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Virtual Town Hall to Discuss Making Child Care and Early Education More Accessible and Affordable

Liz Lerner

A coalition of parents, educators, business owners and lawmakers will meet in a virtual town hall Wednesday to discuss a proposal to make child care and early childhood education more accessible and affordable for parents in Massachusetts.

CAI's Kathryn Eident spoke with Sandra Faiman-Silva, of the Cape chapter of Common Start, for more details about what they want to see Beacon Hill lawmakers put on the law books.

Eident Tell us a little bit about Common Start. Who is a part of this group and talk about what the focus is.

Faiman-Silva The Common Start Coalition brings together a broad group of stakeholders who are concerned about early education and child care in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. So, this includes providers, consumers, parents, guardians, caregivers of children, businesses, unions, legislators, non-governmental organizations, the Chamber of Commerce. And what our aim is, is to provide high quality, affordable, universal early education and child care throughout the state of Massachusetts.

Eident I understand that this is building on the momentum of the success of the paid family and medical leave law, which doesn't take effect until next year, but will provide some relief to new parents. And so, the idea here is to extend options for parents, especially of young children who need care?

Faiman-Silva Families will be paying out of pocket, but it will be based on a sliding scale, just as we're doing with the paid family and medical leave legislation. It's a partnership between employers and employees and contributions from the state. So, there may be withholding taxes on employee wages, business contributions based on ability to pay, and based on a sliding scale, along with grants from the state and possibly federal government. Another component is to expand the meaning of child care to include extended day for parents and caregivers and guardians who work longer hours, who work in more nontraditional hours.

Eident Can you give us an idea of what it costs to send a child to child care?

Faiman-Silva Well, we're talking about for infants, it could be up to $20,000 a year just to put one infant into a child care facility. Older children, it might cost less. The COVID-19 epidemic has exacerbated the problems severely. Many of the providers have not reopened because of the expense of converting to a facility that complies with our state regulations.

As we consider how our tax dollars are being spent in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we have to build in access to early education and child care in order to provide the workforce for the 21st century. Families are being shut out of work because of the distortionary cost of child care.

Eident Can you talk about how the coalition is trying to keep specifically issues like race on top of mind?

Faiman-Silva We have tremendous racial economic inequality in our society and our country. And in order to address that, we have to acknowledge that people of color tend to work in lower income jobs that do not come with benefits. And those people require to have both parents work in order to bring in a living wage for their families. Adding on to this, the costs of child care. It becomes a recipe for permanent poverty.

Another facet of this is education for all; that they have equal access to high quality early education and child care. Another component of this is raising the status of child care and early education as a profession. It needs to be paid at a wage that is a living wage that can provide people to move into the middle class.

Eident Sandra, thank you so much for talking with me.

Faiman-Silva You're welcome.

This transcript was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.