HIGH QUALITY, AFFORDABLE EARLY EDUCATION:
Giving All Our Children a Solid Start & Supporting Working Families
Let's Aim High
High-quality early education and childcare is one of the most impactful, cost-effective investments that we can make in our children and in our Commonwealth. These early investments in our children pay dividends on multiple levels and across generations. Working families deserve our best efforts to support their children getting the start they need toward academic and career success and to support their own workforce participation and economic prosperity. These families and children deserve better access and more affordable options, the most talented teachers and caregivers, the most engaging curriculum, and the most robust family engagement supports we can provide.
The return on investment in early education and childcare is among the most favorable of all public investments. Research shows that the annual rate of return on birth-to-five early education programs, especially for low-income and other disadvantaged children, is as high as 13% - an economic return, in terms of increased tax payments and decreased reliance on public assistance, of $700,000-800,000 compared to an up-front cost of just $16,000-$18,000 per year.
Studies show that the younger we start, the greater the impact; it is important that our efforts include children ages 0-5, not just preschool-aged children. Ninety percent of brain development happens by age 5, the most formative period in a child’s life, yet it is the time when the state does the least to support education and development. Early education has positive effects on educational achievement, high school graduation rates, and lifetime earnings; it is correlated with better health outcomes and decreased incarceration rates. And positive outcomes aren’t just for the children: investing in early education and care has multi-generational benefits, as well. While children are developing the skills and tools they’ll need to be productive members of the future workforce, early childhood programs also allow the parents to re-enter the current workforce and boost their own and their families’ economic prospects.
In 2005, Massachusetts was the first state to establish a department of early education and care. We have a history of leadership in this area, but we have fallen behind and are not doing enough for young children and their families. We need to aim high and make Massachusetts a leader again for the benefit of our children, families, economy and broader community.
When I am Governor, every child age 0-5 will have access to high-quality, affordable childcare and preschool by the end of my first term. We will eliminate waiting lists and expand eligibility for state assistance so that childcare and preschool are truly affordable for every family. We will invest in our teachers, treating them with the dignity and respect they deserve for the important work they do, by investing in salaries and in a comprehensive workforce development system for early education. Massachusetts will have the highest-quality early education and childcare system in the country, and it will be available and affordable for all.
Not Satisfied with the Status Quo
When it comes to early education and childcare, the status quo is just not good enough. Too many young children and working families are being left behind when it comes to accessing high-quality, affordable childcare and preschool programs. And we are not doing nearly enough to attract, build and retain the strong workforce of teachers and caregivers we need to ensure our youngest children get the solid start they need during the most formative period of their lives.
Massachusetts is the most expensive state in the nation for early education and childcare in absolute dollars. Massachusetts falls in the bottom quartile of states for the cost of early education and care as a percentage of household income (33%). The average annual cost of infant care in Massachusetts is just over $17,000 per year, more than in-state tuition at a four-year public university ($10,702) or annual rental housing costs ($14,800). These high costs are exacerbated for families with multiple children: a family with an infant and a four-year old pays nearly $30,000 per year in childcare expenses. The US Department of Health and Human Services defines affordability of early education as not more than 10% of household income - yet a household with two young children and average income in Massachusetts pays more than 34% of income on childcare.
Because childcare in Massachusetts is so cost-prohibitive, tens of thousands of families can’t afford it on their own, and the state is not doing enough to help. There is currently a waiting list of about 14,000 infants, toddlers and preschoolers for state assistance from the Department of Early Education and Care. Even these numbers are misleading, however, given the cost of care described above and the strictness of eligibility requirements. Income eligibility phases out at 85% of state median income - $77,810 for a family of three in FY2017. Too many working families are caught in the middle - paid too much to qualify for subsidies, paid too little to be able to afford care on their own. These families have to make tough choices about jobs and childcare that compromise their own economic prosperity and the educational progress of their children.
