries and benefits. In addition, full-day kindergarten grants were not funded, representing a $18.59 million cut from current fiscal year spending levels.

The Partnership Schools Network line item (7061-9408), a fund to support Level 4 and 5 underperforming schools and districts, saw an increase and new budget language allowing early education and care partnerships as an allowable component of local proposals.

Visit our Early Education for All website for a complete listing of early education and care line items in the state budget. Stay tuned for updates in the months ahead as the House and Senate release their budget proposals.

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