This week is Brain Building in Progress Week in Massachusetts—a week scheduled to coincide with the annual Week of the Young Child. The purpose is to bring together legislators, advocates, educators, parents, and anyone else who recognizes the crucial process of brain building for young children to develop into productive adults. The Brain Building in Progress campaign is a public-private partnership started by the MA Department of Early Education and Care and the United of Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. The campaign strives to raise awareness of the link between investing in early childhood education and development and the future economic prosperity of our state. How can you participate in Brain Building in Progress Week? On Thursday, April 26 at 11:00 a.m., Massachusetts State Legislators will celebrate Brian Building in Progress Week in State House room 222 by reading to children from Associated Early Education and Care. Also, the campaign website is full of ideas for providers, advocates, parents, and children to highlight the brain building process. Some of our favorite ideas for administrators of child care centers and family child care homes include:
- Planning a family story time with a breakfast for parents and caregivers and inviting parents or other family members to read or tell a story
- Creating a bulletin board for children to track all the ways they build their brain during the day (i.e. circle time, meal times, sleep, play etc.)
- Planning a thank-you breakfast for teachers and inviting parents and families to attend
- Holding a staff meeting or a workshop about brain building
- Distributing these tips for families
You can join Brain Building in Progress Week on Facebook to show your support and share how you plan to be involved. For additional ideas visit the campaign website at www.brainbuildinginprogress.org. Look for links to great articles on Zero to Three, NAEYC, and Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, and you can see a video promoting Brain Building in Progress Week here.
Esta semana es la Semana de Entrenamiento del Cerebro en Progreso en Massachusetts—una semana programada para coincidir con la Semana Anual de los Niños Pequeños. El propósito de la misma es de reunir a legisladores, partidarios, educadores, padres y cualquier otra persona que reconoce el proceso crucial de entrenamiento del cerebro para niños pequeños para que se desarrollen en adultos productivos.
La Campaña de Entrenamiento del Cerebro en Progreso es una asociación público-privada que comenzó con el Departatmento de Educación Temprana de MA, United Way de Massachusetts y Merrimack Valley. La campaña se esfuerza en crear conciencia del vínculo que hay entre la inversión en la educación temprana, el desarrollo y la futura prosperidad económica de nuestro estado. ¿Cómo puede usted participar de la Semana de Entrenamiento Cerebro en Progreso? El jueves 26 de abril a las11:00 a.m., los egisladores estatales de Massachusetts celebrarán la Semana de Entrenamiento del Cerebro en Progreso en el salón 222 de la Casa de Estado.y estarán leyéndole a los niños del Associated Early Education and Care. También, el sitio de web de la campaña está lleno de ideas para proveedores, partidarios, padres y niños para destacar el proceso de entrenamiento del cerebro. Algunas de nuestras ideas favoritas para los administradores de centros de cuidados de niños y los proveedores de cuidado infantil en sus hogares incluyen:
- Planificar una hora del cuento con un desayuno para padres y proveedores de cuidado u otros miembros de la familia para leer o contar una historia
- Crear un tablón de anuncios para que los niños se mantengan al tanto de todas las maneras que ellos entrenan su cerebro durante el dia (i.e. hora del círculo, durante las comidas, durmiendo, jugando,etc.)
- Planificar un desayuno para darle las gracias a los maestros e invitar a los padres y familias para que participen
- Organizar una reunion con el personal o un taller sobre entrenamiento del cerebro
- Distribuir estos consejos entre las familias
Usted puede unirse a la Semana de Entrenamiento del Cerebro en Progreso en Facebook para demonstrar su apoyo y compartir de la manera que planifica involucrarse. Para más ideas visite la página web de la campaña en www.brainbuildinginprogress.org. Busque fabulosos artículos sobre el mismo en los siguientes enlaces: Zero to Three, NAEYC, and Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, y aquí puede ver un video promoviendo la Semana de Entrenamiento del Cerebro en Progreso.
Last Thursday, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley held a legislative breakfast on early childhood development at the Parkman House. In attendance were Representatives Alice Wolf and Alice Peisch, Senators William Brownsberger and Richard Ross, and staff from Representatives Kay Kahn, Louis Kafka, and Linda Dorcena Fory, and Senator Sal DiDomenico and Patricia Jehlen’s offices. We spoke about three of our initiatives: 1) our bill, An Act Creating an Early Educator Earned Income Tax Credit; 2) our work to start the SEED (Sustaining Early Education Development) Fund, a public/private sustainable fund that would be used to improve quality early education in MA; and 3) state funding for child care subsidies in the FY 2013 Budget. In addition to BTWIC, advocates from four other early childhood organizations spoke about their legislative and budget priorities as a way to familiarize legislators with the variety of initiatives in need of political support. The other agencies were Early Education for All, MA Advocates for Children, MA Association of Early Education and Care, Children’s Investment Fund, and MA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The legislative breakfast was held the day after the House Ways and Means FY2013 Budget was released, making the speakers’ pleas for support and funding all the more compelling given some of the unexpected cuts to early education. In particular, Leo Delaney, CEO of Ellis Memorial Children’s Center, remarked on his surprise and disappointment that the House failed to include a $25M rate reserve for early educators’ compensation. The rate increase would provide an average salary increase of $1600 annually. BTWIC was particularly hopeful that the House Ways and Means Budget would make up for the Governor’s $8.1M in cuts to child care subsidies from FY2012 levels, but unfortunately the House maintained these cuts in their budget as well. Our central point at the legislative breakfast, echoed by many of the other speakers, was to ask state lawmakers to step up to the plate to fund access to the quality improvements to early education made possible by the federal dollars received from the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant.
