With the new gubernatorial administration’s swearing-in ceremony only a month away, education advocates and nonprofit groups are outlining policy priorities they hope the new team will tackle in its first 100 days and first year in office.
The Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership, or MEEP, is urging Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll to leverage historically-high state and federal funding in education to advance policies to serve students, families and educators from underserved communities.
The coalition of about 30 education advocacy and nonprofit organizations’ recommendations come at a time when education funding is at historic highs, with schools on the receiving end of massive infusions from the federal government and under the multiyear Student Opportunity Act, a state law.
Education and transit advocates also have their eyes on money that will eventually come in from a voter-approved surtax on annual household income above $1 million, which will mean another major pot of funding for education and transportation, though those funds are still far on the horizon.
A different education coalition, Higher Ed for All, released their priorities for the next legislative session last week, focusing increased funds on improving public higher education while making it more affordable and accessible.
In their transition memo to the Healey-Driscoll administration, MEEP also recommended that the new administration focus on expanding students’ access to postsecondary education.
“After the Fair Share Amendment passed during this election cycle folks are really excited and there’s lots of momentum toward using these funds for higher education,” said Genesis Carela, Massachusetts state policy associate for The Education Trust, which signed onto MEEP’s memo.
Before the pandemic, only 28% of Black residents and 20.8% of Latinx residents held a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 48.2% of their white counterparts, according to MEEP.
The coalition is calling for increased investment in MassGrant and MassGrant Plus in Healey’s first budget.
The coalition also focuses on early childhood education, urging the Healey-Driscoll administration to file or support legislation in their first 100 days in office to move Massachusetts closer to ensuring families spend no more than the federally recommended 7% of their income on child care, guaranteeing early educators pay comparable to that of elementary/secondary educators with similar credentials in their geographic area, and offering families living more than one mile from the nearest accessible child care provider subsidies for transportation.
MEEP is not the only group gearing up to make early childhood a front and center issue in the 2023-2023 legislative session after a Senate-approved early education and child care bill (S 2973) stalled in the House this year.
The nonprofit Strategies for Children is currently working on an “Early Childhood Agenda for Massachusetts” based on the experiences of families and early childhood professionals to guide the new administration and legislative leaders come January. This policy document is expected to be released in early 2023.
Some of the topics the Strategies for Children team have said may be included include the earned income tax credit, child tax credits, family affordability for child care, kindergarten readiness, child abuse and neglect prevention, formula and diaper shortages, WIC and early intervention for children with disabilities.
Strategies for Children is one of MEEP’s partner organizations, and signed onto the coalition’s policy priority memo, along with Black Advocates for Educational Excellence, The Education Trust, Latinos for Education, JumpStart, the Y, Massachusetts Advocates for Children and other advocacy groups.
Healey called herself “a strong advocate for greater investment in early education and care” on her campaign page, pointing to her calls to federal government to pass legislation to make childcare more affordable and make the child tax credit permanent.
“Maura supports the Common Start proposal, which would make child care free for the lowest-income families, limit child care costs for most families to no more than 7 percent of their income, and significantly increase pay for early educators to address the workforce crisis in the early education field,” her website says.
In addition to focusing on early childhood education, MEEP is urging new leaders to “get serious about pandemic recovery,” recommending they work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to put in place three-year pandemic recovery plans for every district.
Carela said the Healey team responded to the MEEP memo that they were “really happy and really excited to receive the document” and that the incoming governor is ready to “dig deeper into it.”