Commission urges $1.5 billion investment in early education
Concluding that the early education and care system in Massachusetts does not meet the needs of many children, families and employers, a legislative commission on Monday put forward a series recommended improvements that it said would require "upwards of $1.5 billion annually over time" to fully implement. Created in last year's state budget, the commission was led by Education Committee chairs Rep. Alice Peisch and Sen. Jason Lewis. Top Senate and House officials have indicated plans to use the commission's report as a framework for some sort of action around child care, and Peisch and Lewis said their committee will work with House and Senate leadership to craft legislation implementing the recommendations. "Although the Commission did not address or identify new revenue sources, substantial additional resources will be necessary and will likely require a combination of increased federal funding -- since the federal government currently provides more than 60% of the public funding to the early education and care sector in Massachusetts -- as well as increased state funding and/or consideration of other alternative measures, such as requiring businesses of a certain size to provide an employee benefit for early education and care similar to current healthcare requirements," the release said. Recommendations in the 48-page report include boosting access for families by increasing their subsidy reimbursement rates and raising the income eligibility threshold for subsidies; providing stability for programs by making permanent a pandemic-era policy reimbursing programs serving subsidized children based on enrollment rather than attendance; and using grants and rate increases to raise workforce compensation. The report lands about two years after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the early education sector -- forcing early program closures and then adoption of new health protocols -- and prompted a renewed focus on availability and cost of care for working families. It also arrives at a time of transition for the Department of Early Education and Care after the departure last week of Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy. The scope of the commission's review included out-of-school time care for kids aged 5 to 13 as well as care for infants and young children, which in Massachusetts is delivered in a variety of settings including home-based programs, child care centers, nonprofit organizations and public schools.
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