Policy Strategies & Innovations Link copied!

Innovation Name Innovation Type Innovation Subtype Features at a Glance Strategy Summary
Boston Public Schools Cost Estimation Model Cost Estimation for Determining Subsidy Rates

Partnered with the Children’s Funding Project to create a cost model

Established in 2005, Boston's Universal Pre-K (UPK) program, administered by the Boston Public Schools (BPS), offers free preschool for the city’s 3- and 4-year-olds in both public school buildings and community-based childcare organizations. Within a few years, it became apparent that the original funding level of $11,000 per child was inadequate and unsustainable for community-based child care organizations. BPS then partnered with the Children's Funding Project to create a cost model that disaggregated program costs to expose differences based on program length and per-child and per-classroom costs. As a result, in school year 2022–23 BPS implemented a hybrid funding model for UPK classrooms in community-based programs. This new approach provides a base funding level per classroom that covers staff salaries and benefits and an additional funding allocation per UPK-eligible child enrolled in the program.

Learn more: children's funding project
Executive Order on Inclusion of Daycare Facilities Expansion Physical Space and Facilities

Ongoing funding

In 2022, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu signed an Executive Order on Inclusion of Daycare Facilities (IDF), which helps expand access to high-quality child care options throughout the city. For the previous 30 years, the IDF zoning regulations had required certain large developments to build child care programs on-site or contribute to the creation of off-site child care programs by contributing to a fund that supports and enhances child care across the city. The amount of each child care contribution had been subject to negotiation, resulting in inconsistencies in enforcement.

The 2022 executive order instead establishes a transparent formula for developers to adhere to, based on a Boston Planning and Development Agency assessment. In turn, their contributions are directed to a child care fund (instead of creating child care programs), providing a stable funding source for the City’s Office of Early Childhood to expand high-quality child care programs. As of May 2023, about 3 million square feet of development was under review, which is expected to generate an estimated $3.5 million in contributions to the child care fund. The Office of Early Childhood will use this money to expand high-quality child care programs and services in high-need areas of Boston by issuing grants to providers and providing training and technical assistance opportunities.

Learn More: Boston's Child Care Zoning Regulations

Source: City of Boston. (2022). Executive order issued to strengthen child care zoning regulations.

City of Boston Office of Early Childhood (OEC) Infrastructure Systems Data Systems

New office facilitates state-city-school district collaboration

In 2022, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the creation of the City of Boston Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to further the City’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five, making OEC a key partner to the state Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Boston Universal Pre-K (UPK) program. The OEC aims to expand access to early education and child care programs, invest in Boston’s early education and care workforce, and serve as a central point of entry for residents looking for information on early education and child care programming and wraparound services for young children and their families.

With the support of the OEC, Boston's UPK program plans to integrate family child care programs as approved providers during the 2023–24 school year. This expansion means Boston UPK’s mixed-delivery system will include three types of settings: Boston Public Schools (BPS) classrooms, community-based organizations, and family child care. BPS and OEC will partner with 20 family child care providers, members of the UPK Advisory Board, and other experts to design the new family child care UPK program.

Learn more: Boston Universal Pre-K

Source: City of Boston (2022). Office of Early Childhood Created to Prioritize Wellbeing of Young Children and Families.

StrongStart Professional Development Centers Workforce Professional Learning

Includes coaching, multilingual programming, and an online component

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) started the StrongStart initiative in phases, beginning in Summer 2019. The five StrongStart Professional Development Centers (PDCs) are administered by the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation. PDCs provide the state’s early education and out-of-school time workforce with training and technical assistance services. Professional development offerings include professional learning communities (PLC) and one-on-one coaching. PLCs consist of a facilitated group of educators and administrators who meet regularly to exchange expertise. One-on-one coaching is offered to family child care (FCC) owners, out-of-school time administrators, and center directors to work on all aspects of managing an early education program including curriculum development, quality improvement, and other strategies for meeting the needs of staff, families, and children. Coaches meet with participants for up to 20 hours over eight weeks, and coaching is offered in Cantonese, English, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish. StrongStart also offers a web-based tool that provides professionals with a credentialing system, a professional registry, and a Learning Management System where educators can take courses on a computer or mobile device.

Learn More: Massachusetts StrongStart


Massachusetts StrongStart. (n.d.). What We Do.

Massachusetts StrongStart. (n.d.). Free coaching for programs.

Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. (n.d.). StrongStart Professional Development Centers.

Massachusetts Education-to-Career (E2C) Research and Data Hub Infrastructure Systems Data Systems

P-20 Longitudinal Data System

Since 2010, the Massachusetts' Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC), Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and Department of Higher Education have hosted the Education-to-Career (E2C) Research and Data Hub, the state’s P-20 longitudinal data system. It includes data on licensed and funded childcare programs (early care and education and after school/out-of-school time programs), public and charter prekindergarten, and early educators. The system functions as a data warehouse and links data through data sharing agreements across multiple agencies including the Executive Office of Education, Children’s Trust, DEEC, and DESE. The warehouse and system provides information at the program and demographic level for public use and private individualized information for agencies or approved data requests.

The system was expanded in 2015 and 2019 with support from the federal Statewide Longitudinal Data System grants.

