Coalition of Community, Faith-based, Labor, Business, and Early Education and Child Care Organizations, Educators, and Parents Launches Legislative Push for New Investment Framework
BOSTON – The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how essential early education and child care is to Massachusetts’s families and to our economy. Momentum is building for state action to ensure that all families have the care solutions they need and that all children in our Commonwealth have the same, strong start and enter school on a level playing field. Today, the Common Start Coalition announced the filing of legislation that would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline.
“Community, faith-based, labor, and business advocates joined together with early educators, parents, and providers to form the Common Start Coalition in 2018 because we all know that universal access to affordable, high-quality early education and child care is critical to building a stronger, more equal and just Massachusetts,” said Deb Fastino, Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice and Statewide Director of the Common Start Coalition. “We’ve spent the last two years convening an expansive coalition, researching, organizing, and developing policy options.”
“Now, at a time of unprecedented crisis for families, children, businesses, and our entire economy, we’re moving to the next stage of the campaign, filing landmark legislation that would put Massachusetts on the expressway to affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all,” she continued. “As we recover from the pandemic, making this generational investment in children, families, providers, and early educators will help combat racial and gender inequities, reduce income inequality, and jumpstart our economy; it’s the single best investment we can make in Massachusetts’ future.”
“Parenting is hard enough as it is without having to fight to access affordable child care. As a parent, I need to know my child will be taken care of when I can’t be there, and this legislation would help me and many others access high-quality early childhood education,” said Monica Infante, a Board Member and Parent Advisory Council Co-Chair at Parenting Journey. “Equitable access to child care in the Commonwealth would enable parents to go to their jobs, look for jobs if they are unemployed, make it to appointments, and more — the list goes on and on. This legislation would give parents peace of mind as they are already struggling to ‘do it all’ and this pandemic has magnified the need for good public services tenfold.”
“The last year has been really tough for child care providers, and many have closed their doors. But even before the pandemic, the underfunding of early education and child care meant instability for providers and families,” said Celina Reyes, a family child care provider in Lawrence and member of SEIU Local 509. “I support this bill because the bedrock funding it contains will allow me to sustain my child care program, and assist more families in getting access to high-quality care.”
“We are thrilled to support this legislation, which builds upon the investments of the Massachusetts State Legislature and will lead to universal, affordable early education and child care taught by equitably paid teachers,” said Justin Pasquariello, Executive Director of the East Boston Social Centers and a member of the board of the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care (MADCA). “Despite legislative investments, too many providers simply cannot afford to stay open or expand capacity to meet the need, with current reimbursement rates. Parents desperately need early education and care for their children so they can work, but far too many working parents cannot afford high-quality, licensed care. And while the state has made progress, low wages have made it increasingly difficult for centers and family child care providers to hire and retain staff. The COVID-19 pandemic led to even more providers closing, parents exiting the workforce, and children falling behind. In this moment of well-recognized crisis, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take decisive action and build the more comprehensive system we need. This legislation does just that.”
The Common Start legislation, filed by State Representatives Ken Gordon and Adrian Madaro and State Senators Jason Lewis and Susan Moran, would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline. This universal system would cover early education and care for children from birth through age 5, as well as after- and out-of-school time for children ages 5-12, and for children with special needs through age 15. The new system would also ensure that a child who ages out during the school year can remain in care through the end of that school year.
Programs would be available in early education and child care centers, private homes, and schools – the same settings where early education and child care is provided now. The bill provides a framework to increase the scope of public investment in early education and child care with an incremental roll-out over 5 years that prioritizes the lowest-income, highest-need families.
“This legislation will enable all Massachusetts families to find safe and secure child care and early education,” said Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford), co-lead sponsor of the bill. “It will help parents return to work and provide for their families. It will give the children the head start they need with their schooling. It will help our economy as businesses can access the full workforce. And it will provide our early educators with a living wage. This is a winning policy from many points of view.”
“More than 150 years ago, with the vision and leadership of Horace Mann, Massachusetts pioneered the revolutionary idea that K-12 education should be a public good, accessible to all children and families,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), co-lead sponsor of the bill. “Now it is time for the Commonwealth to once again lead our nation by establishing that high quality early education and child care should also be a public good. This investment would yield tremendous benefits for child development and working families, and help foster a stronger, more just economy for all.”
