A colorful display for MECEU bill

MECEU Lobby Day Educators in favor of MECEU legislation fanned out on the Grand Staircase at the State House during a lobby day.

Dozens of early childhood educators from across Massachusetts set up a gallery of colorful student-created artwork in the corridors of the State House on Thursday, March 6, and then fanned out to try to persuade lawmakers to pass legislation that would improve quality in the state’s most resource-needy centers.

The legislation (House 477/Senate 223) would give a voice to those who educate the state's youngest children.

The lobby day, organized by the Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators Union, underscored the momentum growing behind the bill, “An Act to Improve Quality in Early Education Centers.”

The legislation would allow educators, directors and owners of early education centers where at least 10 percent of the children receive state subsidies to form a nontraditional union that would work with the state Department of Early Education and Care on policies and regulations.

Lead sponsors of the bill are Representative Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Jamaica Plain) and Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett).

 MTA Vice President Tim Sullivan and Tom Gosnell, President of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, addressed the educators at MTA headquarters before the group walked across the street to display the children's artwork and meet with legislators.

Sullivan and Gosnell both thanked the early educators for their dedication and their hard work.

“Your efforts have been noticed,” Sullivan said. “What you consider a day on the job, we recognize as an incredibly difficult undertaking for the good of our society. Today, you have the opportunity to unleash the power of your stories before legislators responsible for moving this bill forward.”

MECEU Lobby Day
Early childhood educators meet with Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), chair of the Joint Committee on Public Service, during MECEU Lobby Day.

In a visit to Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), chair of the Joint Committee on Public Service, Shemeka Maxwell, a teacher at Families First Day Care of Boston, and other early childhood educators urged Michlewitz's committee to report the bill out favorably.

The bill would affect roughly 5,000 employees working at 500 centers, most of which are small. The providers’ organization would advocate for adequate funding to support quality-assurance regulations and professional training, increased reimbursement rates for vouchers used by income-eligible families, and additional funding for children now on waiting lists for subsidized preK centers.

Statewide, early educators earn an average annual wage of $25,000, and more than 30,000 qualified families are on waiting lists for slots in subsidized preK centers.

The MECEU has the support of the MTA, which has made the bill’s passage a top legislative priority; the National Education Association; AFT Massachusetts and the national AFT; and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. The providers’ organization would be jointly affiliated with the MTA and the AFT.

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