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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Vermont is pressing ahead on its preschool plans.

Back in 2014, then-Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into a law that offered 10 hours a week of high-quality preschool programs to the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds. By 2016, more and more programs were up and running.

Now, Vermont is in its first year of fully implementing universal pre-K statewide.

As Vermont Public Radio (VPR) explains, “All of Vermont’s 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds who are not attending kindergarten are eligible to participate in Universal Pre-K, but it’s not required.”

The VPR report adds:

“Under Act 166, the state pays a set tuition to schools such as Wee Explorers to provide 10 hours of preschool a week, for the 35-week school year. This year the tuition is just under $3,100 per student. In total, the state is spending about $13.7 million on Pre-K tuition this year. That accounts for payments made to private preschools as well as payments to public preschools for out-of-district students who attend a preschool program run by a school district.”

“Basically, it works like a voucher program for preschool. Families can choose to send their child to pre-K at their local public school, if it’s offered. Or they can pick a private program that is ‘pre-qualified’ or, in other words, endorsed by the state.”

How’s it going? Continue Reading »

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.

A series featuring communities that have a plan to expand preschool.

Literacy is a significant part of the Rainbow Child Development Center’s curriculum. Through partnerships like Edward Street Child Services’ Book Buddy program, children regularly receive books so that they can build their home libraries.

Worcester holds the triple distinction of being the second largest city in New England, a leading Gateway City, and the leading refugee resettlement community, welcoming 300-500 new families each year. All these factors drive this unique, richly diverse city.

Worcester also faces challenges. Each year, more than one-third of kindergarten students enter Worcester Public Schools with no formal preschool experience. In 2017, that percentage grew to 37 percent, or 751 students. A staggering 22 percent of Worcester’s population is below the poverty level compared to a state average of 15.6 percent, and among youth under age 18, 30 percent live in poverty.

These statistics mean that the city has work to do.

“To be a truly great city, Worcester must have healthy children, engaged families, and the very highest standards in our early learning system,” noted Kim Davenport, managing director of Birth to 3rd Grade Alignment at Edward Street Child Services.  Continue Reading »

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

The clock is ticking and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) is busily working toward its goal to “increase by at least 100 percent the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently at the end of third grade” in a dozen or more states by the year 2020.

Back in 2012, CGLR, Strategies for Children, and five Massachusetts cities announced “the creation of a statewide network committed to aligning research, policy and practice to move the needle on third grade reading…”

Since then, CGLR has been active on multiple fronts. Here’s a roundup of some recent accomplishments. Continue Reading »

Massachusetts readers, please note that Early Education Advocacy Day at the State House has been rescheduled to April 24th, 2017, 10:30 a.m.

 

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

What’s the best way to pay for child care? Here at Strategies for Children, we’re always looking at different approaches. As we’ve blogged, Finland uses tax revenues. And other European countries provide targeted subsidies to low-income families.

What about the United States?

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst has an outside-the-box idea for a modernized education savings account. Whitehurst is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The proposal: Invest $42 billion to “provide a substantial subsidy for every child from birth to fifth birthday in a family at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This is nearly half the families in the U.S,” Whitehurst writes in “Why the federal government should subsidize childcare and how to pay for it.”

To finance this plan, Whitehurst calls for using the $26 billion that the country already spends on child care and adding another $16 billion that would come from revamping the country’s charitable donations tax deduction.  Continue Reading »

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

 

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Earlier this week, we blogged about the shortage of early education and care workers in Massachusetts.

Today, we’re looking at similar shortages around the country.

Take Wisconsin where, “Low hourly wages, the lack of professional development opportunities and a high turnover rate are major factors contributing to the state’s preschool teacher shortage, experts say,” according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

“‘If you know that 52 percent of the childcare workforce in Wisconsin has at least an associate degree and that the average wage is $10 an hour, it’s not surprising that we’d have a teacher shortage,’ said Ruth Schmidt, executive director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, last week.”

Wages have been shockingly stagnant, according to a Wisconsin Early Childhood Association report. In 1997, child care workers earned $7.03 per hour – equal to $10.22 in 2013 dollars. In the year 2013, child care workers were only earning a few cents more in real dollars, taking home $10.33 per hour.

In addition, Wisconsin’s turnover rate among early educators is 35 percent, “which is significantly higher than the state’s overall workforce turnover rate of 8 percent.”

Similar challenges exist across the country. Continue Reading »

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