Learn More: About the Education to Career Research and Data Hub
MA Department of Early Care and Education and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Infrastructure Systems Administrative + Governance Models

First state in the nation to launch an independent, consolidated department focused on early education

In 2005, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to createa cabinet-level department focused on early childhood learning and care—the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). Massachusetts administers five programs serving children: the Child Care and Development Fund; Head Start Collaboration Office; Child and Adult Care Food Program; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B, Section 619; and state pre-K. Grouping these interconnected programs under one agency can help states improve efficiency and allows for better alignment of eligibility, monitoring, and quality improvement requirements and activities (Kagan & Gomez, 2015).

Learn more: Local Governance for Early Childhood: Lessons from Leading States

Bipartisan Policy Center (2023). Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education Systems
Strategies for Children (2008). A case study for the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
Kagan, L. and Gomez, R. (Eds.). (2015) Early Childhood Governance: Choices and Consequences. Teachers College Press.

Boston Universal Pre-Kindergarten Expansion Universal Pre-K Policy (4-Year-Olds)

Number of 3- and 4-year-olds seats: ~4,000
Minimum hours of operation: 6.5 hrs/day; 180 days/yr

Since 2005, Boston’s mixed-delivery Universal Pre-K (UPK)  system has been offered to families with 4-year-olds for 6.5 hours per day, 180 days per year. Universal Pre-K programs in Boston are housed in Boston Public Schools, community-based providers, and family child care providers. Additionally, the city opened applications in March 2023 to include family child care providers in the cohort of programs eligible to offer UPK seats.

Learn More: Boston Universal Pre-Kindergarten

Boston Public Schools. (n.d.). About Boston Universal Pre-K.
Boston Public Schools. (2022). Boston Universal Pre-K Program 2021-2022 Year in Review.
City of Boston. (2023). Steps Taken to Increase Availability, Variety of Preschool Seats for Boston Families.

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Demographics Link copied!

State population

6,981,974 Source U.S. Census, 2022

Rural %

8.7% Source U.S. Census, 2020

Urban %

91.3% Source U.S. Census, 2020

Number of children age 0-4

346,922 Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Poverty levels – children 0-8 below 200% poverty

25% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Median family income among households with children

$119,100.00 Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Unemployment rate

3.3% Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2022

Unemployment rate of parents

4% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Children under age 6 with all available parents in the labor force

75% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Children living in households with a high housing cost burden

30% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

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Child population by race and ethnicity Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Race and Ethnicity

  • American Indian and Alaska Native (0.49%)
  • Asian (8%)
  • Black or African American (9%)
  • Hispanic or Latino (20%)
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (0.49%)
  • Two or More Races (4%)
  • White, not Hispanic or Latino (59%)
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Political Landscape Link copied!

Source: Ballotpedia 2023

Early Childhood Education Programs Link copied!

Public pre-K program name

Commonwealth Preschool Partnerships Initiative Source: NIEER 2023

Public pre-K program name

Chapter 70 Source: NIEER 2023

Universal or targeted pre-K policy

Targeted Pre-K Policy (3- and 4-Year-Olds) Source: NIEER 2023

Universal or targeted pre-K policy

Targeted Pre-K Policy (3- and 4-Year-Olds) Source: NIEER 2023

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Percent of 3-Year-Old Children Enrolled in Public Early Childhood Education Programs Source: NIEER 2023


  • 3-year-old children enrolled in state-funded public pre-K (13%)
  • 3-year-old children enrolled in Head Start (7%)
  • Other/none (80%)
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Percent of 4-Year-Old Children Enrolled in Public Early Childhood Education Programs Source: NIEER 2023


  • 4-year-old children enrolled in state-funded public pre-K (25%)
  • 4-year-old children enrolled in Head Start (6%)
  • Other/none (69%)
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Workforce Link copied!

2017–2019 Median Hourly Wages Source CSCCE 2018, 2020


  • Child care workers
  • Preschool teachers
  • Preschool or child care center directors
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Funding Sources Link copied!

Federal and State Early Childhood Education Funding (in millions) Source First Five Years Fund, 2022

Funding source

  • Head Start and Early Head Start Funding ($154.3)
  • CCDBG & Mandatory Funds ($148.8)
  • CCDBG State Match ($23.5)
  • CCDBG COVID Relief Allocations – CARES, CRRSE, ARPA (CCDF & Stabilization) ($687.3)
  • State-Funded Pre-K ($77.0)
  • MIECHV ($6.9)
  • IDEA Part C ($12.0)
  • IDEA Part B, Sec 619 ($15.3)
  • TANF Early Learning and Care Expenditures ($265.4)
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Funding acronyms: CCDBG: Child Care and Development Block Grant; CARES Act: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; CRRSE Act: Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations; ARPA: American Rescue Plan Act; CCDF: Child Care and Development Fund; MIECHV: Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The COVID Funding Cliff

All federal COVID relief allocations, including funding authorized by the CARES, CRRSE, and ARPA bills, must be fully spent by September 2024. An analysis from the Century Foundation shows this loss of funds could cause more than 3 million children to lose access to child care nationwide – including more than 56,000 children in Massachusetts.