We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
As state leaders get ready to address the budget again, more and more voices are calling for meaningful investments in early education. Even as Massachusetts leads the nation on many education initiatives, when it comes to early education, we are falling behind.
The state’s Department of Early Education and Care allocated half a million dollars to Pittsfield, North Adams, and thirteen other towns to start building their school system programs.
These grants get communities started, but state support is needed to make sure every student gets the chance to receive a high-quality early education.
In an article in the Berkshire Eagle about these targeted expansions, the Community impact program manager for Berkshire United Way, Karen Vogel, said, “Without state support, our chance of supporting [the free preschool plan] is nil, but we hope the money’s coming down the pike at some point.”
In the town of Pittsfield many children are not getting the appropriate early education, and are at risk of falling behind compared to their peers. Vogel goes on to state that funding is the biggest barrier to getting children enrolled in preschool.
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe wrote an article on dwindling funds for early education, looking deeper into Milton schools to highlight how state funding has fallen short. The report found that the way early education is funded in the state is “haphazardly and unevenly, forcing families, schools, and preschool centers to play catch-as-catch-can for early learning opportunities that researchers increasingly consider invaluable in closing the achievement gap.”
Massachusetts took a critical step forward on early childhood education in 2005 by creating a state agency to take control of it, but over 10 years later, underfunding in the state undermines progress. Right now, Massachusetts has only enough grant money to give small amounts to already existing preschools.
“Roughly two thirds of the department’s budget is actually federal money passed though to provide child care to those who cannot afford it. But that funding doesn’t come close to meeting demand, and thousands linger on a wait list,” said Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, quoted in the same Globe article.
“Preschool is the new kindergarten,” Glenn Pavlicek, Milton’s assistant superintendent for business affairs, added, “The value of preschool is undeniable for kids. I think everyone deserves it.”
Massachusetts should be leading on education. Since 2001, state funding for community-based early education and care and out-of-school time has not kept pace with inflation, resulting in a reduction of more than $100 million – a 50% decrease in the state’s commitment to its youngest scholars. The state needs to take action. We can, and we should do better. No child should start kindergarten already behind.
Learn more about our coalition effort with the Put MA Kids First campaign.
Post by Michaela Gillis