|For Immediate Release|
|Thursday, January 4, 1996|
|Contact:||Jane Madden or Don Siriani|
Blue-Ribbon Commission Recommends Subsidizing Young Child Education and Care for Working Families, Consolidating Government Efforts, Expanding Full-Day Kindergarten Options
Boston - A blue-ribbon legislative commission recommended Thursday that the state scale-up its support for young children by providing expanded subsidies for working families with three or four year old children, by increasing the availability of full-day kindergarten classrooms statewide, and by consolidating state and local government initiatives to improve the quality of care and education for children.
The commission, created under the Education Reform Act of 1993 and co-chaired by State Senator David P. Magnani (D-Framingham) and Marie Galvin, President of Massachusetts Head Start, spent much of the past two years hearing parents, educators and others urge the state to improve family support early childhood education and childcare. The co-chairs released the results of this study in a report called "Children First" at a child care center in Boston on Thursday morning.
"The importance of effective early childhood education is well documented," said Sen. Magnani, who co-chairs both the Commission and the Legislature's Committee on Education."Children develop their full potential, succeed in school and become active and creative members of society when they and their families receive the support they need. The Commission's report addresses ways to streamline, consolidate and upgrade the quality of existing systems offering early care in Massachusetts, and to provide enhanced support to families with young children."
The Commission's report emerged from an exhaustive study of the diverse systems providing early care in the Commonwealth. The recommendations reflect several emerging principles for effective government, including consolidation and more effective use of current systems and resources, allowing "customers" to become policy makers, and moving resources and decision making back to cities and towns under state guidelines and high standards of quality. These guidelines would enhance access, affordability and quality while fostering preventive early intervention and attempting to reach and benefit the widest range of families.
The Commission's report is an historic initiative for child care and early childhood education in Massachusetts, and Sen. Magnani will soon be drafting legislation and scheduling hearings to implement the key proposals contained in the report. The Commission's sixteen members included 13 appointees of the Governor, including Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital, early childhood teachers and parents of young children. In June, six hearings were held around the state to elicit public comment on an earlier draft report.
The report makes four principal recommendations which would be phased in over six years. These are:
"Support families with young children to ensure that all children enter school ready to learn," by "linking together family outreach, education and support programs for 3 and 4 year old children," and by "helping ensure that parents and the public are better informed about the importance of early care and education and how to identify quality in programs."
- "Increase affordability and accessibility of early childhood programs for families, " by "supporting the cost of early care and education through a sliding fee scale." Families earning up to 150% of the state median income (150% of state median income is $66,550) could receive assistance from this plan by the Year 2001, according to the report. Also, a number of state grants would be provided in amounts up to $18,000 per classroom to support full-day kindergartens. Presently, only about one-sixth of Massachusetts cities and towns offer full-day kindergarten programs; the rest are half-day.
- "Provide a consistent level of high quality programs for young children in a variety of early care and education settings," by providing coordinated professional training for agencies administering early childhood programs and developing a standard certification of quality for local early childhood staff.
- "Develop a mechanism to expand early childhood care and education programs at the local and state levels," by consolidating programs among various state agencies.
The report notes, "Implementation of these recommendations will require substantial change at the state and local level, increased consumer awareness about early care and education, and an ongoing financial investment."
"The long-term economic savings of providing early childhood programs is a convincing argument for investing in accessible, comprehensive early care for all families who need it," Magnani added. "A national study in 1993 found that for every dollar invested in high quality preschool programs, seven dollars are saved in later remedial education services, criminal justice spending and welfare costs," he noted. "The most compelling argument is that if families are supported in making sure their children have a good foundation before entering kindergarten, these children are much more likely to have a positive learning experience in school and to go on to have successful lives."
Copies of the Commission's report are being distributed to schools, libraries and early child care practitioners statewide, and the report may also be found on the Internet at the site of the Department of Education