Advocating for Affordable Access to Early Childhood Education

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Col. Chad Ellsworth discussed childcare at Hanscom with Rep. Ken Gordon - Courtesy image (c) Burlington Community Access Television, 2019 all rights reserved

Col. Chad Ellsworth discussed childcare at Hanscom with Rep. Ken Gordon – Courtesy image (c) Burlington Community Access Television, 2019 all rights reserved

Submitted on behalf of Rep. Ken Gordon and Sen. Cindy F. Friedman

Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) and Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) are advocating for legislation they filed which would call for more affordable, accessible and high-quality early education and childcare for families in the Commonwealth. Their bills, H.470 and S.288, which are identical, are part of an ongoing effort to make childcare more affordable and available to all parents in the state.

In his testimony during a recent public hearing before the Joint Committee on Education, Gordon said, “The average cost of quality early childcare and education, involving licensed and trained employees, is thousands of dollars per month in Massachusetts,” said Gordon. “That leaves childcare and pre-school out of reach for many families, and it creates a barrier for parents to return to work. We have to address this problem by providing better care, at more affordable rates, so parents, especially women, can return to the workforce when they are ready.”

Gordon and Friedman have been meeting with a diverse group of stakeholders on this issue, along with representatives of small business and other industry leaders.

“There is an urgent need for more affordable access to early childcare and education in the Commonwealth,” said Friedman. “Working families across my district struggle to access quality childcare that meets their needs, creating unnecessary stress for parents. This bill is the first step in a long process to ensure that every Massachusetts parent can go to work and get their child the care they need at a rate they can afford.”

Each week in Massachusetts, there are more than 330,514 children placed in paid childcare.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, if expenses for childcare were capped at 10 percent of a family’s annual income, families around the state would save more than $5,000 per year.

“Once Paid Family and Medical Leave begins to pay benefits, parents will have access to partial wage replacement for 12 weeks after the birth, or adoption of a child,” explained Gordon.  “But at the end of that period, parents will have to return to work. Unless the family has access to a responsible relative willing to watch the child, those parents will have to turn to paid childcare if both parents are to return to work. The cost of childcare is so expensive that the lower wage earner must make upwards of $50,000 pre-tax or more just to pay the childcare bills.”

Gordon recently toured the childcare facility at Hanscom Air Force Base with coalition leader Lauren Kennedy, wife of Congressman Joe Kennedy.

“The military has it right,” said Gordon.  “It provides childcare to every service family and contractor on a sliding scale. When I asked Base Commander Col. Chad Ellsworth why affordable daycare was made available, he said it was so his force would be militarily ready upon a moment’s notice, without worrying about whether their child was being well cared for. The military realizes that providing accessible childcare is not only a benefit to the child and the family, but to the organization as well.”

Without affordable childcare, parents are forced to reduce their hours or make the decision to opt-out of the workforce. Also, nearly 94 percent of these workers who are involuntarily working part-time due to ongoing childcare affordability issues are women.

According to a 2019 update from the Child Care in State Economies, the annual cost of childcare for infants in center-based facilities is $20,415, or 28.8 percent of an average household income. The annual cost for four-year-old children is $14,736, or 19 percent of a family income. In-home childcare costs average between $12,000 and $12,750 per child.

“Parents need the relief of knowing that they can go to work while their child spends the day in a safe, educational and affordable care environment, and as public policymakers, it our duty to try to help provide that relief,” said Friedman.

To continue tracking the legislation, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H470.