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Senate Kids First Working Group Releases Kids First: A Vision for a Stronger Commonwealth

May 2, 2017

BOSTON- Members of the Senate Kids First working group today released Kids First: A Vision for a Stronger Commonwealth, a strategic blueprint for investing in children and their families to build pathways to successful, productive, and healthy adulthood.

For the last 15 years, Massachusetts has seen roughly 40% of its third graders—and 6 out of 10 low-income third graders— not reading at grade level, highlighting the shortcomings of our early education efforts and the steep challenges of future efforts to close the achievement gap. Kids First proposes the goal of reducing by at least half the number of third-graders who are not reading proficiently by 2027.

To dramatically increase third grade reading proficiency rates and support the whole child, the Senate Kids First initiative has established four broad areas within which to focus specific strategies: Access, Quality, Readiness, and Integration.  These four pillars provide the foundation on which all policy recommendations in Kids First are centered.

"We can help hundreds of thousands of children stay in school, stay out of jail, and lead productive and successful lives, or we can continue to pay the price of neglecting them. Investing in our children is one of the best returns around, and improving third grade reading proficiency is the place to start,” said Senate President Rosenberg (D-Amherst).  “I’m very proud of the Kids First working group."

“Building strong and resilient children should, and must, be our Commonwealth’s number one priority, and achieving this goal requires our devotion to this commitment at every step of a child’s educational, social, and economic upbringing” said Senator DiDomenico (D-Everett), chair of the Senate Kids First initiative. “I am proud of the strategic vision and values laid out by the Senate in Kids First, and I am confident that this document will provide our Commonwealth with a critical road map of steps we must take to make serious, significant, and sustained investments in our children’s futures.”

“When it comes to education, Bay Staters shouldn’t be satisfied with nibbling around the edges,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D–Jamaica Plain), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “We have failed for 15 years to move the needle an inch on getting all our third graders to grade-level reading proficiency. We need bold, dynamic solutions. The Kids First initiative identifies the core problems and lays out a blueprint for fixing them in a scaled, systemic way. That’s the kind of leadership Bay Staters can be proud of.”

"We are grateful for the leadership of Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Senator Sal DiDomenico, and members of the Kids First initiative for putting forward a bold vision for young children and families in Massachusetts,” said Amy O’Leary, Director of Early Education for All. “If we are serious about closing the persistent achievement gap, we know that we must start earlier and consider opportunities to connect health, education, and housing. We look forward to working together with leaders in the Senate, House and Baker Administration on behalf of children, families and early educators in the Commonwealth."

After collecting extensive input, the Senate working group crafted a vision statement of strategic priorities, including budget and policy recommendations, selected to re-orient Massachusetts towards a twenty-first-century education system and to begin prioritizing long-term, smart, and strategic investments in children and their families that will provide a pathway to healthy, productive adulthood.  While this initiative is broad in scope, from pre-natal to college/career, the focus and content of today’s Senate vision statement is on the critical years of birth through age 9.

Senate President Rosenberg created the Kids First initiative to propose a series of recommendations that seek to build strong and resilient kids in the Commonwealth. Together, Senate President Rosenberg and Senator DiDomenico convened a cross-jurisdictional working group of senators to look comprehensively at a wide array of policy areas that relate to supporting children. The Kids First working group invited experts in diverse fields including early childhood development, health, education, housing, and nutrition, among others, to share their knowledge through questionnaires, meetings, and presentations.

The plan laid out in Kids First is not meant as a blueprint for omnibus legislation or any piece of legislation in particular. Rather, it is offered as a statement of the Senate’s vision for children and a statement of budgetary priorities in the years to come.  A link to the blueprint can be found here.

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