Early education and care is an essential resource both for children and their parents.1 It prepares young children for success in school and in life, including helping low-income children do better in school, graduate more regularly, work more, earn more, and access other public benefits at a lower rate.2 Further, access to early education gives parents the support they need to seek and keep jobs, improve their economic circumstances, and provide for their families.
Despite the evidence that investments in early education are of tremendous value, the House budget for FY 2014 cuts support for these programs, reducing funding by about $11 million from FY 2013.
The Governor's budget took a different approach. With new revenue raised primarily through the broad-based income tax, it expanded access to child care for low-income families and invested in new efforts to improve the quality of programs offered. Rather than continuing the trend of cuts stretching back to 2001 (see graph to the right), the Governor's budget invested $130 million in early education, including, notably, funding aimed at clearing waitlists for low-income families seeking child care support. The House budget raises some new revenue, but most of it is targeted towards the state's transportation needs.
For more information on funding for early education and care over the past decade, see MassBudget's recent brief Declines in Spending on Early Education & Care in Massachusetts.
COMPARING THE GOVERNOR'S AND HOUSE'S FY 2014 PROPOSALS
With new revenue available to support important state programs, the Governor's FY 2014 budget both expanded access to child care for low-income families and invested in new efforts to improve the quality of programs offered. The House budget neither expands access nor invests in immediate quality improvements. Instead, the House budget level funds or cuts most existing child care accounts.
The House budget does direct $350,000 for two new accounts (line items 3000-4065 (House) and 3000-1001 in the table below) to support a new Office of Compliance Management tasked with auditing the Department of Early Education & Care (EEC). Under the House proposal, a manager would be appointed by the Executive Office of Administration of Finance to review and provide oversight of EEC procedures. Further, a special commission would investigate EEC services in order to recommend family access and program quality improvements.
Low-Income Child Care Waitlist
Currently, 53,750 children of low-income families are on a list waiting for child care subsidies through the Income Eligible Child Care program, an increase of around 3,500 children since January 1, 2013. This wait list currently includes 4,838 infants, 10,079 toddlers, 15,469 preschool, and 23,364 school age children. Almost 60 percent of those on the wait list, 30,386 children, are children not yet in the K-12 system. Most families on the wait list have been unable to get a subsidy since February 2011.
The Governor's proposal directed an additional $51.6 million to provide care for infants, toddlers and preschool children currently on the wait list. By contrast, the House proposal cuts Income Eligible Child Care by $17.5 million, or 8 percent, from FY 2013 levels (see "Income Eligible-Related Line Items" in the table above). This proposal would ensure that the majority of families on the wait list would continue to wait for care.
Two other existing programsSupportive Child Care and TANF Related Child Carealso provide child care subsidies for children in need. Due to the fact that funding levels for both are driven by caseload projections, the Governor's and House proposals are very similar.
Investments in Program Quality
In addition to expanding access, the Governor's proposal invested almost $72 million in new programs dedicated to improving the quality of early education for children and families. The House proposal does not include any funding for these initiatives. New initiatives which would have received funding under the Governor's proposal include:
- $30.0 million for Quality Efforts to support teacher training, professional development, and classroom grants. Funding for this new program is tied to the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) which assesses the current level of early education and care delivered by providers and supports initiatives that raise the quality of care.
- $30.6 million for Early Education Provider Quality Investments. This funding would be split between:
- $17.6 million to more safely transport children to and from care, including providing bus monitors to support drivers transporting large numbers of kids.
- $13 million to increase reimbursement rates paid to providers. For providers, the main driver of quality is also the primary cost driver: teacher salaries. The revenue used to pay teacher salaries primarily comes from rates charged to families or subsidized payments by the state. When the state reimburses providers below market rates, it can be difficult for providers to employ highly trained teachers in early childhood education. Currently, in Massachusetts reimbursement rates paid to early education and care providers are well below market rates and federal recommendations. This investment would support an increase in reimbursement rates for providers to increase salaries, benefits and professional development opportunities for early education teachersraising the quality of care children receive.
- $11.2 million for three new programs focused on improving the school readiness of children transitioning out of early education and into K-12 schools. These three programs include:
- $5.0 million for Comprehensive Support Services, a competitive grant program to provide school readiness supportsespecially those designed to increase third grade reading proficiencyfor families with infants, toddlers and pre-school age children in communities with low-performing schools.
- $3.2 million for a Kindergarten Entry Assessment System, which assesses a child's school readiness. Required in General Law Chapter 15D since EEC's inception, implementation began with a 2012 pilot in 24 districts including roughly 17,500 students and funded with federal "Race to the Top" funding. The system supports tools and training for teachers, data collection and assessments which are developed to align with the K-12 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).
- $3.0 million for Family Engagement to Support Reading Proficiency by Grade 3. This program would fund the Reading Proficient by Grade Three Grant, which supports programs and services such as: parenting classes, professional development for private early education and public k-12 provid
For a full description of these programs, see the MassBudget brief, Nurturing Kids, Supporting Families: Early Education & care in the Massachusetts State Budget.
1For more information about the economic gains of high quality early education and care on both parents and children, see Economic Gains from Early Education and Care