Four Boston-based institutions have been listed as the recipients of the $7 million Growing the Workforce Fund, which is aimed toward supporting Boston’s struggling child care industry, Mayor Michelle Wu announced today.
The organizations – Bunker Hill Community College, Neighborhood Villages, Urban College and the University of Massachusetts Boston – will use the fund’s money to recruit new early childhood educators while helping existing early educators earn additional credentials.
Through the grantees, the city will be funding nearly 800 certificates or degrees across the early childhood care sector. The grantees will also be offering wraparound support services for early child care workers such as apprenticeship and internship stipends, scholarships and mentorship.
The grantees will also guarantee early childhood care workers two to three years of employment after graduation.
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“This is an investment in our families, in our economy and in our future,” Mayor Wu said during a press conference. “For all the working parents who had to struggle to find a center with enough staff to accommodate non-traditional working hours, for all the early childhood educators who struggled to find opportunities that recognize your value and compensate you fairly, for all of our cities children who deserve to be taught, nurtured and given the chance to become the leaders and change-makers you’re destined to be today’s announcement is for you.”
Navigating the early childhood care system can be difficult for many Boston-area parents. City Councilor Julia Mejia spoke about how she was denied a child care voucher because she made “a little too much” to qualify. The only way for her to receive the voucher was to reduce the number of hours she was working.
“That whole system is set up to keep us in poverty,” councilor Meija said. Meija’s daughter, who is 12, now is “thriving,” the councilor said, because she was enrolled in a “solid” early child care program at Project Hope.
“When we think about this particular moment and we think about the investments that we are making it’s a win for everyone,” councilor Meija said. “It’s a win for the families who are juggling and struggling to make their ends meet. It’s a win for the students who are going to enter our schools ready to succeed and thrive. It’s a win for our early childhood educators. And it’s a win for the economy. This is a win for all of us.”
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The mayor’s announcement is part of her ongoing effort to support Boston’s child care industry, which is still recovering from the mass exodus of workers who left the field early in the pandemic.
Low wages have always been one of the root causes behind the child care industry’s worker shortage.
In 2021, the average child care worker in Massachusetts earned $16.79 an hour or $34,920 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was 70% less than the state’s average salary that year.
Boston’s child care workforce is predominately comprised of minority groups. Women make up 92% of child care workers in the city. Meanwhile, people of color and immigrants account for 62% and 39% respectively, according to the city’s department of Women’s Advancement.
However, under the economic strain of the pandemic, child care workers left the field en masse for higher-paying jobs. Since February 2020 – just before the lockdown – the percentage of child care jobs in the commonwealth dropped nearly 14%, according to a data analysis from the University of California Berkley.
In November, Mayor Wu earmarked $5.6 million toward dozens of child care organizations in Boston, as part of a pair of federal grants dedicated toward improving early childhood care.
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The grants — the Essential Worker Childcare Fund and Stimulus and Stability Funds — are both funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. Together the grants aim to stabilize Boston’s child care industry by increasing worker wages and addressing staff shortages.
Meanwhile, the 21 organizations that received Stimulus and Stability Funds will receive help in formulating a compensation plan to increase their teacher’s hourly pay to $22 by 2025, Wu said. The organizations will also receive a sustainability plan to help maintain those wages. The organizations represent 55 centers in 14 Boston neighborhoods and serve 4,815 children ages newborn to 5.
Under the Essential Worker Childcare Fund three organizations, Building Pathways, Community Labor United and SEIU Education and Support Fund will recruit family child care providers or centers who agree to provide early and late care and match them with essential workers who are in need of said care, Wu said.