Common Start Coalition holds virtual rally for equal education opportunities

Photo by Erika Fletcher via Unsplash

By Kaitlyn Riggio
Boston University News Service 

The Common Start Coalition kicked off a campaign to pass two bills focused on bringing affordable, accessible and high-quality early education and child care to Massachusetts. In a March 16 virtual rally, coalition representatives, educators, parents and state representatives spoke about the proposed legislation.

Andrew Farnitano, a communications consultant for the CSC, said that while the childcare crisis in Mass. has been a longstanding issue, the COVID-19 pandemic showed that there was a true need for reform. 

“The COVID pandemic has really exposed how important early education and childcare are for our entire economy: for parents who need access to childcare to go to work, for businesses who rely on those workers [and] for children who need a stable place to learn and grow,” Farnitano said. 

The CSC’s proposed legislation consists of a House and a Senate bill. The bills would reduce the cost of child care within five years through a combination of subsidies to low-income and middle-income families and direct payments to childcare and early education providers, such as early childhood educators. Many of these educators do not make a living wage currently.    

Brendan Fogarty, the policy director for the CSC, said he is excited about the steps the coalition is making towards fixing systemic problems with existing early childhood education.

“The legislation essentially creates a framework that steers public investments towards solving really big problems,” Fogarty said. “One [of these problems] is the fundamental lack of affordability for families in Massachusetts.” 

Fast Facts (Common Start Coalition) by Kaitlyn Riggio

Individuals spoke in support of the legislation at the virtual rally, many sharing personal stories about the need for childcare and early education accessibility reform. 

Mikeya Kirksey, an essential worker, said her full-time job put her income above the cut-off line to receive financial assistance for childcare. But, her job did not pay enough to afford childcare at full price.

“I’d have to decide to pay an arm and a leg for childcare or an arm and a leg for rent,” Kirksey said. 

Jennie Antunes, a lead teacher at NorthStar Learning Centers in New Bedford, Mass., said early childhood education is crucial to young students because it sets them up for success later on. She said educators should be compensated appropriately for this work.

“Why should early childhood educators have to take a vow of poverty to do the important work they do?” Antunes said. 

State representatives Ken Gordon and Adrian Madaro and senators Susan Moran and Jason Lewis, who filed the legislation on Feb. 16, also spoke at the rally. 

Fogarty said he is looking forward to seeing the legislation gain more support in the coming months, especially from beneficiary parents, as it moves towards becoming a law.

“I’m really excited to hear and see parents that have these real problems realize that they don’t have to suffer in silence,” Fogarty said. “There is a solution that’s out there on Beacon Hill.” 

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