A coalition of education and labor
activists has built a statewide network
of center owners and workers to
continue pushing for the bill’s passage
once it emerges from the committee.
“Study after study shows the value
of good preK programs. The MECEU
will help ensure the quality of early
education programs, create stability
for providers and increase access for
parents,” said MECEU Campaign
Director Teresa Rankin.
Unlike traditional collective
bargaining units, the providers’
organization would not seek to draw
up agreements that affect working
conditions within child care centers.
Instead, each center would retain its
autonomy, and owners, educators
and directors alike would be
members of the providers’ union. The
legislation would affect roughly 500
independently operated centers that
employ 5,000 educators.
MTA General Counsel Lee
Weissinger said that the legislation
“would stabilize the channels of
“Those in the field could better
work with the state to improve
the climate of child care and early
education,” Weissinger added.
Regulation vs. reality
The tension between state-mandated regulations and the
economic viability of centers taking
state vouchers is ever present,
affecting everything from staffing
requirements to teaching credentials
and reimbursements for transporting
Wonder Years owner Jones said
that her $9-per-child reimbursement
for transporting children between
home and the center has gone
unchanged over the course of the 10
years that she has been in the field.
“Gas and insurance have certainly
gone up. And I have to pay the van
driver and monitor,” she said.
Likewise, the push to have early
education instructors hold at least a
bachelor’s degree is welcomed by
many staff members and directors.
Yet once educators earn their degrees,
they must often leave the centers they
work for in search of higher-paying
positions to cover the cost of having
furthered their education.
A white paper issued by the
MECEU that was delivered to state
legislators this past summer showed
that because the annual salary for a
center-based teacher in Massachusetts
is $25,000 — roughly half the average
salary of a public preschool teacher —
high turnover is rampant in an industry
that needs more workers.
The policy paper also noted that
state reimbursements for care are far
below market value, and families that
do qualify for vouchers have access to
only a sliver of the existing education
Centers accepting state vouchers
also find themselves at a loss to pay for
the types of program enhancements,
such as increased staffing, that
could pave the way for greater
reimbursement from the state, setting
up a frustrating work environment
that left one center owner in Roxbury
saying she feels like her center is open
on a day-to-day basis.
Lenita Richardson has seen the
early education and care issue from the
angles of parent, educator and director.
“I felt comfortable knowing my
kids were in a safe environment and
with people who were helping them
grow,” she said of the days when she
relied on child care so she could work.
Richardson eventually entered
the child care field and saw firsthand
both the difficulties and the rewards
of taking courses and engaging
in professional development that
ultimately made her better at her job,
despite some degree of financial strain.
She has now been in the field of early
education for 22 years and serves
as director of the Arcadia Learning
Academy in Dorchester.
“A lot of people look at us like
we are baby sitters, and people are
just dropping off their kids for us to
watch,” Richardson said. “We are not
just baby sitters. We are working with
these children and seeing them flourish
Photo by Scott McLennan
Janetsy Sanchez works on reading skills with 3-year-old Alahni Davis at
the Wonder Years early education and child care center in Dorchester.