Seventh Year of Budget Increases for Early Education and Care in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ fiscal year 2020 budget represents the seventh straight year of increases for early education and care, and the second year of surpassing pre-recession spending levels. We join fellow advocates in thanking Governor Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka for their support. 

This year's budget was bolstered by increased tax collections, reports State House News Service. There have been no new revenues or taxes in Massachusetts, despite growing demand for new revenue to address transportation, education, and other policy priorities. Regardless of tax proposals, the current economic health of Massachusetts continues to be our strongest ally in helping advance public investments early education and care. Historic federal increases for child care also help tremendously.   

The FY20 state budget includes a $20-million rate increase for early educator salaries, $5 million in preschool grants through the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative, and $5 million in workforce development grants to community colleges. This is the sixth consecutive year of workforce investments, though we still have a lot of ground to cover to reach pay equity between early educators in community-based settings and their peers working in public schools. 

Sadly, the budget did not include our primary ask of $25 million for preschool expansion. This amount would have replaced expiring federal Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) funds ($15 million), sustained current state-funded preschool expansion grantees ($5 million), and expanded preschool in new communities ($5 million). Now, as federal funds expire, most of the 48 PEG classrooms in five cities will close. New classrooms will open using the $5 million in state funds and informed by lessons learned during PEG implementation. But this will not occur in time to fully replace PEG. We hope this “preschool funding lag” is temporary, and that the state line item for preschool expansion will continue to grow in years ahead. The need is still great – 19 communities, representing 29% of all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state, have plans to expand preschool and most are waiting for a state grant to begin implementation. These communities could enroll 10,000 children if the funding was available.

State House Advocacy Day on March 13 united all advocacy partners and brought 250 early educators to the State House to rally and engage legislators. The high turnout helped bolster early education as a priority issue this budget season. As did a unique event held in December 2018 at the State House, “Looking Back to Look Forward.” Strategies for Children hosted this gathering to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of our landmark legislation, An Act Relative to Early Education and Care. Speakers included the bill’s co-sponsor, Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Haddad, and several legislative champions from the House and Senate, including Speaker DeLeo. Early education program directors, advocates, and state agency administrators also shared insights at the event.

The progress we continue to see in Massachusetts is the result of decades of work by many different coalitions and hundreds of people. But we still have work to do. Strategies for Children remains focused on its mission: to ensure that Massachusetts invests the resources needed for all children, from birth to age five, to access high-quality early education programs that prepare them for success in school and life. 

Titus DosRemedios
Director of Research and Policy
Strategies for Children, Inc.

August 19, 2019