We were proud to see our entrepreneurial leadership programming cited as an example of the type of training needed to support existing family child care owners in the city of Boston’s inaugural report on the state of early care and education.
“The State of Early Education and Care in Boston: Supply, Demand, Affordability, and Quality” found significant gaps between the supply and potential demand for early care and education across the city, and identified recommendations for improvement, which include entrepreneurial training for family child care owners.
The report is the first of what is expected to be an annual survey of the landscape of ECE programs throughout Boston. It was researched and written by Fernanda Q. Campbell, Ph.D., and Pratima A. Patil, Ed.M., A.M., of the Boston Opportunity Agenda, a long-term public/private partnership working to create systemic change in education for all children in Boston, with a focus on children experiencing “the least access to successful pathways” and the education they need for economic advancement, civic engagement, and lifelong learning. The report aims to provide policy makers, funders, and ECE practitioners information about gaps and opportunities around ECE supply and to help identify areas for quality improvement and further family supports.
The four main findings of the report related to the supply gap are:
- In 2017, there were approximately 40,948 children age zero of five living in Boston with just 932 licensed ECE providers offering 26,278 seats. The citywide gap in supply and demand was 35 percent, but it differed significantly among Boston’s 15 zip code-identified neighborhoods with only one (Back Bay/Beacon Hill) having a surplus of seats. Gaps in the remaining neighborhoods ranged from 4.6 percent in Central Boston to 54.5 percent in Charlestown.
- The potential access gap for children in the 0–2 year age group was around 74 percent. All 15 zip code-defined neighborhoods had more children than available seats with gaps varying from 40 percent in Back Bay/Beacon Hill to 89 percent in East Boston.
- For children age 3-5, the city had a surplus of seats with 21,061 available slots for the city’s 19,828 three-, four-, and five-year olds. Still, seven of the 15 zip code-defined neighborhoods had a potential access gap ranging from 4.5 percent in the South End to 26 percent in Charlestown.
- Federal guidelines recommend spending no more than 10 percent of income on early care and education. By that standard, the average cost of infant care is unaffordable for every neighborhood in Boston. The impact of the expense is more severe in low- and middle-income areas of the city.
The report also measured the availability of quality programs, with quality defined as early education and care seats from providers that had a “QRIS rating of 3 or 4; accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); or accreditation from other associations focused on quality in early education and care.” It added the caveat that programs that “do not seek a quality accreditation may actually have quality seats” and that some individual classrooms in “quality accredited programs” may not “meet the quality standards.” The three main findings related to quality are:
- The potential quality gap for children 0–5 years in the city was estimated at 74 percent, with all 15 zip code-defined neighborhoods experiencing a gap in quality ECE. While acknowledging that quality is hard to measure, the report identified 10,606 seats in programs that meet documented state and federal benchmarks of quality across Boston, which represented just 40 percent of all 26,478 available seats. Back Bay/ Beacon Hill had the lowest gap (30 percent) and Roslindale the highest (91 percent).
- The potential quality gap for children in the 0–2 age group was 93 percent. The lowest potential gap was observed in Fenway/Kenmore (73 percent) and the highest in Roslindale and West Roxbury (100 percent).
- The potential quality gap was also high for the 3–5 age group, estimated to be 54 percent, with Back Bay/Beacon Hill the only neighborhood that did not have a quality gap. Among the other 14 zip code-defined neighborhoods, the gap varied from two percent in Central Boston to 84 percent in Hyde Park.
In addition to recommending investments in entrepreneurship and new care facility start ups, the report suggests:
- increasing business/child-care partnerships to lower the cost of child care in the city
- scaling up investments in infrastructure and business training for existing ECE centers
- incentivizing the development of high-quality care models, particularly for 0-2 year-olds
The researchers also recommend improving data collection and integration to improve the accuracy of metrics and to build a citywide knowledge base to inform policy, practice and parental decision-making.