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Tammy B.
Democrat WI

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  • Remembering Mary Babula

    by Senator Tammy Baldwin

    Posted on 2016-05-26

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    BALDWIN. Mr. President, I rise today to celebrate the life and work of Mary Babula.

    For 44 years, Mary was a tireless and passionate advocate for children and early childhood educators and a valued resource for policymakers.

    I was fortunate to work closely with Mary throughout my time in local and State government and later as a Member of the House of Representatives. Beyond our professional work together, Mary was a friend and also a mentor.

    I first met Mary in the 1980s when I was serving on the Dane County Board of Supervisors and concurrently in an appointed position on the Community Coordinated Child Care board of directors.

    Mary was at once an advocate for children and for the predominantly female professionals who teach and care for them. She understood that our children would only have safe, stimulating, and nurturing experiences in childcare settings if we invested in their training, credentialing, and adequate compensation.

    Those who are entrusted with the care of children while their parents are engaged in work or study deserve that high value. Mary was a passionate leader in that regard.

    Mary Babula organized early childhood educators to be effective voices on their own behalf. Whether it was lobbying for tuition assistance funding for low-income parents to be able to be afford high- quality childcare or rallying for worthy wages, Mary wanted early childhood educators to be seen, heard, and respected.

    A Wisconsin native, Mary Babula attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison and graduated with a degree in social work, later receiving a graduate degree in continuing and vocational education. She began her work with children as a part-time volunteer at a Madison daycare center while in college. She later worked as a teacher and director at Christian Day Care Center in Madison.

    In 1971, Mary began working with the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, otherwise known as WECA, and later became the organization's executive director. During her years at WECA, Mary led the organization through a wide variety of instrumental changes. The establishment of the Federal child care and development block grant signaled new opportunities for WECA to increase its direct impact on childhood education and development. Through this program, WECA managed quality-improvement grants and established the Wisconsin Child Care Improvement Project. This project spurred the development of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies throughout Wisconsin, which provided parents a clear and responsible guide when selecting child care.

    In the 2000s, WECA began to administer the REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program, supported a mentoring program, and led efforts that resulted in the development and beginning of YoungStar, an important program that continues to serve as Wisconsin's childcare quality rating and improvement system. Her efforts and initiatives at WECA continue as her legacy.

    Mary's passion for her children, caregivers, and educators extended well past the walls of WECA. She was eager to work with elected officials at the State, local, and Federal level to lend her expertise and knowledge. I had the privilege of working closely with Mary on numerous occasions and often sought her input on childcare issues as important legislation advanced through Congress.

    Beyond her work with children, Mary brought her energy and dedication to numerous community groups, including Womonsong, Friendship Force, and the Wisconsin Women's Network.

    I am fortunate to have known Mary as an advocate, as a friend, and as a mentor. I never let her small stature fool me. She had a soft yet powerful voice when it came to ensuring that the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community received a very strong start in life. Thousands of Wisconsin families can trace the early education of their children directly back to her advocacy. She leaves behind a huge and powerful legacy.

    Mary Babula passed away late last year. She is survived by her life partner, Mary Mastaglio, her mother Miriam, and three sisters. Many family members and friends join in celebrating her life and legacy.

    I yield back the remainder of my time.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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