This Week’s GCJ – A Plan for Expanding High-Quality Pre-K #subcoal

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News and information for leaders who care about Gateway Cities
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A Plan for Expanding High-Quality Pre-K

High-quality pre-kindergarten is one of the most important experiences we can provide for our children. It can level the playing field for children from low-income families, helping them start their K-12 years ready to learn and succeed. It is a research-based strategy for narrowing the achievement gap. This legislative session, there are several proposals on the table to expand early learning opportunities to thousands more young children in our Gateway Cities and beyond.

On Wednesday, September 16, the Joint Committee on Education is holding a legislative hearing on bills related to early education and care including An Act Ensuring High-Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education (H.462 / S. 267). This bill provides a targeted, phased-in plan for providing state funded pre-kindergarten to preschool aged children, through a mixed delivery system with prioritization based on school district accountability status and rates of third grade reading proficiency.

Despite leading the nation on many educational benchmarks, Massachusetts has struggled to provide high-quality preschool, particularly for our neediest children and families. An estimated 60% of 3- and 4- year-olds in Massachusetts are enrolled in a formal early education and care program. However, enrollment tends to be lower in Gateway Cities: 52% in Fall River, 44% in Pittsfield, 43% in Brockton, 40% in Holyoke. And quality varies greatly.

Programs are subsidized largely by parent fees, which can limit access for children from low-income families. State and federal funding for programs typically fall short of demand and result in waiting lists. While Massachusetts has made progress in building a high-quality system of early education and care in recent years, including making strategic state investments in program quality and winning competitive federal grants, far too many children still enter kindergarten without any preschool experience.

An Act Ensuring High-Quality Pre-Kindergarten Education is modeled after New Jersey’s successful Abbott Preschool Program. At full implementation, the legislation would impact children in 72 communities, including Boston and all 26 Gateway Cities. It would give high-quality preschool to more than 25,000 children, who would not otherwise have this formative educational opportunity. In addition, quality improvement funding would improve learning at both private and public preschool programs serving more than 40,000 children by helping these schools hire qualified, well compensated teaching staff, provide additional professional development, and enhance their curriculums. This quality improvement effort would resemble the federal Preschool Expansion Grant program, which Massachusetts has begun implementing for 800 children in five communities. Lessons learned from implementing this program can be used to inform the next phase of pre-kindergarten expansion.

Show your support for pre-kindergarten legislation. Let us know if you are interested in submitting written testimony or <a href="mailto:lhealy on September 16th. You can also send a message to legislators asking them to support this important legislation and add your name as a Voice of Support.

Amy O’Leary, Campaign Director, Strategies for Children

– Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Pittsfield

Housing & Economic Development

In a Boston Globe opinion column, Jim Stergios calls on the state to establish an infrastructure fund to promote investment in cities outside of Greater Boston.

In Brockton, a health center and a grocer team up in an innovative partnership that backers hope will be a national model.

Pittsfield explores options for the Tyler Street Transformative Development Initiative project.

The T&G breaks down Worcester‘s startup scene.

Haverhill creates a plan for converting vacant industrial buildings on Stevens Street into housing units.

Representative Carole Fiola calls for a moratorium on affordable housing in Fall River.

Tyrek Lee, a leader in SEIU 1199, writes about the contribution of the American labor movement to Gateway Cities.

Education

The Herald News reports on a new AIR study demonstrating gains by Gateway City schools receiving Race to the Top wraparound and redesign grants.

Holyoke begins the new school year under state-appointed receiver Stephen Zrike with optimism and good will.

Rebecca Cusick, president of the Fall River Educator’s Association, says collaboration is the key to success improving outcomes for students.

New Bedford Housing Authority partners with New Bedford Public Schools to expand its summer literacy program into an after-school literary program.

Transportation

The first passengers disembark at the new Holyoke Amtrak station.

New research published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly looks at the regional impact of public transportation infrastructure in the northeast and finds a significant contribution to economic growth.

The Baker-Polito administration establishes a Seaport Economic Council that will help the Commonwealth build a strong maritime economy. The mayors of Salem and Quincy echo their support.

Creative Placemaking

Fitchburg uses a $5,000 TDI grant to install temporary art and music displays in the hopes of making its downtown more dynamic.

In Worcester, City Manager Augustus wants to use revenue generated from parking garage surcharges to fund cultural events on the common.

The Springfield Museums announce that they are in the final stages of purchasing the childhood home of Dr. Seuss, which is located in the Forest Park section of the city. A current resident of Forest Park and member of the Springfield Museums Board of Trustees writes an email to the neighborhood, seeking ideas for the property.

Communities & People

Lawrence celebrates the 152nd anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s independence from Spain with a lively parade and festival.

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For a full list of Massachusetts Gateway Cities, let us know. If you are not yet on our list and would like to sign up, click here. To contribute news or comments, please <a href="mailto:amiddle.

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