We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
Massachusetts lawmakers are currently meeting to finalize the budget, negotiating the difference between the House and Senate budgets. Here’s what’s at stake for each education.
Massachusetts has fallen behind in an area we should be leading in — early education. Every child deserves a high-quality early education. That’s why states like Oklahoma have started offering free preschool, but in Massachusetts, funding for these programs has been cut because investments in early education have not kept up with inflation.
The budgets proposed in the Massachusetts House and Senate for the 2018 fiscal year thankfully address this decline in spending for early education programs. However, the two versions of the budget differ in the ways they wish to distribute the funds.
The House budget earmarked $20 million for investment in a rate reserve for early educators (3000-1042), while the Senate designated only $10 million for this purpose. One of the main problems facing the future of early education is the low salaries and limited benefits of educators in this field. This has caused many to leave the industry and does not work to attract the most qualified candidates to the profession, negatively impacting our children.
The Senate included a $15.1 million investment in the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (3000-6025) that the House did not incorporate into its’ budget proposal. This investment is meant to expand access to high-quality preschools for three and four year olds statewide, giving more children the chance to start kindergarten on a level playing field.
Access to early education for all children is crucial for students’ long term academic success that can ultimately help to breach the achievement gap. Therefore, while reducing funding to these programs may have seemed fiscally beneficial in the short-term, significant long-term benefits to increased spending in early education had been overlooked for the last fifteen years.
As the budgets are finalized, before being sent to Gov. Charlie Baker for approval, it is our hope that the conference committee will recognize the importance of combining the best elements of both budgets for the 2018 fiscal year. We must stabilize the early education workforce so that our children can learn from qualified professionals — and that means addressing their compensation.
All children ages three to four in Massachusetts deserve access to high-quality preschools to give them the same strong start. Combining the House budget’s $20 million investment into a rate reserve and the Senate’s $15.1 million investment into the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative is the best way to achieve this.
By Natalie Oakes