BOSTON – Today, Senator Jason Lewis and the Common Start Coalition announced the filing of new legislation that would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how essential early education and child care is to working families and to our economy. Momentum is building for state action to ensure that all families have access to the child care solutions they need and that all children in our Commonwealth have the same, strong start and enter school on a level playing field.
“More than 150 years ago, with the vision and leadership of Horace Mann, Massachusetts pioneered the revolutionary idea that K-12 education should be a public good, accessible to all children and families,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and co-lead sponsor of the bill. “Now it is time for the Commonwealth to once again lead our nation by establishing that high quality early education and child care should also be a public good. This investment would yield tremendous benefits for child development and working families, and help foster a stronger, more just economy for all.”
The Common Start legislation, filed by State Senators Jason Lewis and Susan Moran and State Representatives Ken Gordon and Adrian Madaro, would establish a universal system that would cover early education and care for children from birth through age 5, as well as after- and out-of-school time for children ages 5-12, and for children with special needs through age 15.
Programs would be available in early education and child care centers, private homes, and schools – the same settings where early education and child care is provided now. The bill provides a framework to increase the scope of public investment in early education and child care with an incremental roll-out over 5 years that prioritizes the lowest-income, highest-need families.
“Community, faith-based, labor, and business advocates joined together with early educators, parents, and providers to form the Common Start Coalition in 2018 because we all know that universal access to affordable, high-quality early education and child care is critical to building a stronger, more equal and just Massachusetts,” said Deb Fastino, Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice and Statewide Director of the Common Start Coalition. “We’ve spent the last two years convening an expansive coalition, researching, organizing, and developing policy options. Now, at a time of unprecedented crisis for families, children, businesses, and our entire economy, we’re moving to the next stage of the campaign, filing landmark legislation that would put Massachusetts on the expressway to affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all. As we recover from the pandemic, making this generational investment in children, families, providers, and early educators will help combat racial and gender inequities, reduce income inequality, and jumpstart our economy; it’s the single best investment we can make in Massachusetts’ future.”
The Common Start legislation would dramatically increase the affordability and quality of early education and child care for all Massachusetts families. The bill’s framework uses a combination of direct-to-provider funding and ongoing family financial assistance to reduce costs to families while compensating providers for the true cost of providing quality care.
- Bedrock Funding: The legislation would create a new direct-to-provider funding allocation based on provider capacity (not attendance) that directly offsets provider’s operating costs, including higher educator pay.
- Family Subsidy: Once fully implemented, families below 50% of statewide median income (50% of SMI today is $62,668 for a family of four, or $42,614 for a single parent with one child) would be able to access early education and child care options for free. Families with incomes above that threshold would pay no more than 7 percent of their total household income.
Public opinion research demonstrates broad support for a universal system of affordable high-quality early education and child care. In a poll of 800 Massachusetts voters conducted in early December by Beacon Research for the Common Start Coalition, 64% of Massachusetts voters favored the coalition’s legislative proposal, while only 23% opposed it. Support for the legislation is widespread, with a majority of all regional, gender, age, education, ethnic/racial, and income groups in the poll supporting the proposal.
While Massachusetts is a nationwide leader on early education and child care and we’ve made important progress in recent years, the current system remains broken and access to quality early education and child care remains out of reach or far too expensive for many families.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how critical early education and child care is for Massachusetts families, for children, for businesses, and for the entire Massachusetts economy. Without safe access to affordable, high-quality early education and child care, parents and other caregivers are either unable to work, or struggle to balance work with caring for their children. And our entire economy suffers as businesses struggle to reopen and recover because the workforce lacks early education and child care options, or because the productivity of their employees is compromised.
Failure to address the child care crisis now will take its toll on the next generation: when denied access to high-quality early education and child care, vulnerable children miss out on the learning environments, structure, and stability that help set them up for education success, optimal earnings, and long-term health and wellbeing. Ensuring that all children have access to high quality early education and care is how we prevent achievement gaps from widening and health disparities from worsening.
“Access to affordable early education and care is foundational to parents’ economic opportunity, to family financial security, and to setting children up to thrive,” said Lauren Kennedy, Co-Founder of Neighborhood Villages. “This is a watershed moment for Massachusetts: making universal affordable child care and early education a reality for all families is how we make good on our collective commitments to improving racial, gender, and economic equality. This is our chance to lead the nation in ensuring that families have the care solutions they deserve and that children have equal access to education.”
The new legislative push for state action on early education and child care is led by the Common Start Coalition, a statewide partnership of organizations, providers, parents, early educators and advocates. The coalition, established in 2018, includes more than 120 organizations across Massachusetts, and is coordinated by a steering committee made up of the Coalition for Social Justice, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), the MA Association of Early Education and Care (MADCA), the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the MA Commission on the Status of Women, Neighborhood Villages, Parenting Journey, Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, SEIU Local 509, and Strategies for Children. The coalition has six regional chapters across the state that include local parents, early educators, providers, and other advocates. More information about the coalition is available at commonstartma.org.