In Massachusetts, at the end of 2013, 3,363 children under the age of three were enrolled in Early Head Start. Additionally, 4 percent of 3-year-olds and 14 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded pre-K. The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is amongst the highest in the country at $16,430. This year, the state started its Universal Pre-K initiative to try and serve children as young as two years and nine months all the way through kindergarten. The issue of expanding preschool access and enrollment is also emerging as a key campaign issue in the state’s 2014 gubernatorial race. During a speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman, a Democratic candidate for governor, called for “the creation of a public-private partnership that would provide the resources to place some 30,000 children into pre-K programs who are now on state waiting lists.”
- What the governor is saying: In Gov. Deval Patrick’s 2014 State of the Commonwealth Address, he highlighted past successes in the early education and childhood realm, such as providing labor organizing rights to home-based early education providers, and also focusing on his goal of making quality early education and all-day kindergarten available to more children.
- What’s happening in the legislature: The Boston Globe reports that “preschool pays off, but only for kids that go,” commenting that Massachusetts chose with this year’s budget to “not [do] much to get kids into high-quality early childhood and child care programs.” A state Senate plan proposed an increase of $17.5 million to expand the state program, which could cover an additional 3,000 kids or 12 percent of the state’s wait list.
- Funding increases and additional support: In January 2014, Gov. Deval Patrick filed his budget for the state, which included a $15 million increase in early education. In May 2014, the state Senate unveiled a budget proposing a $17.5 million increase in early education, slightly higher than the governor’s proposal. At the local level, mayors and municipal leaders in the state are attempting to dramatically increase the number of pre-k seats and students enrolled in preschool. For example in Boston, Mayor Martin Walsh named a 27-member task force responsible for recommending a plan to double the number of pre-K seats in the city by 2018. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe discussed the potential plans in Cambridge to expand pre-K access to all of the city’s 4-year-olds, which “could serve as a model for universal pre-K in neighboring communities, including Boston” and “allow Cambridge to mature from a leader in spending on education to a leader in educational outcomes.”