Investment in early education and childcare is essential to the success of young children, as well as those who work in the field.
Last month, the Massachusetts State Budget for the 2024 Fiscal Year was finalized, and included victories and funding for early education and childcare. The budget itself approved $56.2 billion in total spending, with $1.5 billion going specifically toward early education and child care.
Breaking down the budget
How does FY 2024 compare to 2023? This year, early education funding increased by 22%, or $268 million, which is certainly a cause for celebration.
The key takeaways from the budget as they applied to early childhood education and care include:
- $1.5 billion dollars allocated to early education and childcare
- $475 million in new state funding for the Commonwealth Cares for Children Grant
- $171.5 million in state funds for free school meals in public schools
The $171.5 million allocated to free school lunches in K-12 public schools also included language that would make this funding permanent going forward, providing school-aged children with a much needed win.
Missed opportunities & vetoed line items
There is still room for improvement. Governor Maura Healy vetoed $36 million in early education line item spending. One of the vetoed line items included a $15 million provision for the financial assistance program of early childhood educators, and another that would’ve allowed early childhood education centers to use $25 million in funds for reimbursement purposes.
Other important issues that were not funded in this year’s budget include Special Education tuition reimbursement, and rural school aid assistance, two issues that will hopefully be addressed when the legislature reconvenes later this year.
Key vetoes require legislative action
Fortunately, last week the House voted to override several important vetoes, and they now await their time on the Senate floor, where we are hopeful that the overrides will pass.
One line item that was originally vetoed by Governor Healy was for the Early Education Rate Reserve, which includes $35 million that would support center-based reimbursement rates and financial assistance to early educators. The veto was overridden by a nearly unanimous vote of 155-1. We are excited for the Senate to take this up in the coming days and feel hopeful that they will make the same decision as the House.
These funds are crucial to early educators in Massachusetts, as they help align the reimbursement amount to more closely match actual childcare costs incurred by programs, and will help childcare workers pay for the cost of care for their own children.
Another line item that was initially vetoed was $1 million in Head Start funding, which is part of the state match to secure federal funding. This funding will help stabilize the workforce where there is already a 18% staff vacancy rate. The House override helps ensure that staffing levels trend in the right direction in the future. We anticipate that the Senate will also vote to override this veto in the coming days.
Thank you to the Massachusetts State House!
We thank the House for ensuring funds were restored to key early education and care items. We thank them and their colleagues in the Senate for continuing to champion early childhood education in the budget. This critical funding ensures that all children in the Commonwealth have access to high quality education and affordable care and that our educators continue to make progress toward a livable wage.
Stay tuned for an opportunity to thank your representatives and remind them of how much our community cares about investing in quality early education and care.