At INSITES this week, Amy O’Leary – a member of the Children’s Investment Fund Board of Directors and the current director of Early Education for All, a campaign of Strategies for Children – shares why she believes in advocating for high-quality early education and care facilities across the Commonwealth.
I have always had great admiration for the work of the Children’s Investment Fund. As a former preschool teacher and program director, I know the important role the environment plays in ensuring high-quality early education for young children and families. I served on the Facilities Inventory Advisory Committee for the 2011 report Building an Infrastructure for Quality: An Inventory of Early Childhood Education and Out-of-School Time Facilities in Massachusetts, which was commissioned by the Fund.
It was an eye-opening experience to learn more about the research, the results of the survey and inventory of programs across Massachusetts, the capital resources needed, and next steps for action. The report included bold recommendations that helped to lay the foundation for the new Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) Capital Fund to improve the quality of program facilities. That fund was included in a five-year housing and community development bond bill that was approved by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2013. [Editor’s Note: EEOST was reauthorized in the Housing Bond Bill that Governor Baker signed in 2018.]
Since joining the Board in 2016, I have learned so much more about the critical work of the organization. I am so impressed at the intentionality of the work – from the technical assistance for providers, the individualized support for programs, the partnership with the Department of Early Education and Care along with the Baker-Polito Administration and the Legislature, the research capacity and efforts to raise awareness about facilities in Massachusetts. It has been wonderful to see the Fund be recognized as a leader in this space. I know there are so many organizations and policymakers who would benefit from learning more about the Fund and lessons learned.
Along with many others, I helped to advocate for the reauthorization of the bond bill in 2018 which included the EEOST Capital Fund. It has been absolutely AMAZING to see the transformation of the programs that have received the funding. The difference is not just in the physical space- it can also be seen and felt in the classroom practices and from positive feedback from educators, administrators and families. I am so encouraged by the number of programs that are applying for the funds and hope that we will secure annual bond allocations of the full $9 million that was authorized for the EEOST Capital Fund.
I believe we need strong, smart, competent leaders who will work to help make things better for young children and families. My personal mission is to work to empower early educators and to provide information and support to get them involved in advocacy, policy, and research. As a preschool teacher at Ellis Memorial in Boston, I was honored and humbled to work in partnership with families as their children were learning, growing and celebrating milestones along the way. As a center director, I became interested in how policies were made and wondered if the early childhood system supported parents and educators. As an advocate, I have encouraged likely and unlikely allies to share my passion for making young children and early educators a priority. As an adjunct faculty member, I am inspired by my students. I am committed to ensuring we have empowered educators for our young children while providing leadership opportunities for educators to practice what they are learning.
I believe my perspective as an early educator, combined with my current work as an advocate working on state and national policy and my passion for supporting the early education workforce are a good fit for serving on the Children’s Investment Fund Board, and I am so grateful for the opportunity. I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure children get the strong foundation they deserve.