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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Last month, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) released its “Annual Legislative Report for 2013.”

Mandated by state law, the report is a useful and detailed resource for early education providers and advocates as well as legislators who want to know more about EEC’s goals and operations.

Created in 2005, EEC is the first “early education and care-focused department of its kind in the nation,” as the report explains. It combines parts of the former Department of Education (now the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and parts of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The report outlines EEC’s five strategic directions, which are:

- “Create and implement a system to improve and support quality statewide.”

- “Increase and promote family support, access and affordability.”

- “Create a workforce system that maintains worker diversity,” provides professional support, and produces strong outcomes for children.

- “Create and implement an external and internal communications strategy” that conveys the value of early education and care, and

- “Build the internal infrastructure” required to achieve this vision.
(more…)

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In Quotes

“Last year alone, 30 states increased funding for early childhood; and one state started a new state preschool program.”

Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, speaking at the National Governors Association 2014 Winter Meeting, during a session on Innovation in Early Childhood Education, February 23, 2014

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“We’re not interested in glorified babysitting. This has to be about high-quality. And again state leadership here has ben pretty extraordinary. Just a couple of years ago, in 2009, only 17 states operated a quality rating system for preschool programs, 17. Today we’re at 35.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, speaking at the National Governors Association 2014 Winter Meeting, during a session on Innovation in Early Childhood Education, February 23, 2014

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Last month, six states heard great news from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont learned that they would receive a combined $281 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund “to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states,” according to a press release.

“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release.

Duncan thanked “governors, state officials, and education advocates” for their leadership, adding, “This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country. There is still a lot more work for us to do.”

“This administration is committed to ensuring all children have a chance to succeed,” Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release. “An investment in our children is an investment in our nation’s future.” (more…)

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Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

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 (more…)

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Photo: United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

Photo: United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

More than 200 people came to the Boston Children’s Museum last Thursday night to attend “Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates – Early Childhood and Education: Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps.”  Strategies for Children, Boston Children’s Museum, Thrive in 5 and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley cosponsored the event along with 31 other organizations.

Both candidates – City Councilor John Connolly and State Representative Marty Walsh — participated, each on stage separately. Candidates answered questions posed by the night’s moderator, WBZ political reporter Jon Keller, and from the audience, which included early educators, providers, pediatricians, college students, professors of higher education, teachers, advocates, and citizens.

As Carolyn Lyons, the president and CEO of Strategies for Children, explained to the audience in her introduction, the forum builds on the momentum that has been fueled by early education proposals from Governor Deval Patrick and other governors,  the Massachusetts legislature and President Obama’s bold proposal to expand preschool programs nationally.

The candidates were asked to come prepared to articulate their vision for Boston’s children and families and discuss what they would do for children and families should they become mayor. They responded by (more…)

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Mayor Logo

This Thursday, October 24, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., the Boston Children’s Museum hosts a Conversation with the Boston Mayoral Candidates. Jon Keller, WBZ-TV News’ Political Analyst will moderate the conversation.

To retain Boston’s status as an economic leader and hub of innovation in the years ahead, the next Mayor must improve educational outcomes for the city’s children. The achievement gap is evident long before children enter school, and we will not succeed in closing it unless we target resources to improve early learning and healthy child development.

Join us for a conversation with the two candidates running for Mayor and hear more about their vision for children and families in Boston.

This event is sponsored by: Boston Children’s Museum, Strategies for Children, Thrive in 5, and United Way of MA Bay and Merrimack Valley.

Co-sponsors to date include:  ABCD ● Associated Early Care and Education ● BOSTnet  ● Boston After School and Beyond ● Boston Association for the Education of Young Children ● Boston Children’s Hospital  ● Boston Opportunity Agenda ● Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester ● Catholic Charities of Boston  ● Cradles to Crayons ● The Children’s Trust ● Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative ● Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House, Inc ● Families First Parenting Programs ● Family Nurturing Center of Massachusetts   ● Family Service of Greater Boston ● Friends of the Children – Boston ● Generations Incorporated ● Horizons for Homeless Children ● Jumpstart ● MA Afterschool Partnership ● MA Association for Early Education and Care ● Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics ● MA Kids Count ● MA Head Start Association ● Raising A Reader MA ● Reach Out and Read ● Room to Grow ● United South End Settlements ● Wheelock College

For more information, please contact tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

When preschool and out-of-school time teachers need resources to improve as professionals, they can turn to Massachusetts’ Educator and Provider Support (EPS) networks.

