BOSTON – More than 250 parents, kids, educators, early education and childcare providers and other advocates with the statewide Common Start Coalition braved the rain on Saturday to rally on the Boston Common, calling on the state Legislature for affordable high-quality childcare and early education.
“My family’s been working hard and struggling trying to get day care for this young man,” said Efrain Vazquez, a Holyoke parent who spoke at the rally while holding his son. “We’re on the waiting list, and we’ve been on the waiting list for a long time. I’m really frustrated because we’ve got to work harder to make ends meet.”
Weeks after a state legislative commission recommended significant reforms and $1.5 billion in additional funding to make the Commonwealth’s early education and childcare system more affordable and accessible, families and advocates from across the state urged the Legislature to act before the end of the current legislative session in July.
“The Common Start Coalition has been working hard for years to make high-quality early education and childcare affordable and accessible to all Massachusetts families, compensate early educators for the value of their work, and ensure that providers receive the true cost of quality care, ” said Deb Fastino, Statewide Director of the Common Start Coalition and Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice. “This spring, Massachusetts has the opportunity to make a major down payment on this vision. We look forward to working with legislators in this year’s budget to start making high-quality, affordable early education and care accessible to each and every family in the state.”
Saturday’s outdoor playdate rally at the Parkman Bandstand featured kid-friendly activities including henna art, airbrush tattoos, music, coloring books/crayons, bubbles, lawn games, prizes and more, and Spanish-language interpretation services were provided. Despite rain falling before and after the event, participants came to the rally from all across the state, with buses carrying participants from Dorchester, Revere, Chelsea, Barnstable, Bourne, Andover, Peabody, New Bedford, Fall River, Brockton, Springfield, and Worcester.
“As workers and caretakers of our own loved ones, childcare providers know how critical it is for our working families to have access to quality care,” said Celina Reyes, a family child care provider with SEIU 509 in Lowell, who spoke in Spanish. “We have seen first-hand the impacts of the current child care system: parents are struggling with the high cost of care, and those with non-traditional schedules often struggle to find care for their children, which can limit access to job opportunities and limit economic advancement. For providers, our wages are not enough to cover an increasingly higher cost of living. With more funding, we can build out programs that support the needs of all children. If we continue to gather as educators, families, and community partners to fight for what our communities deserve, we can change the landscape of child care in Massachusetts.”
The rally was organized by the Common Start Coalition which is made up of over 135 organizations. At the rally, speakers addressed the need for the groundbreaking Common Start legislation, which would establish a comprehensive system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by 98 State Representatives and 30 State Senators, would dramatically increase the affordability and quality of early education and child care for all Massachusetts families while compensating providers for the true cost of providing quality care, including higher educator pay .
“I’m a single mother, and to me, being a single parent means working constantly, non-stop so I can provide a better future for my son,” said Corissa Shular, a Springfield parent. “Recently, my shift changed to second shift, 4:00 to midnight, and most employers require that we work a flexible schedule Having reasonable accommodations for childcare will allow me to provide for my family. It’s time we stand together so we can provide the care our children need.”
Over the last few months, hundreds of parents, educators, and other advocates called for action on the Common Start legislation at outdoor ‘playdate rallies’ hosted in local parks and city squares across the state, dozens of advocates tested in support of the bill at a legislative hearing, and the coalition held seven roundtables to discuss the myriad benefits of the legislation, from public health and racial equity to improved educational outcomes and opportunities for women in the workplace.
“By most accounts Ellis is what good [childcare] looks like. We’re high-quality, diverse, and we’re well-loved,” said Lauren Broadhurst Cook, CEO of Ellis Early Education in Boston. “But the truth is, we’re losing our teachers in droves and we’re failing to attract good talent, because we can’t afford to pay people, and our parents can’t afford to pay more. Providers like Ellis are operating on a razor-thin margin. But there is hope. Common Start is the transformational legislation we need that will uplift everyone.”
In March, the state’s Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission released a report analyzing the way the state funds early education and care. The report included recommendations that, if fully implemented, will begin to address some of the issues most important to the Common Start Coalition and its members. Key priorities that were addressed include increasing affordability and accessibility through the child care subsidy system; supporting high quality early education and care through additional stabilization funding opportunities; and prioritizing workforce supports to give all providers in the mixed-delivery system the ability to attract and retain skilled workers.
“The people who are working with your children are there because we love those children, and we love the work we do, but we are struggling,” said Trish Nadeau, a Head Start early educator at PACE in New Bedford. “If we’re struggling to pay bills, we’re going to leave for a job that can pay them. The Common Start bill will really help a lot of the struggles that we are facing.”
Organizers say that the Common Start legislation, H.605 (filed by Representatives Gordon & Madaro) & S.362 (filed by Senators Lewis & Moran), would establish a system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline. This system 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. The new system would also ensure that a child who ages out during the school year can remain in care through the end of that school year.
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. For more on this legislation, visit commonstartma.org/bill.