An Act Creating An Early Educator Earned Income Tax Credit: BTWIC’s 1st Bill Goes To the Massachusetts State Legislature
In the spring of 2011, BTWIC filed a bill with the Massachusetts State Legislature, An Act Creating An Early Educator Earned Income Tax Credit (H2992 /S1428). Stemming from our 2010 report, “Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform,” the tax credit proposal is one of four recommendations we made to improve compensation for early educators in MA. Senator Salvatore DiDomenico and Representative Linda Dorcena Forry are the lead sponsors of the bill, and the following legislators are co-sponsors: Senator James Eldridge, Representative Cory Atkins, Representative Gloria Fox, Representative Denise Provost, and Representative Benjamin Swan. The bill proposes that the state of MA create a 15% tax credit specifically for early educators. When combined with existing tax credits this would result in a 45% tax credit for low and moderate income early educators. Since early educators in MA earn on average only $25,000 annually and have a job turnover rate of 25-30%, a tax credit would help to sustain this underpaid workforce. The bill would raise morale in the field and it would be an important step towards improving the quality of early education in MA. On October 20th, our bill had a hearing before the Joint Committee on Revenue. We had two panels testify on behalf of the bill. The advocate panel included Valora Washington of the CAYL Institute, Jed Swan of Drydock Ventures, Mary Kinsella Scannell of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester, Rosemary Hernandez of the Springfield Regional Employment Board, Eve Gilmore of Edward Street Child Services in Worcester, and Amy O’Leary of Strategies for Children. The teacher panel included Kimberly Austin Morin of Early Childhood Centers of Greater Springfield, Elaine Gifford and Pamela Escolas of Citizens for Citizens Head Start in Fall River, Ana Holding of the Fall River Family Service Association, and Melissa Freeman of the YMCA of Central MA. In Pamela Escola’s testimony, she described the difficulty and frustration she has experienced having completed her Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education 28 years ago and still earning only 1/3 of what her peers from her graduating class are making in the public schools. She described her commitment to remaining in early education in spite of the low salary because working with young children is so rewarding to her: “although I am not proud of my earnings, I am extremely proud of the work I do…I love knowing I am making a difference in their lives and giving them a ‘Head Start’ on their education that will pave the road to a bright future for them.” Ms. Escola said the extra money from the tax credit would make a “major difference” for her family by allowing her to pay off some bills and to save for a Master’s degree. BTWIC also collected and submitted written testimony from community supporters including the Boston Public School’s Community Partnerships for Children, the Children’s Investment Fund, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and the Valley Opportunity Council. House Chairman Jay Kaufman officiated the hearing with House Vice Chair Kevin Aguiar, Senator John Keenan, and Representative Paul Schmid also in attendance. Following the testimony from our panels, both Chairman Kaufman and Representative Schmid responded with positive remarks about the need to invest in the early education workforce. Tune in to next week’s Conversations on Early Learning blog for information on the bill’s next steps and how you can help BTWIC get the bill passed.
In 2006, BTWIC release “Keeping the Promise: A Study of the MA Child Care Voucher System.” This was our first major policy initiative, and it led to some significant, positive changes to the voucher system. The voucher study found considerable barriers to continuity of care posed by administrative policies impacting families relying on child care subsidies. Within a year of the report’s release, systemic changes occurred that changed some of the rules and regulations that were causing unnecessary disruptions to children’s continuity of care. For example, the length of vouchers was extended so that parents didn’t have to renew after only a few months had passed. Five years after the release of Keeping the Promise, we are taking another look at the voucher system to assess if it has continued to promote continuity of care for families of children with the greatest need in our state. We know the voucher landscape has changed and that the state is facing many budget cuts, so it is important to revisit this issue, which is so closely connected to our mission of improving the quality of early education for low income children. The best way for us to understand what’s happening for families is to hear back from early educators—particularly center directors and program administrators who process vouchers—about any challenges you are witnessing with the voucher system. Please take the time to complete the following brief, confidential survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/vouchersMA. We greatly appreciate your feedback!