Classroom teachers are the key determinant of program quality for early childhood education. We are severely undercompensating front-line early education and care workers in Massachusetts. The state reimbursement rates for childcare providers serving families receiving assistance are well below the federally recommended level of at least 75% of the market rates. This has a direct impact on teacher and caregiver pay. The average childcare worker salary in this state is $25,000 per year, compared to the average kindergarten teacher salary of about $67,000. Fully 39% of childcare workers in Massachusetts are on public assistance. It is no wonder that turnover among childcare workers in Massachusetts is estimated to be as high as 30% per year. Providers are stuck in a constant and vicious cycle of trying to attract and retain a quality workforce with minimal resources, a dynamic made even harder during a time of very low unemployment.
Principles and Proposals
Our challenges are great, but our opportunities are greater. We will pursue an ambitious early education and childcare agenda to make a difference for young children and working families in Massachusetts.
Supporting the Workforce and Improving Quality.
We will invest in supporting the childcare and preschool workforce to strengthen the quality of these programs.
- We will increase the state-subsidized provider reimbursement rates to the levels necessary to attract and retain a strong, well-trained workforce of teachers and childcare providers for our young children. We will also implement a tiered rate structure with higher rates for providers that meet higher program quality benchmarks under the Department of Early Education and Care’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.
- We will build off of the successful Preschool Expansion Grant model to improve the quality of all publicly subsidized preschool programs for 3 and 4 year olds across the state. This will ensure better coordination and alignment between preschool programs and public schools, more streamlined preschool access for families, full-day preschool offerings for working families, and sufficient pay for teachers to attract and retain high-quality educators.
- We will strengthen workforce development incentive programs for early education and care workers to attract, retain and support the high-quality teachers our children need to get a solid start. These programs will be interconnected, beginning with our state’s vocational-technical high schools and continuing through higher education and into workforce development programs.
Improving Access & Affordability.
In parallel with our quality investments, we will also dedicate the resources needed to ensure all children have access to affordable early education and care programs from birth through age 5.
- We will expand families’ eligibility for state support, and the level of that support, to include all families who cannot otherwise afford the cost of childcare and preschool. In doing this, we will work hard to ensure that working families can continue to afford care as their incomes rise, rather than cutting back and creating disincentives to re-enter and progress in the workforce.
- As we expand eligibility and levels of assistance, we will eliminate the waiting list for state assistance for eligible families and there will be no waiting list going forward.
- To help ensure that the progress children experience through these early education and care reforms are not lost when they enter kindergarten, we will expand full day kindergarten statewide and work collaboratively with school districts to adjust the Chapter 70 funding formula to support this expansion.
Engaging and Supporting Families.
Investments in the childcare and preschool workforce, program quality, access and affordability are all necessary to creating the world-class early education and care system that our children and families need and deserve. Yet they are not sufficient on their own. A child cannot thrive unless his or her family is engaged and well-supported, and we will undertake a variety of initiatives that leverage providers’ expertise and family relationships to engage those families in their children’s learning and to better connect with all the support and assistance programs available to them.
We are committed to the success of these efforts. We will ensure we have the appropriate mechanisms in place to measure the success of our enhanced early education and childcare system in getting better outcomes for children and families. We will be rigorous in identifying and scaling best practices and creating a system that is successful for all children and families.
There's no getting around it - the proposals above will require dedicated leadership and significant resources. As your Governor, I will be proud to make those commitments and investments, and I will do everything I can to make sure we are investing in the early education system our children, families and our Commonwealth need and deserve.
1. Heckman, et al., “The Life Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program,” December 2016.
3. Economic Policy Institute, “It’s time for an ambitious national investment in America’s children,” April 2016.
4. The New America Care Report, September 2016.
5. Economic Policy Institute.
6. Economic Policy Institute.
7. Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, 2016 Annual Report.
8. Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, FY2017 Income Eligibility Table.
9. Yoshikawa, et al, Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education, 2013.
10. National Women’s Law Center, Fact Sheet on State Childcare Assistance Policies: Massachusetts, March 2016.
11. The New America Care Report.
12. The New America Care Report.
13. Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, “About Early Ed in Massachusetts,” Updated January 2015.