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Policy

The High Cost of Early Education for Caregivers

Child Care Aware recently released a fact sheet that compares key metrics on early education and care in the state of Massachusetts as related to numbers for the nation as a whole. Some indicators seem positive. WAPO_State_Rental_CostFor example, the average yearly wage for an early educator in Massachusetts is approximately $25,890, several thousand dollars greater than the national average. However, as the Washington Post recently reported, a worker would need to earn more than twice that amount simply to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Massachusetts, as the cost of living is among the highest in the nation.

The majority of the early education and care workforce is comprised of women, a little more than a quarter of whom are unmarried with children of their own. For this demographic – single mothers – income spent on child care is an unfathomable 63%. Married couples pay about 15% of their income. In fact, you could buy a new car with what you pay for one year of full-time care for an infant, or, as the fact sheet indicates, pay for 1.7 years of college.

Indeed, the picture for early education and care in Massachusetts is not rosy. We must expand not only access to child care, but also quality and affordability – both for the workers and the children. Studies demonstrate that children benefit from having a consistent caregiver. If compensation remains so low, and child care so unaffordable, it will continue to become untenable for skilled workers to remain in the field. We heard one such story on Early Education and Care Day at the State House, back in April, when Kiara Barros shared her story with more than 500 supporters. How many more stories like hers are out there?

2016 MA Budget in Conference

As you likely know, $9,000,000 was included in the House Budget (FY16) for quality workforce initiatives: $5M for the rate reserve (1599-0042) and $4M for a quality earmark (in 3000-7050).

The Senate Budget appropriated $5,250,000 for the rate reserve and did not include any funds for a quality earmark.

Help secure funding for quality early education and care and out-of-school time in the FY16 budget! Call Conference Committee members today and encourage your networks to call in to support the Put MA Kids First’s priorities via these two specific line items.

Conference Committee members include:

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Massachusetts Senate Ways & Means Budget

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has now released its budget, and now is the time for all early education supporters to contact their Senators and urge them to act! The Put MA Kids First has published an article that crystallizes the budget outcomes as they stand – plainly put, we have lost ground. The House budget approved a $5 million increase to the rate reserve, which would help early educators earn equitable wages, but the Senate budget cut that number to $2.5 million. And while the House budget appropriated $4 million for quality improvement measures, the Senate budget has removed that provision, leaving $0 for quality.

This begs the question: what good is access without quality?

BTWIC08-Sonia_Chang-DiazAlthough the Senate budget affords $12 million for access to move (how many) children off the waiting list for vouchers, without associated improvements to quality of care our youngest learners are hardly better off, to say nothing of the early education workforce that supports them. Programs are already stretched to the limits, and centers are closing due to lack of structural support from the state.

Take some time today to contact your Massachusetts Senators and tell them to support Amendments EDU 547 and EDU 601. These amendments would raise the Rate Reserve to $15,200,000 and restore the $4,000,000 in QRIS improvements proposed by the House budget. If you need assistance finding your legislator, click here to be brought to malegislature.gov , where you can search by name or location.

Don’t wait – the children of Massachusetts are counting on you!

 

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CACFP Comment Deadline Extended!

CACFP_RevisedExciting things in the world of the Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) – the deadline to comment on the UDSA’s revised meal pattern proposed rule has been EXTENDED… through May 27! This means you have another month to make your voice heard. If you are having difficulty with the letter format, there are great resources available on http://www.cacfpmealpatterns.com/! From sample letters, to talking points, to fun social media images for sharing, cacfpmealpatterns.com has everything you need to become informed on this important proposed rule.
BTWIC Comment Letter- CACFP Proposed Rule 2015-2

In case that isn’t enough for you, here is a list of blog posts WE have made about CACFP, and don’t forget the great resources on www.btwic.org! For the last three years, we have been examining the topic of early childhood nutrition through our Eating to Learn initiative, and our “About CACFP” page is packed with additional resources (including informational flyers for parents and providers in English and Spanish).

Our CACFP Proposed Rule letter is to the left – you can click on the image to open it as a PDF. We chose to highlight some “wins”(inclusion of more fruits and whole grains in the meals and snacks served as part of this program), as well as mentioning some areas that could be improved (greater technical assistance). Perhaps most importantly, we took the opportunity to urge the USDA to develop measures of accountability for state administrators for CACFP outreach, to help ensure that providers know about the benefits they could obtain through this program.

Please feel free to use our letter as a model, or just sign on via cacfpmealpatterns.com! However you do it, make sure that you have your say. The USDA is required to read and review each and every letter. Your opinion is important, and your voice matters! Add your comments today.

 

 

Push for the House Budget

It is now budget season in Massachusetts, and the House Ways & Means has released their first pass. The Department of Early Education and Care is currently earmarked to receive:

  • $5 million for a Quality Care Rate Reserve for early education providers, to support and attract the highest quality educators,
  • an additional $3 million for the Quality Rating and Improvement System, to support and enhance the quality of care being delivered, and
  • $5 million for new child care vouchers, which would move over 800 children off the waiting list.

These numbers are a good start, but we must work to do more. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, years of “level funding” (funding a department or initiative at the previous year’s level, without adjusting for inflation) has effectively reduced the state’s contribution to the Department of Early Education and Care by 50%, or over $100 million, between 2001 and 2012.

There are two budget amendments that we at BTWIC,  along with our colleagues in the Put MA Kids First coalition, are supporting. The first is Amendment #579, offered by Representative Scibak of South Hadley. This amendment deals with the Early Education and School Age Rate Reserve, increasing the total amount to $15.2M. The second is Amendment #1069, offered by Representative Danielle W. Gregoire of Marlboro, which calls to increase the total allocation to $21M dollars while increasing the QRIS earmark to $4M. Rep. Gregoire has also called for clarifying language regarding a variety of improvement measures in the Quality Rating and Improvement System.

Please take action today – call your legislator and urge them to cosponsor these two amendments on behalf of the children of our Commonwealth and the educators who support them. If you need assistance finding your legislator, visit https://malegislature.gov/People/Search. Speaker DeLeo needs ALL of us to help him Put MA Kids First!