Support voiced for early education centers

Early Ed Hearing
From left, Thomas Gosnell of AFT-MA and Steven Tolman of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO listened as MTA President Paul Toner testified.

Scores of early childhood education supporters packed into a State House auditorium on Monday, Nov. 25, to make their voices heard in favor of a bill that would allow early childhood educators to form a providers’ organization.

“We want people to be confident and feel proud to work in the field,” said MTA President Paul Toner during his testimony before the Joint Committee on Public Service. “It is our intent to see the best people stay in the field.” About 175 enthusiastic supporters dressed in blue shirts with red stickers came out for the hearing.

Toner echoed a common theme among supporters of the legislation, “An Act to Improve Quality in Early Education Centers.”  Several testified that too often educators are prompted to leave small, private child care centers because of low wages and underfunded professional development programs. Such turnover was called the biggest impediment to ensuring quality early childhood education.

Educators, child care center directors and owners across the state have formed the Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators Union, which has been a main driver of the legislation. MECEU is designed to be a collective voice that would deal directly with the state Department of Early Education and Care in determining best practices and policies for early education. The providers’ organization would include roughly 5,000 workers at 500 centers where 10 percent or more of the children receive state subsidies.

“Currently, there is no practical way for these educators to join together and influence preK policies and procedures,” said Ira Fader, an attorney for the MTA. “This is a way to hear from the caregivers of the state’s most vulnerable population.”

Fader and University of Massachusetts Professor Clare Hammonds countered opposition testimony that the legislation would create a new collective bargaining unit and that it would reduce subsidies for needy families. Fader pointed out that the bill can only engender dialogue; it does not provide for the type of negotiating mechanisms found in traditional unions.

Hammonds added that if the MECEU were able to advocate for more professional development and other best practices at centers that work with subsidy vouchers, the centers would have an added incentive to accept vouchers.

Though not a traditional union, the MECEU has drawn support from the MTA — which has made passage of the legislation a high priority ­— as well as from the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. Toner testified alongside AFT-MA president Thomas Gosnell and Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steven Tolman.

The bill also drew favorable testimony from state Representatives Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Jamaica Plain), Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) and Mary S. Keefe (D-Worcester), and state Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton).

Early Ed Hearing
Early education workers and advocates dressed in blue were a large presence at the State House hearing.

Child care center owners, educators and directors were out in force in the hearing room, with some assigned to panels testifying on behalf of the bill.

Tracy Sheerin, assistant director of KidZone Childcare and Education Center in Pittsfield, delivered a MECEU campaign slogan her center has adopted:  “Parents can’t afford to pay. Teachers can’t afford to stay.  There has to be a better way.”

Though not a traditional union, the MECEU has drawn support from the MTA — which has made passage of the legislation a high priority ­— as well as from the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. Toner testified alongside AFT-MA president Thomas Gosnell and Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steven Tolman.

The bill also drew favorable testimony from state Representatives Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Jamaica Plain), Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) and Mary S. Keefe (D-Worcester), and state Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton).

Child care center owners, educators and directors were out in force in the hearing room, with some assigned to panels testifying on behalf of the bill.

Tracy Sheerin, assistant director of KidZone Childcare and Education Center in Pittsfield, delivered a slogan her center has adopted in its support of the bill: “Parents can’t afford to pay. Teachers can’t afford to stay.  There has to be a better way.”

Photos of the November 25 hearing are available on Flickr . Click here to learn more about MECEU.