4 Reasons To Support: Bill H.2061 An Act establishing universal early education and full-day kindergarten
The The Bill H.2061 An Act establishing universal early education and full-day kindergarten was introduced in the Massachusetts legislature and has been referred to the committee on education. (see the full text below).
While this bill is not perfect, it provides a frame work to create Universal Pre-K in Massachusetts in a pragmatic way which makes the goal feasible. These four aspects of the bill are why I believe it should be supported
The bill does not intend to dismantle the current mixed delivery system of early childhood education in MA. Instead the bill will give public school programs a priority while also incorporating the current mixed delivery system of early education providers in the state. Dismantling the current system would create huge logistical problems and hurt many established small businesses.
The bill would consult organizations like Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts and the National Association for the Education of Young Children are consulted to make sure curriculum is age appropriate.
The bill will not make Pre-K mandatory, but provide universal access to any family who wants it and will create full day all year programs. This is simultaneously respectful of families who prefer to have their children at home or with other arrangements but also guarantees any family who needs early childhood care and education will have access to it.
The bill would provide educators with funds to take the courses they need to obtain early educator licenses. This is especially important given the low pay of early educators; putting extra financial burdens on early educators would drive people out of the field and or make people not want to enter the field in the first place.
SECTION 1. Section 13 of Chapter 15D of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking subsections (a) and (b) and inserting in place thereof the following: -
Section 13. (a) The board shall, subject to appropriation, establish the Massachusetts universal pre-kindergarten program to assist in providing voluntary, universally accessible, high-quality early education and care programs and services for preschool-aged children in the commonwealth. Provided, however, that the board shall establish a universal program for all three and four year olds in the Commonwealth which shall be available free to all residents, available for up to ten hours daily, up to five days a week, and throughout the year; and, provided further, that the board shall determine a schedule for the universal program for three and four year olds to be fully established and fully funded no later than September 1, 2020; and, provided further, that the board shall begin the program in the public schools in low-income districts.
The program shall be designed to meet and enhance the preschool-aged child’s ability to make age appropriate progress in the development of cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and physical capacities and school readiness based on curriculum frameworks, after consultation with representatives of early childhood educators and their professional associations, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
(b) The Massachusetts universal pre-kindergarten program shall be delivered through a mixed system of providers and programs; provided, however, that the public schools shall be given priority in funding or other resources.
The board shall ensure that, by 2020, all teachers in the programs established under this section shall be licensed; provided, further, that the board shall establish a grant program to provide funding for teachers to pay for courses and other costs associated with obtaining a license under this section.
Programs shall be sufficiently flexible to serve families with various work schedules. The department shall develop a method for funding the program, which may provide grants, or enter into contracts with any provider of early education and care, or entities coordinating or administering plans to provide high-quality, comprehensive services to children and their families within the local community. These providers may include, but are not limited to: public; private; non-profit preschools; child care centers; nursery schools; preschools operating within public and private schools; Head Start programs; independent and system-affiliated family child care homes; and local early education and care councils; provided, however, that for profit preschools or other for profit entities will not be eligible as authorized providers under this section The department may provide vouchers to eligible households for the purpose of implementing the early education and care program. All providers shall demonstrate that they are willing and able to serve and integrate children of diverse abilities and special needs, diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and diverse economic circumstances.
SECTION 2. Section 1B of chapter 69 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 official edition, is hereby amended by striking the words contained in paragraph 20, and inserting in place thereof the following:-
The board shall establish the permissible and mandatory ages for school attendance provided that each child be required to attend a full-day educational program at the beginning of the school year in the calendar year in which he or she attains the age of five.