SECTION 1. Whereas, research has established that the first three years of a child’s life are the most critical period in his or her intellectual, social, linguistic, and emotional development; and whereas the earliest experiences in the first three years of life provide the foundation for the behaviors, skills, and competencies that support lifelong learning and development; and whereas the earliest experiences in the first three years of life can dramatically shape and support brain development into adulthood, providing the foundation for school readiness and success in school and in life; and
Whereas, children who have not received appropriate educational experiences during the first three years of life are far less likely to enter pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten school ready, to read at grade level by fourth grade, to graduate from high school, and to participate in the workforce, and are far more likely to engage in negative and criminal behaviors at enormous cost to the entire community; and
Whereas, despite the expanded availability of early learning programs such as Head Start and pre-kindergarten, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has no comprehensive program to address the educational needs of children from birth to age 3; therefore,
SECTION 2. Chapter 15D of the General Laws is hereby amended to insert after Section 13 a new Section 13A, as follows:
Section 13A. (a) The board shall establish a program to be known as the Massachusetts Birth to 3 Education Program to provide high quality early education and care programs to children in this age group living in Gateway Cities and other communities of concentrated poverty in the Commonwealth.
(b) The program shall provide high-quality supports and educational services to families with children birth to 3 to enhance their children’s ability to make age appropriate progress in the development of cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and physical capacities to promote school readiness;
(c) The Massachusetts Birth to 3 Education Program shall be delivered through a mixed system of providers and programs, with an emphasis on in-home programs that are sufficiently flexible to serve families with various work schedules.
(d) The department shall develop a method for funding the program, which may include: (i) providing grants to, or entering into contracts with any provider of birth to age 3 education programs, or entities coordinating or administering plans to provide high-quality, comprehensive services to children birth to age 3 and their families within the local community; (ii) directly contracting with any provider of birth to age 3 education programs, or entities coordinating or administering plans to provide high-quality, comprehensive services to children birth to age 3 and their families within the local community; or (iii) providing vouchers to families with birth to age 3 children to secure services from any provider of birth to age 3 education programs, or entities coordinating or administering plans to provide high-quality, comprehensive services to children birth to age 3 and their families within the local community.
(e) Providers eligible to participate in and receive funding from Massachusetts Birth to 3 Education Program may include, but are not limited to: public; private; non-profit and for-profit providers; child care centers; Head Start programs; independent and system-affiliated family child care homes; housing authorities constituted under chapter 121B, and local early education and care councils.
(f) All providers shall demonstrate that they are willing and able to serve and integrate children of diverse abilities and special needs, diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and diverse economic circumstances to participate in and receive funding from Massachusetts Birth to 3 Education Program.
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