Mary Walachy is the Executive Director of The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation in Springfield, MA. The Davis Foundation is one of the largest family foundations in MA and is nationally recognized for its commitment to early education. Prior to joining the Davis Foundation in 1997, Mary ran the Mental Health Association of Greater Springfield. Mary is Co-Chair of Homes Within Reach – City of Springfield Plan to End Homelessness, and serves on the Board for the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. She received her Master’s in Social Work Administration from the University of Connecticut.
Please describe the reasons for the Davis Foundation’s commitment to early education. Initially the trustees were funding a broad category of educational initiatives focused on the more traditional K-12 continuum. The trustees described having a “so what” experience, not seeing the level of impact they had hoped for from the money they had invested. This prompted the Davis Foundation to delve into the research coming out on the high impact of investing in early childhood and early education initiatives. As John Davis says, “Pay now or pay way more later.” We realized how important it is to get kids on the right trajectory early. What has been your most gratifying early education initiative and why? Can I share two? The first is our connection with Strategies for Children. We went to school on all they knew about early education and brought it to Springfield. We got engaged in the Universal Pre-Kindergarten campaign and joined Strategies in working to pass the legislation that made UPK a state funded program. Growing out of that work has been the Davis Foundation’s research into the importance of reading success by fourth grade. The research culminated in our READ! campaign which brought together multiple stakeholders in the Springfield community, as well as our report, “Blueprint for Springfield,” which offers strategies to improve Springfield’s reading proficiency rate. Local funders have raised $1.2M for the project which has truly put the issue of the importance of reading on people’s radar screens. Most recently, we have been asked by the city of Holyoke to work in collaboration with the United Way to help them work on a similar reading proficiency goal. How do you see the early education landscape changing in MA? There is huge momentum throughout the state from policy makers, education providers and administrators, and the business community. The increasingly widespread understanding of the impact of early education is really exciting. The funds received through the Race to the Top demonstrate the desire at the state and national level to work on the issue, though $50M will not solve the problem. That said, State and federal and local funders are going to be demanding outcomes, so the field will need to get very intentional about defining desired outcomes and tracking success towards those outcomes. What surprised you about the successful receipt in MA of the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant? I am thrilled we got it—but I’m not surprised. Massachusetts was poised to get the grant thanks to the hard work of Commissioner Killins and others across the State. What areas within early education do you think need more public and/or private funding? Quality and access. The Davis Foundation convenes a group called Springfield Business Leaders for Education. They used to be more focused on looking at high school graduation rates, but we have worked hard to get them on the same page in terms of early education, and now they understand the importance of access to quality early education. If we can improve quality and increase access with both public and private dollars (but more public dollars), we will see the full impact on society. Today in Springfield, approximately 40% of children are in early education programs. The third piece in addition to quality and access is to raise awareness among families and caregivers of the importance of quality early education for their children’s educational and lifelong success.
The results from BTWIC’s recent survey on voucher access indicate there are not enough vouchers available, and that maintaining vouchers has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Although our survey results come from only 162 responses, the respondents make up a cross section of the field (45% center-based program administrators, 50% family child care providers, and 5% other) representing all 6 regions of the state (28% from Western MA, 26.8% from Southeast MA, 16.6% from Metro Boston, 13.4% from Northeast MA, 8.3% from Metro West, and 7% from Central MA), and therefore the results provide a meaningful representation of what is happening with vouchers from a provider perspective. The Department of Early Education and Care’s FY2012 Annual Legislative Report describes how DEEC will be addressing many of the voucher system’s systemic problems through a restructuring of the Resource & Referral system. However, the remaining issue made evident through our survey, is the lack of access to income eligible vouchers. One quarter of the comments from BTWIC’s survey spoke to the lack of vouchers and the resulting impact on children, families, programs and providers. Providers wrote about the difficulties families face trying to afford child care, and how many of the providers end up taking a loss in order to prevent the child and family from experiencing a major disruption in continuity of care and employment/family income that would be caused by losing their child care slot. When we consider the qualitative data from our survey in conjunction with Governor Patrick’s FY2013 Budget recommendation to cut voucher funding by $8.1M from FY 2012 levels, there is clearly a pressing need to advocate for child care subsidies during the upcoming debates over next year’s budget. According to Patrick’s proposal, which will be modified by the legislature, the freeze on income-eligible vouchers would continue throughout 2013, adding an additional 10,000 children to the voucher waitlist, bringing the waitlist up to 36,000. This means that many hard-working families will be unable to afford the quality child care promised by the recent infusion of federal dollars through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. The National Women’s Law Center recently published a report that examines child care assistance policies in the nine states who received the Early Learning Challenge grant. Three of the nine states have no waitlist for child care subsidies (Delaware, Ohio, and Rhode Island) and three others have waitlists under 5,000 (Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington). As the MA legislature works to create their version of the FY2013 budget, lawmakers need to hear the voices of early education providers and parents asking them not to cut funding of child care subsidies this year. Lawmakers should bemade aware of the opportunity our state has to prioritize access to quality child care at a time when quality is receiving such a boost in federal dollars. In the coming weeks, BTWIC will be reaching out to providers in order to mobilize parents to make calls and write letters asking their legislators not to cut funding for child care subsidies. Keep an eye out for upcoming information from us on advocating for access.