Governor Healey Announces Universal, High-Quality Pre-K Access for Gateway Cities

Governor Maura Healey today laid out her administration’s agenda to make early education and child care more affordable and accessible for all families across Massachusetts. The Governor will highlight these programs in her State of the Commonwealth address tomorrow and propose the funding in her Fiscal Year 2025 budget next week.

The “Gateway to Pre-K” agenda includes four key components:

  • Delivering universal, high-quality preschool access for four-year-olds in all Gateway Cities by the end of 2026. Every family of a 4-year-old in these 26 communities will have the opportunity – at a low or no cost — to enroll their child in a high-quality preschool program that prepares them for kindergarten.
  • Increasing Child Fare Financial Assistance (CCFA) eligibility from 50 percent of the state median income (SMI) to 85 percent SMI to help an additional 4,000 low-and moderate-income families afford care.
  • Continuing Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants in FY25, providing stable funding for programs to improve quality, pay facility costs, and hire more staff, thereby creating more classrooms where families can enroll their children in affordable child care.
  • Signing an executive order to recognize the essential role child care plays in driving the state’s economy and competitiveness forward and directing the Healey-Driscoll administration to take a whole-of-government approach to ensuring affordable, high-quality child care.

“Our ‘Gateway to Pre-K’ agenda will fundamentally transform the early education system in Massachusetts. We’re lowering costs for families to enroll their children in child care and Pre-K and ensuring our hardworking providers have the support they need to deliver high-quality care,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Far too many parents are being held back from returning to the workforce because of the daunting cost of child care, and providers are facing the difficult decision between continuing in the profession they love or leaving for a higher-paid career. Our budget proposal will help to relieve those pressures by expanding high-quality Pre-K access, delivering more financial assistance to thousands more families, and sustaining our historic investments in C3 grants to providers.”

“As Governor Healey and I travel around the state, we hear about the high cost of child care and the impact that is having on families and business. We have made many positive strides in year one, and we are taking even bigger and bolder action in the next few years so that regardless of zip code or economic background, our youngest learners can access the high-quality education they need to succeed in school and beyond, while also supporting our local economy and communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll.

“Governor Healey gets it: child care is the key to unlocking Massachusetts’ economic potential,” said Democratic Whip Katherine Clark. “Federal pandemic relief funding proved that with public investment and a commitment to working families, we can expand access to care, cut costs for parents, and enable businesses to thrive. I am grateful to Governor Healey for taking on this urgent challenge and for being my partner in the fight for affordable, accessible care. As Massachusetts takes this step forward, I will continue pushing in Washington for the resources and solutions we need to ensure our early education and care system truly works for working families.”

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) currently administers the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (CPPI), which establishes a district–wide preschool program across classes in public and community-based early education and care programs. As a result, every 4-year-old receives equitable access to high quality preschool, while ensuring families have multiple provider options to choose from. This levels the playing field for kindergarten readiness across the district, establishing coordinated curriculum and similar goals regardless of where a child is enrolled. CPPI funding also provides scholarships to participating families to enroll at no or low cost and enables full day/full year services through the mix of public and community classrooms. Further, CPPI promotes equitable access to special education to ensure full inclusion of children with disabilities through the least restrictive settings.

CPPI is currently in 12 Gateway Cities (Brockton, Fall River, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, New Bedford, Salem, Springfield and Westfield). Through investments in the FY25 budget, the administration is proposing to expand CPPI into the 14 remaining Gateway Cities over the next two years.

Governor Healey announced her Gateway to Pre-K agenda in Malden, an example of a Gateway City that has benefited from CPPI, providing access to high quality preschool through multiple partners: Malden Public Schools, Malden Early Education and Learning Program, Cheverus Catholic School, Little Love Bugs Daycare, My Best Friends Child Care, and Malden YMCA. Through CPPI, Malden has standardized the use of a high-quality preschool curriculum that integrates evidence-based practices in early literacy, as well as coordinates and intentionally aligns policies, assessments, and professional development. Although the CPPI program is relatively new, Malden leaders have already noticed the significant impact.

“CPPI has made a meaningful difference in our district – developing partnerships between school districts and local early education programs provides an equal playing field so that every preschooler in our community is on the same plan and has access to the same resources and materials. I am excited to see this program expand into more programs and communities, and I want to thank Governor Healey and the Administration for making this important announcement in our community,” said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson.

“We all in Malden Public Schools love this program because we see it is going to have a big trajectory, big picture for students from prekindergarten to grade 12 to be ready for what every they want to do in life. It also allows our teachers and the community-based teachers to share in best practices and professional development, furthering their impact and sense of community,” said Malden Public Schools Superintendent Ligia Noriega-Murphy.

