Effective public policy advocacy can move the needle on big issues, while strengthening communities and families where it matters most.
No indoor play space. Inadequate heating and cooling. Classrooms without windows. These were a few of the issues uncovered in up to 54% of early education programs when the Children’s Investment Fund, backed by research funds from United Way and others, set out to assess the quality of early education learning spaces across the state.
Their findings were alarming – 54% lacked indoor active play space, 34% had inadequate heating and cooling, 22% lacked workspace for teachers, 65% lacked technology for teachers, and 20% had one or more classrooms without windows.
The report, along with State House advocacy efforts led by the Children’s Investment Fund and United Way, spurred the political and public will for passage of the Housing Bond Bill in 2014, legislation that included a $45 million fund to create a new Early Education and Out of School Capital Fund to improve the quality of center-based facilities.
Two years later, the EEOST Capital Fund has distributed over $11 million to help nearly 20 early childhood organizations modernize their space and improve the quality of the learning environments for children. Several United Way partner organizations are among those awarded funds to renovate their early education centers, including Beverly Learning Center, Catholic Charities, Ellis Memorial, Community TeamWork Inc., For Kids Only, United Teen Equality Center and Community Art Canter.
It’s just one example of how United Way brings together different sectors to create a change that is at a greater scale than any one organization can do alone.
Another is the Community Investment Tax Credit, which has generated over $8 million in new funding for community development corporations (CDCs) across Massachusetts by providing a 50% state tax credit for private donations.
The CITC has brought over 1,500 donations to the economic and community development work of CDCs, organizations who have spent decades making sure families are not driven out of their neighborhoods and children remain in their schools. Prior to the CITC, most CDCs received very few donations from individuals, relying instead on earned revenue, along with government, foundation, and corporate funding, according to the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations.
In just the past two years, the CDCs who benefit from the funds raised by the United Way through the CITC have:
- Built over 600 new affordable housing units;
- Prevented more than 1,300 foreclosures;
- Provided more than 11,600 individuals with financial coaching and financial education to help them build savings, reduce debt and improve credit scores.
A voice for large scale change
At a recent convening of the Board chairs of our partner agencies, led by our own Board Chair, Deloitte partner Susan Esper, these business leaders called out revenue and resources as their number one challenge and noted United Way is uniquely positioned to be a strong voice and presence on Beacon Hill for large scale change.
Each year, United Way lays out a policy agenda that includes budget and legislative priorities. Last year, this policy work helped to leverage $95 million in state funding for the issues we are working on this year, from increased state funding for early educators, workforce development programs and capital improvements to early education facilities, to rental assistance to prevent homelessness and expansion of the successful Earned Income Tax Credit.