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Federal regulators see no issue with state’s early education spending

Federal regulators have concluded that Massachusetts broke no rules over the past year in its use of millions of federal dollars to expand early education to thousands of low-income children.

The state’s congressional delegation last month raised questions about the spending, saying the state may have improperly used $14 million.

Congress last year significantly increased funding for low-income child care programs, boosting the annual amount Massachusetts receives from roughly $110 million to $140 million.

The delegation, in a March 29 letter to Governor Charlie Baker, said Massachusetts used $14 million of those new federal funds to replace state spending on child care programs for poor families, rather than to supplement it.


“Taking away state funding and replacing it with any portion of the intended supplemental allotment of [federal money] appears to violate Congressional intent,” the letter said.

That, the delegation wrote, breaks rules requiring states to use the money to expand their support for early education.

But the Administration for Children and Families, the federal agency that regulates early education, said in letter Thursday that state administrators followed the rules. The letter said states were prohibited from reducing the amount of state money allocated for child care assistance to low-income families below the amount the state had allocated in March 2018.

The letter said documentation administrators submitted indicates the state did not decrease its spending to supplant it with federal funds.

The current state budget targeted $35 million in new state funds to expand preschool for needy children, boost training for child care teachers, and increase reimbursements to child care centers.

The Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonprofit that advocates policies for low-income people, last year analyzed the effect of the new federal funding and said it would expand child care assistance to an additional 151,000 children nationwide.


For Massachusetts, it estimated that roughly 3,200 more needy youngsters would receive access to child care.

Kay Lazar can be reached at