Massachusetts’ child care financial assistance programs help families pay for early education and care programs by covering all or a percentage of the cost of care based on their income. Current initial eligibility is at or below 50 percent SMI, meaning families earning less than $49,467 annually for a family of two and $61,106 for a family of three. Federal rules allow states to go up to 85 percent SMI. By increasing eligibility to 85 percent SMI, more low-and moderate-income families, including staff working in education and care programs, get help paying for care. That means families earning less than annually $84,094 for a family of two and $103,880 for a family of three will now be eligible for help paying for care.

C3 has been a game changer for child care programs and families, helping to not only keep over 7,000 programs open, but also supporting over 42,000 educators. C3 enables programs to better recruit and retain their staff, increase compensation, and invest in high-quality initiatives so that costs aren’t passed onto parents. The C3 program was initially supported primarily by federal dollars, but as those funds were set to expire, Governor Healey last year proposed continuing the funding with 100 percent state dollars for the first time. This proposal was supported by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Healey. The investment helped to stabilize the early education system and contributed to 7 percent increase in the number of child care programs, adding more than 10,600 child care slots across the state. Continuing C3 will enable programs to remain open and continue supporting system-wide growth through investments in workforce, quality, and affordability.

“Within my first week in this administration, Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Driscoll let me know that they were looking for a solution for the challenges facing our child care system. Our bold new early education agenda goes further than providing a solution, it spells out our plan for fundamental transformation,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Patrick Tutwiler. “We know that child care and preschool are critical for the success of our early learners, and provide an essential backbone to our economy by supporting working parents. Our ‘Gateway to Pre-K’ approach is more of an educational prerogative—it’s an economic imperative.”

“Early education is foundational to closing the opportunity gap in Massachusetts – bringing economic equity and mobility to families as well as educational opportunities to their children. Access to affordable child care is also an engine of the state’s economy, enabling families of all income levels to participate in our workforce,” said Early Education and Care Commissioner Amy Kershaw. “I am grateful to Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Driscoll for these bold actions and look forward to working in partnership with the Legislature and our diverse network of early education programs, educators, families, and business leaders to move these efforts forward to build an affordable, equitable, and high-quality early education system for all Massachusetts families.”

Governor Healey also signed an Executive Order directing her administration to take a whole of government approach to child care, which impacts all aspects of life in Massachusetts. It will bring together teams from housing, child care, education, economic development, workforce development, health care and human services to work in partnership with the business community to develop new, and innovative strategies to expand access, build new facilities and reduce costs for families. State agencies will pay particular attention to the need for workforce training and apprenticeships, and will review employer tax credits or other incentives for offering or assisting with employee child care.

“Child care solutions are a critical enabler for economic growth in Massachusetts,” said Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao. “The Gateway to Pre-K initiative will empower members of our workforce and businesses across the state and make Massachusetts more competitive, affordable, and equitable.”

“Accessible, affordable, and quality child care is a critical infrastructure for Massachusetts workers and families,”said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Lauren Jones. “As an economic imperative, I look forward to working collaboratively with government, business, and community partners to build a strong pipeline of early childhood educators, and strengthen child care as a valuable support for attracting and retaining workers representing businesses and industries statewide.”

This multi-pronged new child care initiative builds on the significant progress that was made during the Healey-Driscoll administration’s first year in office, including the hallmark budget proposal to invest an historic $475 million in state dollars to continue C3 grants when federal funds were sunsetting and reforming the state’s child care financial assistance programs to make them simpler, easier, and to lower costs for families. These new transformative initiatives also build on the administration’s significant provider rate increases and changes approved just last week.


Read today’s executive order.


Statements of Support:

State Senator Robyn Kennedy (D-First Worcester):

“Every child in our Commonwealth should be able to begin their academic career with quality early education and every caregiver should have access to affordable child care. I am grateful for Governor Healey’s leadership in enhancing our potential to reach this goal by investing in our early education and care providers and expanding eligibility. I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with my colleagues in the Legislature and the Healey/Driscoll Administration to ensure every child has the necessary tools to achieve lifelong academic success.”

State Senator Patrcia Jehlen (D-Middlesex):

“Excellent care for our youngest residents is crucial for them, their families, and our economy.  I’m grateful to Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll for prioritizing this. And I’m grateful to the activists and voters who passed the Fair Share Amendment which makes this increased funding possible.”

State Representative Steve Ultrino (D-Malden), Vice-Chair – Joint Committee on Education:

“I am extremely excited to hear about the Governor’s continued commitment to early childhood and her understanding on how important early childhood education is for the children of our commonwealth. This investment is crucial in helping to make Massachusetts continue to be a welcoming place to raise a family and sustain economic success.”

