BOSTON - A new coalition, inspired by the success of groups who advocated for last year’s paid family and medical leave law, is working to develop a plan to give Massachusetts families easier access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education and care.
In a letter Tuesday to lawmakers on the Education Committee, the coalition made up of community, faith, labor and business groups, plus early educators and parents, said they are working to explore ideas including extended hours for early education and care programs, varying fees based on family income, and boosting pay and training for early educators.
While the group works out its details, it is backing “placeholder legislation” filed by Rep. Ken Gordon of Bedford and Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington (H 470, S 288).
“Here’s the issue,” Gordon told the committee at a hearing Tuesday. “All of you know that last session we signed into law paid family and medical leave. I filed a House version of that bill, and when I did that, what came to me in many discussions was, ‘OK, this will help families with children up to 12 weeks old, adopted children up to 12 weeks, but what happens then?’”
Gordon said a parent who wants to return to work after welcoming a new child may find that the cost of care is more than they would earn or is otherwise a challenge to afford.
The letter to the committee was signed by representatives of 41 groups, including the Alliance for Business Leadership, the Massachusetts Association of Early Education & Care, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Boston Democratic Socialists of America, Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, EMPath, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Horizons for Homeless Children, Massachusetts Voter Table, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.
“We, the undersigned organizations, recognize that in order to meet the needs of the 21st century workforce and strengthen our economy in a way that also reduces racial, gender, and income inequality in our state, Massachusetts families need affordable, accessible, high-quality early education and child care,” the groups said.
Several of the groups involved are also affiliated with the Raise Up Coalition, which struck a deal with lawmakers and business groups that resulted in the 2018 law gradually raising the hourly minimum wage to $15 while phasing out time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and certain holidays, and creating a paid family and medical leave program for Massachusetts workers.
Deb Fastino, executive director of the Coalition for Social Justice, told the Education Committee that the group behind the early education effort is distinct from Raise Up. She said she was the convener of the “new, very broad” coalition that “came together based on the success of working with nontraditional partners on paid family and medical leave.”
“We are working together to develop the details of this plan that we can all support, and we would love to work with the committee members at some point as we get closer to a full bill,” Fastino said.