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Press Release  New Department of Early Education Data Shows Massachusetts Child Care System Has Rebounded, Now Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Capacity

Governor Healey’s Hallmark Budget Proposal to Continue C3 Grants Contributed to 7% Increase in Child Care Programs, Adding More Than 10,600 Child Care Slots Across the State
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  • Department of Early Education and Care
  • Executive Office of Education

Media Contact   for New Department of Early Education Data Shows Massachusetts Child Care System Has Rebounded, Now Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Capacity

Alana Davidson, Director of Communications

BostonThe Healey-Driscoll Administration presented the Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) fall 2023 survey data on the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Grant program at this week’s Board of Early Education and Care meeting, showing that the early education system is stabilizing. EEC’s data analysis found that C3 supported over 7,500 programs in Massachusetts to-date this fiscal year, employing over 42,000 educators and making attendance more affordable for families. With support from the C3 grant, the state’s early education system has rebounded and now exceeds pre-pandemic license capacity by 7,100 child care slots, representing a total increase of approximately 37,000 seats compared to the pandemic low in the Spring of 2021. 

In Massachusetts, the C3 grant program was originally created to distribute federal child care stabilization funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. This year, with the federal funding sunsetting, Governor Healey introduced a hallmark fiscal year 2024 budget proposal to continue C3 grants with $475 million in state funding – supporting the program with 100 percent state dollars for the first time. This proposal was supported by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Healey.

“We are committed to making early education and care more affordable and accessible for families across the state. I am proud that our first budget included $475 million to continue C3 grants this year, and that we are seeing the results with more families able to enroll their children in affordable child care and more educators being hired. I thank the Legislature for their partnership to ensure that while other states faced a child care cliff as federal funds sunset, here in Massachusetts we are stabilizing the industry and expanding access to affordable child care,” said Governor Maura Healey.

“For many parents, especially working moms, affordable child care is the difference between going for that promotion and cutting back to part-time. Child care is an essential part of our economy – it’s good for families and it’s good for business,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “I am excited to see the impact C3 grants have made in Massachusetts and thank the state legislature for their support in continuing this critical program this year.”

C3 supports early education and care providers’ day-to-day operational costs, including compensation and additional workforce and quality investments that enable programs to better recruit and retain their staff while mitigating increased costs for families. Over 84% of licensed and funded early education and care programs across the state completed EEC’s survey between October 31, 2023 and December 2023. The main findings from the data analysis include:

  • The licensed capacity of the child care system continues to grow and now exceeds pre-pandemic levels, with the capacity to serve 10,602 more children (4% increase) compared to last year.
  • The number of licensed child care programs continues to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, a 7% increase from fall 2022 and 22% increase since the fall 2020 pandemic low (8,171 currently vs. 7,648 in fall 2022, 6,716 in fall 2020). 
  • Overall, 62% of providers reported that C3 enabled them to remain open, while over 2/3 of center-based providers said they are now able to serve their full licensed capacity.
  • Providers spent 66% of all grant funds on workforce-related expenses, including existing payroll and benefits and investments in salary increases.
    • Educator wages continue to increase: the average hourly wage for a center-based teacher in November 2023 ($22.09) amounts to approximately $46,000 per year for a teacher who works full day/full year, which is an increase from $18.90 an hour in July 2021.
  • Almost half of providers reported that C3 allowed them to delay tuition increases. One quarter reported that it allowed them to reduce tuition costs for at least some families, with 25% of family child care programs reporting they reduced tuition costs for all families.
    • Also, 32% of family child care programs reported that C3 allowed them to eliminate or reduce additional fees.

The data shows that C3 has effectively helped to stabilize the child care system, enabling early education programs to remain open, and is now supporting system-wide growth through investments in workforce, quality, and affordability. The survey findings also highlights where more work is still needed: while educator wages have continued to rise, they remain low, and just under a third of all center-based providers report being unable to serve their full license capacity, with unfilled staff openings being the most commonly cited reason. However, the support from C3 is allowing programs to keep their doors open, even with the workforce challenges. Over 1,160 programs reported that without the C3 program they would likely need to close, impacting 20,839 seats for children and families.

“Early education and child care access are top priorities for the Healey-Driscoll Administration. We’re proud to be at the forefront as Massachusetts leads the way in using state funds to stabilize our child care system, especially due to Governor Healey’s leadership and this administration’s partnership with the state legislature. These survey results demonstrate that C3 is a critical tool in our efforts to stabilize and heal our early education and care system. While there is still more to address, it’s very clear that our efforts are working,” said Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler.

“The data is clear – C3 has been a game changer for our early education and care programs and the families and businesses they serve. In our state, we are ensuring that programs can stay open and serve families, supporting parents and caregivers to go to work or participate in education and training and setting up children to be successful in school and life. C3 is also importantly enabling programs to invest in their workforce and quality programming without passing on the costs to parents,” said Early Education and Care Commissioner Amy Kershaw.

The initial findings from the fall 2023 survey are available here and will be updated as EEC does further analysis.


Media Contact   for New Department of Early Education Data Shows Massachusetts Child Care System Has Rebounded, Now Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Capacity

  • Department of Early Education and Care 

    The Department of Early Education and Care's mission is to support the healthy growth and development of all children by providing high quality programs and resources for families and communities.
  • Executive Office of Education 

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    While Massachusetts' students rank first in the nation on many educational measures, the Executive Office of Education strives to strengthen the foundations of education reform, empower schools and educators, and develop pathways to college and careers so all students in the Commonwealth can succeed, regardless of their zip code.
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