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From The President/CEO's Desk

Standing in Solidarity with Others to Transform the Landscape of Early Education

Lily at the Common Start Coalition rally.

Dear Friends,

Last summer, when I stepped into my role as CEO and President of JCC Greater Boston, I was immediately confronted by one of our biggest challenges – the ongoing difficulty of hiring teachers for our Early Learning Centers (ELCs). The JCC, which is the largest provider of Jewish early education in Massachusetts, is home to four ELCs – Newton, Brookline, Sharon, and Hingham, and we serve almost 350 students every year in a crucial moment for children’s and families’ human, educational, and spiritual development. As a long-time educator, I knew that hiring for ELCs is a perennial challenge, but in the aftermath of COVID, hiring teachers at every level has, and continues to be, particularly arduous.  

This struggle hits close to home. More than a decade ago my husband and I, as young parents and classroom teachers ourselves, were hard pressed to find and pay for day care for our children that felt secure and reliable. Even now, ten years later, too many young parents still struggle with seemingly impossible choices related to child care. I grieve the fact that those parents are likely feeling as I once did, that limited options and significant cost barriers make day care feel like an insurmountable burden rather than a joyful milestone. As an educator, my heart breaks that choosing teaching, which is, in many ways, the best job in the world, can feel like a non-starter for talented young people who want a meaningful future. And now, looking across the system I lead, even as person deeply committed to kids, families, and educators, I still feel my choices to make this situation better are limited by the financial and human resource constraints that have dogged early education for decades. I say that not to abdicate responsibility for helping our JCC ELCs be the best possible programs for the families we serve, but rather as an acknowledgment that thinking about how to take care of young children, young families, and the corps of educators who serve them, is and must be part of a larger conversation about how to strengthen our social fabric.  

Considering this landscape, which has failed to provide the economic, workforce, and educational infrastructure that Massachusetts needs, I am so grateful that our leaders in state government have heeded the call to make real and comprehensive change. Governor Healey, as well as our representatives in the State House and Senate, are on the precipice of passing an inspiring funding and legislative package to support early education and care in FY24. This legislation will expand funding to provide a living wage for early educators, subsidies for families to afford care, and investments in quality improvement and innovation across the sector. This is a lifeline for our labor force, our teachers, parents, and kids. In the coming days and weeks, legislative committees are working to negotiate differences in the House and Senate budget proposals. It is my sincere hope that as our leaders have prioritized early education and care in this budget season, they will invest the maximum amount possible in this most precious and most needed resource. 

In addition to the legislation and funding coming out of this budget season, one of the great triumphs for early education and care in Massachusetts is the network of partners and the Common Start Coalition that have brought it to life. Jewish tradition teaches us that it is our mandate to build a world of chesed, lovingkindness, and that one of the highest forms of chesed is standing in solidarity with others as we seek to live our values. The JCC is proud to stand side-by-side with colleagues across Massachusetts and lend our voice to the system-wide work needed to transform the landscape of early education. Together, we are able to advocate for long-term, sustainable, systematic investment in early learning, crossing industrial, regional, and identity lines in ways that none of us can do alone. All of us need amazing care for our youngest learners, and we can only move the needle if we move toward it in solidarity with one another.

May we all move together from strength to strength.


Photo courtesy of Common Start Coalition via Twitter

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