We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
There was once a time in our country when education was the privilege of the few. Fortunately, we came to understand that education is a public good; we all benefit economically, socially and politically when every child gets a quality education. That’s why we established a free, universal K-12 public school system in our country.
Unfortunately, there exists a big gap in access to early learning. Despite the evidence that preschool is one of the most cost-effective investments we can make to help every student succeed, high-quality early education remains out of reach for tens of thousands of Massachusetts families.
But this week, the Massachusetts Legislature took a step that narrows that gap.
The budget agreement passed on Monday creates approximately 1,800 new, income-eligible preschool slots, an investment of $15 million. It also spends $6.57 million on early educator salaries and benefits, as well as a new $1 million pre-k classroom grant program. In addition, programs key to the quality of state early education were given level funding, including Universal Pre-K grants, Full-Day Kindergarten, and the Early Childhood Educator Scholarship.
This budget marks our state’s largest public investment in early education since 2008. It is a significant step forward for our kids, as it helps get thousands of children off waiting lists and into quality programs. Although it does not do enough to eliminate the waitlist and increase need-based access to preschool, this budget agreement takes a serious step to restoring the millions cut from education since the recession. By giving more kids the strong start they deserve, it helps move us closer to a Massachusetts in which every child has access to high-quality early education.
Study after study indicates that this down payment on our future is a smart investment for Massachusetts. Research shows that quality early education programs boost achievement outcomes for kids, in the short term and also over the long run. For example, children who have access to quality preschool are more likely to graduate from high school, to be employed at age 40, and to earn higher wages. Not only does such an outcome save our state money, but also workers who make more money pay more in taxes — revenue that in turn can build a stronger Massachusetts, including stronger schools. When all children get a strong start to their education, we all reap the benefits.
We should applaud state leaders for making this investment in our kids. It’s not a perfect budget, but it is a step in the right direction and a step forward for our kids. It is our hope that Massachusetts’ leaders will make good on this initial down payment, and build the kind of universal, high-quality early education system our children deserve.