On June 3, 2022, the Boston Foundation wrapped up the 'When the Bough Breaks' series of Early Childhood Coffee and Conversation webinars, with an exploration of where early education policy stands at the local, state and federal levels, and the ways that advocates can weigh in for a better future for the system. Danubia Camargos Silva, Program Officer for Early Childhood at the Boston Foundation, moderated the discussion.
Three panelists, Strategies for Children Executive Director Amy O'Leary, Justin Pasquariello, Executive Director of East Boston Social Centers and Ashley White, a Senior Policy Researcher at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, shared their insights on the budget and policy landscape for early education at the local, state and federal levels, and how child care workers, parents and advocates could weigh in to strengthen and stabilize this critical sector.
Speaking first, Ashley White the bigger picture state of early education policy on Beacon Hill, with particular attention to the early education bill before the Legislature and the pending opportunity for the state to receive as much as $150 million per year as part of a proposed child care block grant package. White noted that investments in child care had increased in the aftermath of the devastation to the sector caused by the pandemic, but while the budget for FY2023 would make investments to stabilize the system in the short term, the longer-term picture for early education was less clear, pending greatly on the kind of legislation that passes through the Massachusetts House and Senate at the end of this session.
For O'Leary, that long-term sustainability issue is key, after two years of disruption and incredible dedication shown by childcare workers and operators. The pandemic has served to underscore the need for commitment to solving problems and building partnerships, and media attention to the sector is at an all-time high, she noted. That leads to an opportunity to shape the system to more closely mirror K-12 education, as a public good for children and families alike. O'Leary also highlighted the opportunity presented by the 2022 election, with virtually all of the state's top offices up for election, as a men's for engaged with elected officials and candidates to advocate for expanded support for early education.
For his part, Pasquariello looked at the current situation from a practitioner perspective, highlighting the administrative hurdles for center operators and parents to access subsidies and provide quality care. He proposed an alternative system built on a foundation of trust for families and children, that would allow for the building of partnerships, streamlining of funding resources and greater ability to adjust to meet the equity needs of all students.
The event ended with calls to action - to advocate for the greatest possible resources in the upcoming budget, calls to support more sustainable funding streams, and continued efforts to connect directly with state and local lawmakers to keep the issue front and center in the coming months before the elections.
The full series of 2022 Coffee and Conversations is available for viewing on the Early Childhood Coffee and Conversations page of tbf.org.
Panel Discussion and Audience Q&A
Danubia Camargos Silva, Early Childhood Program Officer, The Boston Foundation (Moderator)
Amy O’Leary, Executive Director, Strategies for Children
Justin Pasquariello, Executive Director, East Boston Social Centers
Ashley White, Senior Policy Researcher, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation