BOSTON (SHNS) – The Education Committee has agreed to a bill making a “significant step forward” in advancing access to early education and care but the chairs of that panel are cautioning that full implementation of “transformative” proposals will only occur over multiple legislative sessions.

Without mentioning details of the committee vote or when it took place, co-chairs Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Alice Peisch released the bill Wednesday, saying it represents a “significant step forward in the multi-session implementation” of Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission recommendations.

The bill and summary do not feature a fiscal note, although its directives are tied to the annual state budget and appear to call for increased public spending. Taken together with fiscal 2023 budget investments in early education and care, the bill “when fully implemented will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts,” the two Democrats said.

The bill makes changes to allow programs to be reimbursed based on enrollment rather than attendance, “expands and prioritizes” early education and subsidy eligibility, and enables providers who accept subsidies to offer discounts and scholarships to their teachers and other families, according to a summary. It also establishes operational grants for early education and care programs, creates a scholarship program and a loan forgiveness program for early education and care providers, and aims to make early education and care a priority field for workforce development efforts. In addition to assigning numerous new study requirements on the state Department of Early Education and Care, the bill also directs that agency to develop a cost of quality care methodology to be used in setting reimbursement rates, and requires the department to create a career ladder with compensation guidelines for early education and care teachers.

Democrats who run the state Legislature have signaled a strong interest in shoring up the early education and care sector in the face of pressure from parents and care providers who have struggled due to the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interest in universal access to early education and care dates back many years on Beacon Hill, with the new bill representing the latest push in that area. Full Text: Education Committee Bill and Summary.