We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
The Senate passed the FY2016 $38.1 billion budget unanimously (40-0) in the early morning hours of Friday, May 22. Lawmakers assert that the spending plan makes critical investments in education, local aid, economic development, and services for underserved populations.
We are especially pleased to see additional funding allocated to quality investments for early education providers. The Senate originally proposed an investment of $2.5 million, an inadequate support for early educators who are the pillar of high quality early learning experiences that impact children’s lasting academic, emotional, and economic success. Fortunately, our call to action to make quality, in addition to access, a high priority was reflected by the Senate’s approval for greater investments than originally proposed.
The Rate Reserve for Early Educators was increased to $5.25 million. A reserve for The Department of Early Education and Care will be distributed to increase reimbursement rates for center-based subsidized early education and care for salaries, benefits, and stipends for professional development opportunities for early educators and programmatic quality improvements. The current state of reimbursement rates paid to early education and care providers in Massachusetts is well below market rates and federal government recommendations. This investment is a step in the right direction. Not only does it recognize the importance of sustaining a skilled and consistent early educator workforce, it works towards providing our children with the high quality education and care that they deserve. But there is still substantial work to do.
Funding for Massachusetts Universal Pre-K remained the same at $7.4 million. An amendment was adopted to establish a new “Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative” that allocates $500,000 to help communities expand preschool access for 3-year-olds. If Massachusetts wants to continue to be recognized as the leader on all educational fronts, we must commit our time and energy to expand access to high-quality early education, from infant programs to preschool, or else the opportunity and achievement gap will continue to widen.
The budget now proceeds to a six-member legislative conference committee to resolve differences with the House’s version. A compromised budget will be passed to Governor Baker.
By Samantha Alper