“Child care has been inaccessible and unaffordable for many families in Massachusetts for far too long,” said Representative Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston), co-lead sponsor of the bill. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the necessity of child care for working families and the large gap that exists between need and availability. As a soon-to-be father myself, I recognize how important it is for parents of all socioeconomic backgrounds to be able to access quality care without breaking the bank. That’s why I’m proud to be partnering with the Common Start Coalition and my colleagues in the legislature to establish universal child care across the Commonwealth. This bill supports child care providers with the funding and resources they need, while also ensuring that every family in Massachusetts can access essential childcare services.”
“Building opportunities for tomorrow starts by cultivating opportunity today, which is why I am so proud to be a leading sponsor of this bill, in partnership with the Common Start Coalition,” said Senator Susan L. Moran (D-Falmouth), co-lead sponsor of the bill. “Providing excellent child care and early education options to my constituents has always been one of my top priorities as a legislator, and this bill will make child care affordable and accessible for every family that needs it. Through the child care provisions in this bill, parents in my district will be able to get back into the workforce, our children will get a jumpstart in their education to prepare them for better performance in school and in their careers, and by creating these opportunities we will see increased economic growth and innovation for years to come.”
The Common Start legislation would dramatically increase the affordability and quality of early education and child care for all Massachusetts families. The bill’s framework uses a combination of direct-to-provider funding and ongoing family financial assistance to reduce costs to families while compensating providers for the true cost of providing quality care.
- Bedrock Funding: The legislation would create a new direct-to-provider funding allocation based on provider capacity (not attendance) that directly offsets provider’s operating costs, including higher educator pay.
- Family Subsidy: Once fully implemented, families below 50% of statewide median income (50% of SMI today is $62,668 for a family of four, or $42,614 for a single parent with one child) would be able to access early education and child care options for free. Families with incomes above that threshold would pay no more than 7 percent of their total household income.
“Low-income families face significant barriers to accessing early education and child care and, even when they have subsidies, the parent fees are often unaffordable,” said Naomi Meyer, Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. “This legislation takes substantial steps to make care affordable and accessible for all children, starting with those in the greatest need.”
“Access to affordable early education and care is foundational to parents’ economic opportunity, to family financial security, and to setting children up to thrive,” said Lauren Kennedy, Co-Founder of Neighborhood Villages. “This is a watershed moment for Massachusetts: making universal affordable child care and early education a reality for all families is how we make good on our collective commitments to improving racial, gender, and economic equality. This is our chance to lead the nation in ensuring that families have the care solutions they deserve and that children have equal access to education.”
Public opinion research demonstrates broad support for a universal system of affordable high-quality early education and child care. In a poll of 800 Massachusetts voters conducted in early December by Beacon Research for the Common Start Coalition, 64% of Massachusetts voters favored the coalition’s legislative proposal, while only 23% opposed it. Support for the legislation is widespread, with a majority of all regional, gender, age, education, ethnic/racial, and income groups in the poll supporting the proposal.
“This legislation will provide early education and care programs the stability and necessary supports to create the high-quality early experiences for our children that impact their lifelong outcomes in learning, behavior and both physical and mental well-being,” said Amy O’Leary, Early Education for All Campaign Director, Strategies for Children. “Massachusetts has built a strong foundation and now is the time to deliver on the promise to young children, families and educators.”
“The Boston Women Leaders Network has long been concerned with advancing the interests of women in business, in the workplace more broadly and in areas that directly impact the ability for women to succeed in both their work and at home. Early education and child care is clearly one of those areas. But it truly became a front-burner issue for us when the pandemic hit and women’s roles at work and at home were stressed to such an extent that we are now seeing women leave the workforce at unprecedented numbers, essentially erasing gains that it has taken us decades to achieve,” said Mary Jo Meisner, a longtime business and foundation leader in the city and a member of the Boston Women Leaders Network, a diverse group made up of senior female business and nonprofit leaders in Boston. “That’s why we are supporters of the Common Start Coalition and this legislation to create a universal, affordable and racially equitable child care system in the Commonwealth. The current system is broken and without finally acknowledging that early education and care is a common good and one that business needs to support, we won’t be able to successfully reopen our economy and get women back to work where they belong.”
While Massachusetts is a nationwide leader on early education and child care and we’ve made important progress in recent years, the current system remains broken and access to quality early education and child care remains out of reach for too many families.
“Reproductive freedom is not only the ability to decide if, when, and how to have a family, it is also about ensuring that, when you decide to become a parent, you can raise a family in a safe, healthy environment without breaking the bank to afford child care,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “But for far too many families, the price of early childhood care in Massachusetts makes it completely inaccessible. No parent should have to take on multiple jobs or go into debt to afford child care, and no child should be denied the high-quality early childhood care they need to live a happy and healthy life. That’s why we support the Common Start legislation.”
