People gathered Saturday outside the Buttonwood Park Warming House, rallying in support of legislation that they say would bolster Early Childhood Education programs in Massachusetts.

The bill is currently before lawmakers on Beacon Hill. Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford) supports the measure and spoke at Saturday's rally.

"We already, the state already spends a great deal of money on early education, and childcare.Now we have a great opportunity to put this in place using federal laws," said Cabral.

Saturday's rally was organized by the Common Start Coalition. Spokesperson Kathy Blackwell said while Massachusetts is considered a leader in early childhood education and childcare, access to high quality childcare programs remain out of reach for too many families.

The bill would establish a roll-out of the program over a five-year period, and increase the scope of public funding along the way. Blackwell said potential funding sources could include both the state and federal governments, and parent fees.

The bill creates a system for payment directly to providers, and subsidies for families that fall below income guidelines.

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The coalition said based on polling data from more than 800 registered Mass. voters, more than 60 percent favor the bill while 23 percent oppose it. Rep. Tami Gouveia (D-Acton) is one of those supporting the bill, saying "It makes sure that every child in the state of Massachusetts has an equal and fair start."

In a statement released to the press, the coalition said, "Failure to address the child care crisis now will take its toll on the next generation, denying them learning environments, structure, and stability that will set them up for education success, optimal earnings, and long term health and wellbeing."

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