By Branden LaCroix
Interim News Editor
Rep. Katherine Clark visited FSU’s Centers for Early Childhood Education Nov. 1.
Clark, a Democrat, is the representative for Massachusetts’s fifth district in the United States House of Representatives. She is currently up for reelection on Nov. 8.
Clark said she chose to visit FSU because it “is one of the outstanding universities in my district, and really plays a key role today and throughout history in educating preschool early educators.”
The first stop on her visit was to the Jeanne M. Canelli Child Development Lab in Hemenway Hall, where she and her team met with Valerie Hytholt, director of the Centers for Early Childhood Education, and James Cressey, education professor and Education Department chair.
The Child Development Lab offers preschool programs to “children from Framingham State University and surrounding communities,” and is a teaching and research laboratory for FSU students studying early childhood education, according to the FSU website.
There, Clark read, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert, and “Boy and Bot,” by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino to the children attending the Lab’s program.
During her visit, she and her staff attended a private meeting with President Nancy Niemi.
In an email, Niemi said, “We had a thoughtful and spirited conversation about the need for high-quality child care, and also the imperative for continued funding and commitment to public education.”
She added they discussed issues about “providing accessible public higher education to our community” to help meet employers’ needs for “highly skilled employees,” as well as addressing the “gender imbalances in nursing and K-12 teaching.”
Clark’s last stop on her visit was the Early Childhood Education Center.
The Center provides “full day care to the children of Framingham State University employees and surrounding communities,” and offers internships to FSU students, according to the FSU website.
Hytholt said Clark was interested “to see how [Framingham State] connects with our college students and the coursework,” and how FSU’s preschool programs operate.
FSU offers two majors related to early childhood education - the early childhood education major for students interested in becoming public school teachers, and the child and family studies major for students interested in becoming “teachers or administrators in preschool, childcare, early intervention, or other community-based programs,” according to the FSU website.
She added Clark was also interested in the demographics of the children staying at FSU’s preschools, how the centers help working-class families, and about FSU’s partnership with Framingham public schools.
Hytholt said she hopes what Clark takes away from the visit is how FSU is “really preparing our college students and also the needs of preschools - for funding for support - and the needs of our families.”
According to Clark, there are two main issues currently facing childcare, the first being low wages for early educators and the second being a lack of access to affordable childcare for families.
“We need a solution where the federal government can help with funding so we can bring salaries up, increase training, attract more people to the profession, and not continue to have those costs borne by increasing tuition for families,” she said.
She added, “We have a crisis right now in childcare, and a lot of the answers are going to be found here at FSU.”
Concerning the upcoming midterm elections, Clark said she is “proud to stand on the record” about the Democrats’ and the Biden administration’s accomplishments, citing the increase in manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and the passing of “common sense gun laws.”
Over the past year, approximately 467,000 manufacturing jobs were added to the economy, according to an Oct. 20 article by NPR.
On June 25, President Joseph R. Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, which “expanded background checks for individuals under the age of 21 purchasing firearms,” funded “school-based mental health programs,” and provided state grants for “crisis intervention order programs” and “community-based violence prevention initiatives,” according to Ballotpedia.
She said, “But, we are living in an age of misinformation and division,” adding she worries about the implications if Republicans win the majority in Congress.
She advised students to “be involved,” not only at FSU, but in their communities and in politics.
“Not only is it imperative that you vote, but we're at a crossroads in this country,” she said. “And we need students to help us choose whether we're going to continue to be a democracy or are we not.”