To the editor: The economy requires a stable workforce to thrive. Many in the workforce with young children require reliable early education and care and after-school programs to maintain employment or to attend college/technical school.

Research shows early learning programs for children strongly promote early literacy, kindergarten readiness, improved education outcomes, and lifelong impacts on employment and health and wellbeing. At the Brigham Center, we are providing the highest quality care being the only center in Berkshire County with the highest level on the state's quality rating and improvement system system.

Since August 2021, the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grant has helped to stabilize child care programs and prevented hundreds of providers from closing by making use of federal funds. The C3 program's success suggests this grant should become a permanent financing vehicle used to expand access for children, enhance parent affordability and invest in workforce compensation.

At the Brigham Center, we have used this grant to fund multiple bonuses and benefits for our dedicated staff who cared for children throughout the pandemic. The last bonus given was to honor them as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week. Our educators are steadfast in loving their job and the children they care for, so they should be compensated for that commitment in a field where they have been underpaid for decades.

The next fiscal year's state budget is being drafted now. The House budget includes $92 million in new funding for the early education and care system in next year's budget, including a much-needed rate increase for subsidized child care programs. Though the House did not include funding for C3 grants, the Senate did, providing $250 million in its budget, but did not fund the House's $60 million for the rate reserve. We need that additional $35 million annualized funding for our programs and workforce, specifically Amendment No. 694. Legislators should include both House and Senate funding in the final conference committee budget.

What's become painfully clear in the last two years is the need to invest public funds into early education and care. Now is the time to change funding and support early education and out of school time programming the way it should be. We must urge all legislators to continue to support our early educator programs with immediate, short-term and long-term investments. Our future depends on it.

Kelly A. Marion, Pittsfield

The writer is CEO of Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center in Pittsfield.