Access to early childhood education is an issue of great concern for our region. The pandemic exasperated an issue that was already dire. It is difficult to find an open slot for early childhood education on Cape Cod. Most of Cape Cod’s early education (under age 5) early childhood education programs have at least a one-year waitlist to enroll a child, indicating a shortage of care providers. Especially in the Lower and Outer Cape, licensed early childhood education is extremely hard to find. Areas like this are called early childhood education deserts.
Child Care Costs
Massachusetts currently is the least affordable state for early childhood education with costs ranging from approximately $20,000 per year for infants and $14,000 per year for 4-year-olds. For many families in Massachusetts, the costs are too much to bear, which leads in many instances to women deciding if they should stay at home or make do without some comforts to keep their children in early childhood education.
Early educator wages are too low, they earn about half of what K-12 educators can earn for comparable work. Also, they do not receive the same benefits, many do without health insurance.
There is a huge funding gap between what the Dept. of Early Education and Care provides as subsidies to educators. Currently, EEC funds up to $10,600 per child, but the average cost of education is $15,000 for four-year old’s and $20,000 for infants.
In 2018 the Cape Cod Children’s Place in Eastham did a community needs assessment survey of local parents and found that early childhood education tuition was a hardship for 69% of respondents.
How Businesses Are Affected
The Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education ran business dialogues in September 2021 where they heard that Child care is a concern among employees; cost and availability, especially.
There’s anxiety among employees reacting to demands of work and home – future work patterns may become more permanently hybrid, but still creates a burden on working parents, especially women.
Employers agree on the importance of building more flexible arrangements as a tool to recruit/retain talent; recognize the need for responsive early childhood education solutions.
Employers seeking information and solutions strengthen the early childhood education system via collaboration across public and private sectors, with emphasis on quality of education in conjunction with early childhood education.
How Businesses Can Help
The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation released the “Employer Roadmap: Childcare Solutions for Working Parents: Businesses have options for supporting working parents with their childcare needs. Here's how leaders can take action.” This report provides an understanding of employers’ options to navigate how to create programs for working parents and we encourage all businesses on Cape Cod to look at this guide full of tactical solutions.
We are asking all of our member businesses to join the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education and the Common Start Coalition to add their name to the list of businesses working together to make child care more accessible.
The Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education is founded by CEOs and leaders of Massachusetts employers, who are coming together to make early childhood education more accessible, affordable, and stable for Massachusetts workers, more rewarding for early childhood professionals, and a point of differentiation in attracting and retaining a strong workforce across the Commonwealth.
The Chamber is a member of the Common Start Coalition and has endorsed the Common Start legislation. There are two parts to this bill, family subsidies that vary based on income levels, so lower-income households pay no fees, and a sliding scale applies thereafter, and a provider grants program meant to cover the actual cost of care including salary increases, supplies, equipment and subsidies for special needs care, extended hour subsidies and wraparound services.
How School Boards and Committees Can Help
We are asking school committees, select boards, and town councils to review the early childhood education appropriations adopted since 2016 to see how they can use municipal funds to create their early childhood education funds.
We are encouraging all school boards that have not reviewed a universal pre-k option to see how other towns on Cape Cod have created solutions for early childhood education and to consider how their town will benefit from similar legislation.
Orleans Universal Pre-K Program
Eastham Family Support Package
Wellfleet Pre-K Vouchers
Provincetown Schools Infant, Toddler Program
Truro Central School Preschool Program
Mashpee Integrated Preschool and Universal Pre-K
Mashpee Recreation Department Kids Klub Daycare and Preschool
What else can businesses do?
One of the benefits we have at the Chamber is a dependent care flexible savings account. Businesses of any size can offer employees these savings accounts to help working parents choose the early childhood education benefits that work for their families. Create your own roadmap for supporting working parents by using the US Chamber of Commerce report: Employer Roadmap: Childcare Solutions for Working Parents.
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