Strengthening the Foundation: A Profile of Early Childhood Educators in Boston and Beyond

The 2024 State of Early Education and Care Report

February 27, 2024

Nearly 150 early education and care professionals and others committed to building a strong and equitable early education sector gathered, in person and online, on February 27 for the release of Strengthening the Foundation, A Review of the State of Early Education and Care, a major report that details the tremendous challenges faced by the sector. 

The report, based on a survey of more than 650 respondents and published by the Boston Opportunity Agenda in partnership with the Birth to Eight Collaborative and the City of Boston’s Office of Early Childhood, shows a system in crisis.

Opening the forum, Ayesha Cammaerts, Executive Director of the Boston Opportunity Agenda, thanked those educators and workers gathered for their unwavering dedication, in the face of urgent needs uncovered by the survey. “This report tells the story of the challenges you are facing. We can and must elevate the early education sector. Now is the time.”

Cammaerts introduced two of the report’s primary authors, Boston Opportunity Agenda Assistant Director, Programs and Policy Pratima A. Patil, and Paula Gaviria Vilarreal, Child Care Analytics and Program Director of Boston’s Office of Early Childhood. They walked the audience through the report’s key findings, including the fact that more than half of the respondents were over the age of 45, suggesting the need for a move to attract and retain younger talent. Low wages and high turnover were also noted. 

Click here to watch a recording from the event

Click to view the presentation from this event
Not surprisingly, 98 percent of respondents are female, and the majority are working for poverty-level wages. The researchers also noted significant differences between smaller Family Child Care programs (FCCs) and larger center-based programs, in areas like wages and access to health and other benefits.

Following the presentation, Rahn Dorsey, Chief Impact Officer with Eastern Bank and a longtime early education advocate, led a lively panel discussion. “We need exponential change in the sector to meet a justice imperative,” he said, adding that the work should be valued for how important it is. 

That importance was echoed by panelist Amy Kershaw, Commissioner of the Department of Early Education & Care for the Commonwealth, who began on a personal note. “As a parent, I have used every kind of child care there is, and I could not have pursued a career without it. I wouldn’t be sitting here without it. Clearly, our economic competitiveness depends on it.” She also expressed hope for the entire sector and remarked that she is seeing signs of change. 

Danielle Grant, a recent graduate and Early Childhood Fellow of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, UMass Boston, also spoke from her personal experience, saying that she was born in Jamaica, and when she saw little children sitting in the dirt unsupervised there, she held her own classes under a banana tree when she was just a teenager. She added, “Compensation is a big deal. We have to have more than passion; we need to be acknowledged and valued. I’m not a babysitter. I’m an educator.”

The Commissioner agreed, saying that workers must have more than respect and dignity. They should be valued and compensated. She added that she does see wages going up, but slowly. 
Paola Tineo, Adjunct Professor at the Urban College of Boston, also expressed hope. “I’m seeing my community empowering ourselves,” she explained. “And that makes me excited and hopeful.”

Arlene Ramos, Director of the Early Education Program at Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA), made the point that early educators and care workers need “wraparound supports” to remain in the field and that “experience should align with compensation.”

During an animated question and answer period following the formal part of the event, some of the topics touched on were the importance of attracting more men to the field and the urgent need to serve the children of immigrants.


Ayesha Cammaerts, Executive Director, Boston Opportunity Agenda

Presentation of Findings and Recommendations
Pratima Patil, Assistant Director of Programs and Policy, Boston Opportunity Agenda
Paula Gaviria Vilarreal, Child Care Analytics and Program Director - Office of Early Childhood, City of Boston

Panel Discussion
Turahn Dorsey, Chief Impact Officer, Eastern Bank Foundation (Moderator)
Danielle Grant, Educator and Graduate, UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Educator Leadership and Innovation
Amy Kershaw, Commissioner, MA Department of Early Education and Care 
Arlene Ramos, Early Education Program Director, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción
Paola Tineo, Adjunct Professor, Urban College of Boston

Closing Remarks
Kim Lucas, Professor of Practice in Public Policy and Economic Justice, Northeastern University