Paul Belsito, Chair, Board of Early Education and Care:

“The Board of Early Education and Care has been working diligently over the past year with the Healey-Driscoll Administration on equitably supporting families to afford and access high-quality early education and care across Massachusetts. I am grateful for Governor Healey’s bold, significant budget proposal that will expand access to high-quality pre-k, increase financial assistance eligibility for thousands of families, and continue the critical C3 grant program. As a Commonwealth, we continue to take huge steps forward in addressing the needs of children, families, and programs.”

Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group and Vice-Chair of the Board of Early Education and Care:

“Governor Healey’s announcement highlights early education and care as an important part of our state infrastructure and as an economic catalyst for our state, our communities, our employers and our families. The collaboration and partnerships resulting from these initiatives will translate into innovative practices for the field of early education and care, and will accelerate progress on child care affordability and accessibility for families. Child care impacts parents’ ability to work, to thrive emotionally and financially, and, long term, to contribute to the economic stability of their communities and our state. Moreover, early education and care programs help to support the healthy development and academic success of the children in our care. I can’t think of a more insightful investment on behalf of our state, with significant short term and long term returns.”

Amy O’Leary, Executive Director, Strategies for Children:

“Today marks a transformative step that builds on decades of progress and a strong foundation for children, families and educators across the Commonwealth. This work demands a multi-sector approach and we are excited to see this comprehensive proposal that goes beyond traditional boundaries at the state and local level – incorporating education, workforce development and economic development. The plans announced by Governor Healey will provide significant financial relief to families in the middle class, while also emphasizing our commitment to equity and opportunity for all. The current Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative communities are leading the way in preschool expansion through a mixed delivery system recognizing the strengths of family child care programs, center-based programs and school districts. By fostering local partnerships and encouraging collaboration, we can create a seamless and inclusive early educational experience for every child. We are grateful to Governor Healey, Lt. Governor Driscoll, Secretary Tutwiler, and Commissioner Kershaw for their leadership. We look forward to working in partnership with members of the Healey-Driscoll Administration and the Legislature to reframe how we think about and support early childhood in this state and continue to invest the resources needed for implementation.”

JD Chesloff, President & CEO, Massachusetts Business Roundtable:

“Accessible, affordable, high-quality child care is essential to a thriving economy, providing a necessary support for parents – mostly women – to actively participate in the workforce. For a state experiencing a talent crunch, it also provides employers with access to people who have otherwise been disconnected from the workforce by high costs and the inability to find quality care for their children. The proposals offered by Governor Healey are an extraordinary and bold set of investments, providing an “all of government” approach that shows a deep commitment to children, families, and early childhood educators across the Commonwealth. The Roundtable commends the Healey-Driscoll administration for these actions, building upon the recent momentum of our public leaders in the Administration and Legislature to prioritize this issue and recognize child care as an essential economic development and workforce development strategy that fuels the state’s economy.”

Lisa Murray, Massachusetts President at Citizens, Chair of Massachusetts Business Roundtable:

“We commend Governor Healey and Lieutenant Driscoll’s leadership on early education and child care. At Citizens, we are committed to helping build the workforce of the future and understand that access to affordable early child care is essential to keeping working families here in Massachusetts.  We are proud to support these new initiatives that will provide critical financial relief for families and will expand the pipeline for early childhood educators.”

Tom Weber, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education and Eastern Bank Foundation Fellow:

“Governor Healey’s proposals for child care are transformational and achievable, with powerful benefits for all Massachusetts families and the entire economy. Child care is vital infrastructure, supporting education, community development, workforce development, and economic development. We look forward to working with the Healey-Driscoll Administration and our dedicated Legislature to achieve a world-class child care system that will support the success of every Massachusetts child, family, community, and business.”

David Foley, President, SEIU Local 509:

“As the largest union representing early educators in Massachusetts, we celebrate Governor Healey’s commitment to improving our child care system. This investment would be a substantial step forward in addressing the urgent needs of families seeking care as well as the educators who provide it. It is exciting to note that this proposal would significantly expand access to vouchers, moving us closer to a more equitable process for families in their search for child care. We are also thrilled to see that this investment includes continued C3 grant funding, a crucial resource that educators rely on to continue serving our communities. We are committed to advocating for the legislature to see this through to ensure that families and educators are receiving the support they need and deserve.”

William J. Eddy, Executive Director of Massachusetts Association of Early Education & Care:

“Today’s announcement reflects the strong commitment of the Healey-Driscoll Administration to expanding access to high-quality early education for Massachusetts working families while prioritizing our most at-risk children. Early education programs across Massachusetts appreciate the Governor’s efforts and look forward to working with the Administration on shared goals.”