“We have a moral imperative to give every child the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, but it’s also about economics: this type of investment in young children and their families has a substantial return on investment,” said John Lippitt, Ph.D., a retired professor of early childhood policy and programming and a Leadership Team Member of Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts. “Parents can contribute more to the economy and children will be more productive members of the workforce in adulthood. Children’s performance in school will be improved and they will get more education. They will be healthier, physically and mentally, over their lifetimes, saving them and our society significant costs. And they will experience greater success and happiness in their lives and contribute more to society as better citizens, workers, and parents. The Common Start proposal calls for the high quality – from professional personnel with low turnover to well-designed and equipped settings – that is essential to realizing the benefits of early education and child care for all our Commonwealth’s children and their families.”
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how critical early education and child care is for Massachusetts families, for children, for businesses, and for the entire Massachusetts economy. Without safe access to affordable, high-quality early education and child care, parents and other caregivers are either unable to work, or struggle to balance work with caring for their children. And our entire economy suffers as businesses struggle to reopen and recover because the workforce lacks early education and child care options, or because the productivity of their employees is compromised.
Failure to address the child care crisis now will take its toll on the next generation: when denied access to high-quality early education and child care, vulnerable children miss out on the learning environments, structure, and stability that help set them up for education success, optimal earnings, and long-term health and wellbeing. Ensuring that all children have access to high quality early education and care is how we prevent achievement gaps from widening and health disparities from worsening.
“Our clients must have affordable, reliable, accessible, and high-quality childcare in order to participate in the labor market and move toward economic success,” said Jerry Rubin, President and CEO of JVS Boston. “We know that four times as many women as men have left their jobs during the COVID Recession. Childcare is vitally important to our economic recovery.”
“Jumpstart is excited to support this new vision for affordable high-quality early education for all Massachusetts families. If adopted and funded by the Legislature, this bill will stabilize and strengthen early childhood providers, expand access to families based on financial need, and deliver transformative educational programming to young learners,” said Jumpstart CEO Naila Bolus. “As an organization which trains thousands of potential future educators every year, Jumpstart especially applauds the bill’s requirement to finally compensate early educators as the crucial professionals they are. We thank the bill sponsors for their leadership and urge the Legislature to support Massachusetts families and the vital early education sector.”
“The Common Start Coalition is exactly what our Early Childhood & Education Teaching Program students at Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech need to know exists and why our communities are willing to act and advocate for this to be the foundation for systemic change in all facets of society,” said Yasmin Flefleh-Vincent, Director of the Early Childhood Education Program at Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech. “Free, high-quality, accessible child care drives the economy and brain structure. Build better babies now, the return on investment is worthy!”
The new legislative push for state action on early education and child care is led by the Common Start Coalition, a statewide partnership of organizations, providers, parents, early educators and advocates. The coalition, established in 2018, includes more than 120 organizations across Massachusetts, and is coordinated by a steering committee made up of the Coalition for Social Justice, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), the MA Association of Early Education and Care (MADCA), the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the MA Commission on the Status of Women, Neighborhood Villages, Parenting Journey, Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, SEIU Local 509, and Strategies for Children. The coalition has six regional chapters across the state that include local parents, early educators, providers, and other advocates.
“As the owner/operator of a childcare center from 1975 to 2006, and working as a coach, consultant and trainer for early educators since then, I’ve continuously advocated for the industry at every opportunity. Now, I recognize we need to speak with one voice to rescue this industry,” said Cecile Tousignant of Child Tools Consulting in Fitchburg. “The Common Start Coalition has the voice we advocates need to heed. The Coalition has developed the vision and an effective plan to rescue early education and care, a most needed industry for serving young children to support a healthy economy.”
“The guiding texts of our faith remind us that teaching and caring for our children are among our most important moral obligations. We are told that this is both a family and community responsibility,” said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action. “If the Massachusetts Legislature fails to address the child care crisis now, the personal and economic toll will be felt for generations to come. Who are we as a society if we cannot care for the most vulnerable children among us?”
The Common Start Coalition is a statewide partnership of organizations, providers, parents, early educators and advocates working together to make high-quality early education and child care affordable and accessible to all Massachusetts families. Our goal is to ensure that all families have the care solutions they need and that all children in our Commonwealth have the same, strong start and enter school on a level playing field. We are a diverse coalition including community, faith-based, labor, business, and early education and child care organizations, as well as early educators, parents, individuals, and direct service organizations. More information about the coalition is available at commonstartma.org.