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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

 

There’s an exciting, new education bill in the State House: the Student Opportunity Act.

It calls for “an unprecedented $1.5 billion new investment in Massachusetts public education,” a fact sheet says.

The bill also notes that K-12 education can benefit from strong preschool programs.

“The proposal — jointly announced by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Karen E. Spilka, and other legislative leaders — aims to bridge the divide in educational opportunities between poor and affluent systems by directing more money to districts that serve greater concentrations of students living in poverty or those with language barriers,” the Boston Globe reports.

 

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Photo: Kate Samp For Strategies for Children

 

Here’s some good news.

Holyoke, Lawrence, and Northampton have received state funded Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (CPPI) grants that they can use to expand their preschool programs.

These towns join the first cohort of grantees: Boston, Lowell, New Bedford, North Adams, Somerville, and Springfield.

Here’s some bad news.

This fiscal year, Massachusetts has only allocated $5 million for CPPI grants. And that’s not enough to make up for the fact that federally funded Preschool Expansion Grants (PEG grants) have expired.

“Sadly, the budget did not include our primary ask of $25 million for preschool expansion,” Titus DosRemedios, Strategies for Children’s director of research and policy, writes in an Alliance for Early Success blog post. “This amount would have replaced expiring federal Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) funds ($15 million), sustained current state-funded preschool expansion grantees ($5 million), and expanded preschool in new communities ($5 million).” (more…)

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Chrissy Howard, the new manager of Reading Success by 4th Grade, sums up her job with a question:

“How can I use any resource I have to help other people get what they need?”

For Howard this a tactical issue and a matter of social justice.

Launched by the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, Reading Success by 4th Grade has engaged the Springfield, Mass., community in the work of helping children become proficient readers by the end of third grade. The organization was led by Sally Fuller, who recently retired.

Howard joined the organization this summer just as it had found a new home at the Springfield Public Library.

“My job is to continue to bring people together and move the work forward,” Howard says. To do this, she has embarked on a listening tour where she has heard about what people need, want, and love as well as “what they found a little difficult; what challenges they’ve overcome, and how they did it together.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Even though its federally funded Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) has run out, Springfield, Mass., is continuing to grow its preschool program.

“We win or lose the game at the preschool level,” Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Warwick said when his city won the federal grant.

The PEG grant supported 195 children in 11 classrooms through a mixed-delivery system that included the nonprofit organizations Square One, Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start, and the YMCA of Greater Springfield.

Now, building on the catalyst of PEG grant funding, Warwick is ensuring that young children will keep winning.

“After a successful pilot program last year,” MassLive.com reports, “Warwick said the preschool programming will be extended to include 19 schools for a total of 643 seats, representing a district investment of more than $1.5 million.”

“Research shows that high-quality preschool provides a substantial head start for young students,” Warwick says in the article.

For children, the payoff is huge: (more…)

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“Sen. Sal DiDomenico recently testified before the Joint Committee on Education in support of his bill, S.265, An Act ensuring high-quality pre-kindergarten education. This legislation would expand preschool, using grants from the state, beginning with high-needs communities that are ready with a state-approved expansion plan.

“ ‘Across Massachusetts, people are ready for more preschool,’ said DiDomenico in his testimony before the Committee. ‘I have heard from countless parents who want this learning opportunity for their children, but often can’t afford it or are on waiting lists. Local communities, led by community-based programs, school districts, and mayors, have solid plans for preschool expansion and are waiting for new public dollars to begin implementation. That is why I filed this legislation, and I am confident this bill is an important next step towards improving and expanding high quality early education for our kids.’ ”

 

“DiDomenico Urges Action on High Quality Pre-K,” by Record Staff, Chelsea Record, July 18, 2019

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

“In 2017, Raya Kirby of North Adams discussed the difficulty of affording care for her newborn while working as a master’s level clinical social worker. Raya had to return to work 12 weeks after giving birth in order to support her family, but this was difficult given that the cost of childcare was ‘astronomical’ and there was a long waitlist for child care vouchers.”

Jill Ashton shared this story a few weeks ago at the State House hearing on early education and care.  Ashton is the executive director of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, an independent state agency that gathers information on women and makes policy recommendations.

Two other stories that Ashton shared at the hearing are:

“In 2018, Ana Saravia of Barnstable spoke to the Commission about her struggle in trying to afford childcare as a single mother of four children, one of whom is autistic. She was forced to relocate due to financial constraints, which were compounded by the high costs of childcare.”

And: (more…)

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Jessica Merrill, Titus DosRemedios, Kelly Savarese, Dawn DiStefano, Nicole Penney, Kim Davenport, Grace Cruz, Efrain Ponce Hamlet, Amy O’Leary, Clifford Kwong, Lisa Van Thiel. Photo courtesy of Kim Davenport.

Last week, there was a standing-room-only hearing at the Massachusetts State House where parents, teachers, and advocates called on elected officials to increase access to high-quality, affordable child care, expand preschool, increase educator salaries, and other priorities.

“Right now many parents struggle to access affordable childcare, and they often choose to stay home to avoid expensive daycare,” WWLP.com reports on the issues covered at the hearing, adding:

“Expanding full-day preschool would give parents the option of going back to work on a part-time or full-time basis.”

The multi-generational impact of having more preschool programs for children that would make it easier for parents to go work would be hugely beneficial for Massachusetts. This could be accomplished by a number of bills that were discussed at the hearing including: (more…)

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