Lauren Kennedy, Co-President and Chief Strategy Officer, Neighborhood Villages:

“Today’s actions by the Healey-Driscoll administration are major steps forward in making our early education and care system more affordable and accessible for all. We want to particularly commend the administration’s commitment to improving access to child care financial assistance for families, as well as the continuation of direct-to-provider operations grants, which are essential to sector stability and achieving a high-quality, accessible child care system. Neighborhood Villages applauds the Healy-Driscoll administration’s leadership and is proud to be part of a state that is leading the way on investing in early education as education.”

Deb Fastino, Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice, Director of the 170+ member Common Start Coalition:

“The bold actions described by Governor Healey today will help solidify and build on the progress Massachusetts has made in recent years, and move us a big step closer to the transformed early education and child care system Massachusetts families need. Ensuring that more Massachusetts families have access to affordable, high-quality early education and child care will dramatically improve racial and gender equity in Massachusetts, and make our state more competitive and affordable for families and businesses. We look forward to working with the Healey-Driscoll administration, the House, and the Senate to deliver on our shared vision of a child care system that provides all children with an equal start in life, strengthens our economy, and meets the needs of working parents and the 21st century workforce.”

Kate-Marie Roycroft, CEO, Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs:

“The Massachusetts YMCAs are honored to support the initiatives around early education that the Healey-Driscoll Administration has announced. We appreciate the steady partnership from the Healey-Driscoll Administration in tackling issues like operational support for early education and out-of-school time providers. We also applaud their dedication to increasing the income level when a family can qualify for a subsidy, making it easier for more families to access affordable early education. Their continuous commitment to supporting and improving the early education and out-of-school time system in Massachusetts will positively impact the families we serve, the educators and staff in our programs, and the children we teach.”

Michelle Haimowitz, Executive Director, Massachusetts Head Start Association:

“The pandemic unearthed challenges that had been forming for years in early education: our teachers and workforce deserve higher wages and a strengthened pipeline, and all vulnerable families deserve access to the highest-quality comprehensive early childhood programs. Head Start programs support our state’s most vulnerable young families, including those experiencing homelessness and trauma. We are appreciative of the priority that the Healey-Driscoll administration is placing on early education and look forward to working with them in support of Head Start families and educators.”

Jenn Aldworth, Executive Director, Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs:

“We are thankful to Governor Maura Healey, Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, and Secretary Pat Tutwiler for today’s important announcement regarding their continued commitment to early education and child care affordability and accessibility. We are grateful the Administration and their colleagues in the legislature for their continued support of C3 funding, it is because of this support that the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, comprised of 40 organizations with 64 sites, continues making a difference in the lives of over 75,000 youth daily.  We commend the Governor for issuing an Executive Order, creating a Task Force that will elevate the importance of Child-Care and how it impacts other segments and industries.”

Kate Warren Barnes, Vice President, Policy & Government Relations, Jumpstart for Young Children:

“Every child deserves the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive and Jumpstart for Young Children applauds the Healey-Driscoll administration for their ongoing commitment to building a stronger, more equitable tomorrow for every child and family in Massachusetts. With this announcement, the Healey-Driscoll administration has shown a continued commitment to investing in our children’s future by prioritizing early care and education, universal pre-K, and providing crucial family financial assistance. These investments in early care and education will help ensure that Jumpstart can continue to provide our evidence-based curriculum in preschools across the state while also developing and expanding the early care and education workforce.”

Ari Taylor, Malden Ward 5 City Councilor:

“Providing all children the same accessibility to high quality child care starting in Pre-k provides a foundation for creating a more equitable Commonwealth. I am thrilled to see this as a priority for Massachusetts families.”

Ryan O’Malley, Malden Ward 4 City Councilor:

“I would like to thank Governor Healey and her administration for recognizing the early childhood education needs of working families in gateway cities. The economic health of Massachusetts is inextricably tied to the quality of education available in bellwether communities like Malden. This proposal is a needed step towards reimagining education funding in the Commonwealth.”

Sharyn Rose-Zeiberg, Malden Ward 8 School Committee:

“The importance of early education in children’s development has long been recognized. However, too many families have faced roadblocks to gaining access to affordable, high quality early education, preschool and care. I am excited and encouraged by the Governor’s plans to address the needs of our State’s families.”

Kerry Bryant, Communications Professional from Melrose:

“Access to early education has not only provided my children with a strong foundation for learning and vital social skills, it has also enabled me to pursue meaningful career opportunities. I am a better parent and a better professional because I am confident in the skilled early educators who provide a safe and nurturing environment for my children, and that’s something every family in the Commonwealth deserves.”