The Boston Globe

Mass. may finally be getting serious about early education

Is Massachusetts getting serious about early education?

Imagine my surprise coming back from a meeting Wednesday with gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez on his early education platform to find in my in-box that Governor Charlie Baker also cares about expanding preschool access.

Miraculously, Baker found $28 million in a tight state budget to propose the biggest boost in a decade to help child-care centers that serve low-income families. Last summer, he vetoed part of a similar measure.

Then there’s House Speaker Bob DeLeo, who has been rallying business leaders to get behind improving the quality of early education by smartly making it a future workforce issue. Studies have shown that kids in preschool programs have a higher chance of graduating from high school, obtaining a college degree, and getting a job.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg is also all over the topic. A year ago, he launched an ambitious “Kids First” initiative, with the initial phase focused on policy issues related to early childhood development.

This is progress — but we still have a long way to go.

Access to early education programs is not just a workforce issue but one that can help working families who find themselves teetering on the financial edge just so they can educate their young kids. The average cost for full-day care is about $17,000 annually for an infant and nearly $13,000 for a 4-year-old.

For many families, the child-care bill is a second mortgage.

By and large, it is a fend-for-yourself system. Only 13 percent of children who are 3 to 5 years old receive state or federal grants for preschool in Massachusetts. The waiting list to receive such subsidies: more than 14,700 names.

That’s where Gonzalez comes in. Early education is such a priority that it will be the Democrat’s first policy initiative as a candidate.

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