A Permanent Fund for Early Education in Massachusetts
By Najeema Holas-Huggins
Since the creation of the Bessie Tart Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC) in 2002, we have worked towards a simple, yet lofty goal: quality early education for all children in MA. Ten years of advocacy, policy change, and collaboration have led to one of the most exciting projects we’ve ever embraced: the creation of a sustainable, permanent fund for early education.
In 2010, BTWIC brought together a variety of individuals, from the public and private sectors to discuss the state of the early education field, specifically the low compensation and supports for teachers who are working to give children a solid foundation for educational success. The creation of the SEED (Sustaining Early Education Development) Fund came out of those meetings, and is one of the four recommendations outlined in the Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform. The vision for SEED is to create a fund supported by private investment that would bring innovative quality improvement programs to the state’s early education system.
The initial work to move to the next conversation on the creation of the fund has been achieved. In addition to having done a feasibility study, we’ve also named and branded it, thanks to support from John Hancock’s marketing team, and we have entered into a partnership with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley to work on the varied components of the fund.
There is a wide range of tested and proven quality improvement programs throughout the country that could be piloted here through the SEED Fund. For instance, Minnesota’s scholarship program, the Saint Paul Early Childhood Scholarship Program, which targeted children in low-income areas, is a wonderful way to increase access to quality. North Carolina’s T.E.A.C.H. program, in which salary supplements are given directly to educators who pursue higher education, which has seen also great results.
One of BTWIC’s trustees always refers to the organization, rather accurately, as the “little engine that could.” We’ve taken on a large task in taking the lead to create a permanent fund for Massachusetts, but we’ll keep chugging along and pick up steam and partners until the SEED Fund is a reality.
Najeema Holas-Huggins is the Manager of Marketing and Associate Researcher for the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC). In this role, she’s worked for nearly four years to increase the visibility for BTWIC and its work and impact on children, families, and the early education field in Massachusetts through traditional marketing activities, social media, and donor cultivation. She has also co-authored multiple research reports, including BTWIC’s 2010 “Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform.”