Anne Douglass, executive director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, told a Boston City Council committee on Tuesday about the need for quality early care and education and how to support small child care-related businesses.
“Our city and our state have focused so heavily on pre-K for four-year-olds. This is important, but we have neglected those who serve children during the first four years of life, the years when over 80 percent of brain development occurs,” said Douglass, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “Most children of working parents spend 40 to 50 hours a week in child care settings, during their most formative years. If we don’t get this right, we create or widen the gaps in school readiness. Addressing quality child care, and supporting the child care workforce, is an urgent matter for the city.”
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley assembled a panel of early child care experts for the briefing of the Committee on Healthy Women, Families & Communities, held at the Laboure Center in South Boston. Douglass was joined by Cherie Craft, CEO and founding executive director of Smart from the Start, Inc., former state Representative Marie St. Fleur, and Vital Village Founding Director Renée Boynton-Jarrett.
“We can do better at supporting the owners, operators, and workforce in the early education and care industry,” Pressley said ahead of the event. “And that starts with recognizing their struggles and committing to finding solutions.”
There are more than 200 licensed child care centers and more than 400 licensed family child care businesses in Boston, Douglass said. Data shows these small businesses tend to be owned by women and minorities.
In her remarks, Douglass said low wages and lack of advancement opportunities are forcing talented early educators to leave the field or pick up a second job to make ends meet.
The Entrepreneurial Leadership Training Institute run by UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation provides leadership development training for early educators and financial planning and business coaching for child care business owners. Alumni of the program have gone onto new leadership roles and launched startup-model child care programs. The institute will soon launch an innovation accelerator to create networking opportunities and what Douglass calls an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Our pilot study of UMass Boston’s early care and education entrepreneurial leadership development programs shows that immense untapped potential for leadership and innovation lies within the child care workforce,” Douglass said. “Experienced early educators possess unique insights and expertise that position them to lead change and innovation and strengthen our city."
Douglass' testimony continues her public thought leadership on this issue. Last week, Douglass and Ann Bookman, director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy in the McCormack Graduate School, co-wrote an editorial in the Boston Business Journal calling for increased compensation and professional opportunities for the providers of early childhood education.
About UMass Boston
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