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This is one of a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.

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My name is Wheeler DeAngelis. I am a Teaching Fellow at Lemberg Children’s Center at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. My first experience in the field was when I was a high school senior and volunteered for a child development class in a local elementary school, but I’ve been teaching professionally for two years.

I graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2015. I was a member of the Early Childhood Development and Education cohort – which I cannot speak highly enough about. UConn’s program focuses not only on the science of teaching (brain development, milestones, etc.) but also on the art of teaching (classroom management, parent interactions, and co-teaching). What really drew me to the program was the fact that it offers fieldwork and student teaching opportunities with infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers.

I think everyone who teaches young children has, at some point, been at a party where someone asked the same perplexing, astigmatic, exasperating question, “What can you teach babies?” The obvious answer is “EVERYTHING!” but as that rarely seems to satisfy people’s curiosity, I’ve come to rely on an analogy. (more…)

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Photo: Greater Lawrence Community Action Council’s Facebook page

Monday at the State House was Advocacy Day for early education and care and school-age programs. The message for this year was best summarized in a hashtag: #ValueEarlyEducators.

“About 200 early education supporters rallied outside the State House Monday, thanking lawmakers for their efforts to boost the salaries of early educators but urging them to do more to help young learners and workers whose wages place them on the edge of poverty,” according to the State House News Service.

The event was organized by MADCA, the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care, along with the Put MA Kids First coalition. (more…)

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Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

More than 120 early education professionals and experts have signed an open letter that urges state lawmakers to increase their investment in early education.

“As Massachusetts legislators consider the state budget and investments in early education, we would like to highlight the widespread agreement among experts and researchers in the field about the effectiveness of such investments,” the letter says.

It goes on to point out that while: “Quality early childhood education can reduce the achievement gap.”

And: “Investing in quality early childhood education pays off.”

It is also unfortunately true that: “There are a number of pressing problems that undermine early education in Massachusetts.”

Among those who have signed the letter are professionals and experts we’ve blogged about before, including Anne Douglass of the University of Massachusetts Boston; preschool teacher Teddy Kokoros; and Jack Shonkoff of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child.  (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Today, the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means released its state budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. The $40.3 billion budget represents a 3.8 percent increase over current year spending.

For early education and care, the House provides $10 million more than Governor Baker did in the proposal he released in January. House funding includes a $15 million rate increase to help address the workforce crisis in early education and care. Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey highlighted this increase in his letter to House members:

“Under the leadership of Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, the House Ways and Means budget prioritizes funding for early education and care with a focus on quality. The budget proposes a $15 million rate reserve for early educators. The rate reserve combined with other investments in the early education accounts will help to raise salaries and allow providers to recruit and retain high quality staff. This new funding ensures that Massachusetts’s youngest residents are receiving the best possible care during these highly formative years.”

The House proposal also provides $2.5 million for early childhood mental health supports and $700,000 for Reach Out and Read, which was not funded in the governor’s budget.

The Boston Globe covers the budget here.

Visit our website for more budget details.

House members have until Thursday, April 13, 2017, at 5 p.m. to file budget amendments, which will be debated the week of April 24th. Stay tuned for updates.

A reminder: Early Education Advocacy Day at the State House will be on April 24th, 2017, 10:30 a.m. Go to the Put MA Kids First coalition website for details.

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On Wednesday, the Baker-Polito Administration “announced a 6 percent rate increase for all early education programs that provide care for low-income families, worth $28.6 million, which represents the largest rate hike for subsidized early education and care programs in 10 years.”

“We are pleased to work with the Legislature to provide these rate increases for providers who care and educate our youngest residents,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “It is vital for these programs to be able to train and retain experienced staff, and these rates increases will help them accomplish that important aspect of any high-quality child care program.”

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“We know this is the first step in a longterm vision for early educators, families, and the Commonwealth,” said Amy O’Leary, who directs the early education campaign for Strategies for Children, an advocacy group. “And we look forward to working with legislative leaders throughout the budget process and the legislative session to move this issue to the top of the legislative priority list.”

“Governor Baker boosts funding for early education,” The Boston Globe, March 30, 2017

 

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This week, we’re focusing on the early education and care workforce.

Massachusetts readers, please join us at the upcoming rally on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. It’s State House Advocacy Day for early education and after- school programs. This event starts at 10:30 a.m. on the front steps of the State House.

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How bad is the workforce crisis in early education?

Imagine if the Patriots only had three players: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Malcolm Mitchell. They would work hard because that’s who they are. But instead of playing to win, they’d have to focus on making do.

This kind of limited roster is increasingly a challenge for preschool programs because the field’s low salaries are making it extremely tough to hire and keep staff.

One example from Western Massachusetts: (more…)

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Foreground: Representative Claire Cronin (D-Plymouth) speaking to Commissioner Mitchell Chester, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Background: TeeAra Dias, Preschool Expansion Grant Project Manager, Boston Public Schools.

Foreground: Representative Claire Cronin (D-Plymouth) speaking to Commissioner Mitchell Chester, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Background: TeeAra Dias, Preschool Expansion Grant Project Manager, Boston Public Schools.

 

“We now know there are more kids in more programs, but clearly not enough, clearly not enough,” Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, told the 100 participants at a meeting that was held last month in downtown Boston for the community teams from across Massachusetts that are focused on expanding preschool opportunities for children and families.

We’re including audio clips and photos from the event in this blog post.

 

Strategies for Children’s Amy O’Leary presents a brief history of state policy for early education and care.

 

Each team had received either federal Preschool Expansion Grant funds to add high-quality preschool seats (5 communities); state-funded preschool planning grants (13 communities); or both. Combined, these communities are Athol, Boston, Brockton, Cape Cod, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, North Adams, Pittsfield, Springfield, Somerville, and Worcester. (more…)

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