The networks just received $3.17 million in state-funded grant awards to help educators improve their skills and knowledge.

The EPS grant funds will focus on “three core areas of the professional development system: educator and provider planning, coaching and mentoring, and competency development,” according to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

“We know from academic research, from years of public policy and from our own experience as parents that investing in our children at a young age pays huge dividends for them and for our communities as a whole,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a press release. “Part of that is ensuring the people who care [for] and teach our children are well prepared and supported in their work. These grants will go a long way in helping us enhance the quality of the early education and out-of-school services available to families across Massachusetts.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Stacy Reinacher kept having the same problem. Parents were turned off by the rating of her home-based family child care program. Her story appeared in a recent two-day series in the Wisconsin State Journal.

As the first article explains: “Her small, in-home center in Madison earned just two stars out of five — the most common rating and nothing to be ashamed of, yet disappointing to some parents.” Reinacher says in the article: “You’d say two stars, and they’d be like, ‘Really, that’s it?’ And then you wouldn’t hear from them again.”

Reinacher had the same challenge as other providers who seek a high rating: a lack of college credits.

Brooke Hill ran into the same problem. Her child care business only received two stars despite her years of experience.

“She was furious,” the article said. “A veteran child care provider, she believed the rating didn’t reflect the quality of her center, Bear-A-Boo Daycare. Plus, she wasn’t given much time to understand the criteria before being rated, she said, especially the part about how closely her score would be tied to the educational qualifications of her staff.” (more…)

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Massachusetts sealActing Commissioner Tom Weber shared an update on the FY14 state budget process, noting that he is meeting with Conference Committee members to encourage them to support the portions of the House and Senate budgets that  are favorable to EEC-related funding. Weber notes that if the best of both budgets make it through conference committee, EEC could come out $24 million ahead of the funding level projected in its FY14 maintenance budget.

Other highlights of the June 11 meeting include:

- Acting in support of EEC’s effort to clearly articulate its vision of program quality and look at the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) as a whole, the board voted to reinstate a set of standards into the QRIS that it had voted to remove during February’s meeting. EEC Policy Director Carol Nolan noted that early educators in the field appreciate the fact that the department is taking time to step back, reflect and look thoroughly at the QRIS in the context of the overall system.

- The Board voted to submit its Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) state plan to the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF). In order to receive CCDF funds, states are required by federal law to submit a State Plan every two years. The final version must be submitted to ACF by July 1, 2013.

- The Board heard updates from members of the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Network regarding the transition to a new CCR&R delivery model developed by Child Care Aware, a national organization that allows grantees across the state to increase efficiencies through the implementation of a (more…)

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IMG_2080

Photo: Strategies for Children

Last month, Wheelock College hosted 150 people at the 8th Annual Community Dialogue on Early Education and Care. The theme was, “Raising Our Voices: The Power of Advocacy – The Time for Action is Now!”

Throughout the day, participants asked a common question: How can we get better at telling our story? Good answers came from elected officials, advocates and child care providers.

Advice from Elected Officials

During the morning session a panel of elected officials offered a range of advice for reaching out to government.

“We need people like you to come to the State House,” State Senator Sal N. DiDomenico (D – Everett), said in the conference’s first session.  “A lot of what I do in the State House is a reflection of what you tell me.”

One of the first lessons that Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley learned was “not to be self righteous.” She also called on advocates to tell the moral story about early childhood education and the economic story.

Don’t underestimate the power of aides, Pressley and DiDomenico added.  Talking to elected officials’ staff members and policy directors can have a powerful impact.

“If you’re a little intimidated,” to talk to legislators said State Representative Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke), “Find someone who is not.” And he added, “Invite us to your events.” (more…)

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