The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday unveiled a sweeping plan to transform early childhood education and care across the state, giving an issue that was already of intense interest to lawmakers an even higher profile as the current legislative session heads toward its July 31 close.

“This legislation, if and when it is fully implemented, will be transformative to our society here in Massachusetts,” Senate President Karen Spilka said during a rollout at the State House. “In fact, I would say that this is the most comprehensive early education and care bill that the Legislature has taken up this century.”

In March, a special legislative commission comprised of Senate and House lawmakers released a report that described a system under duress, with dauntingly high costs for families, a dearth of available spots for children, providers struggling to stay afloat, and staff — many of them women of color — earning dispiritingly low salaries.

The report also stressed that the challenge of finding quality affordable childcare was taking a toll on the state’s economy by creating a strong incentive for parents, usually women, to stay home rather than seeking employment or remaining in their jobs.

The Senate’s bill — dubbed An Act to Expand Access to High-Quality, Affordable Early Education and Care — would address challenges in this particular sector from a number of different angles.

For example, the bill contains several measures aimed at making the system more affordable for families. Among other things, it would broaden the range of families eligible for subsidized care by gradually raising the ceiling for such assistance from 50% of state median income (currently $65,626 annually for a family of four) to 125% of median income (currently $164,065).

The bill also includes steps designed to help stabilize childcare providers facilities, many of which closed during the pandemic, including making an existing state grant program permanent and basing state subsidies on quarterly enrollment rather than daily attendance, which would reduce financial uncertainty.

In addition, it would create a mechanism to boost pay for early childhood educators, who make an average annual salary of about $30,000, and allow providers that receive state subsidies to offer free or discounted enrollment to their own staffers’ kids.

The latter reform could be especially valuable to current and potential employees: right now, the average annual cost for infant care in Massachusetts exceeds $20,000 annually.

“The benefits of high-quality early education and care [are] not only for the young children who are receiving that care, which I think we should all care about, whether they’re our children or somebody else’s,” said state Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “But the benefit is also to the workforce and the employers in this state.

“This has been so clear throughout the pandemic — that if we don’t have a system that can provide that kind of reliable, safe, affordable, convenient care, then parents aren’t able to go to work, or they have to dial back their hours, or they can’t be as productive as they would otherwise be,” Lewis added. “And then employers are facing a workforce shortage and they aren’t able to grow and thrive. So we all have a stake in that, as residents of the commonwealth.”

The total cost of the measures proposed in the bill is unclear. Lewis and Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), the Senate Ways and Means chair, said the proposals would be phased in over the course of several years, that some of them are included in the current Senate budget, and that federal funding would likely help cover the act’s implementation.

Lewis noted that the bill largely follows a policy blueprint laid out in the aforementioned report, which said the cost of enacting its proposals could exceed $1.5 billion annually.

“This legislation would certainly go a long way to implementing those recommendations,” Lewis said.

While the Senate plans to take up the bill next week, its ambitious vision will only become reality if lawmakers in the House embrace it as well.

House Speaker Ron Mariano has not yet commented on the new Senate bill, but a spokesperson pointed out that in May, in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, he urged state businesses “to come together and present the House with a proposal … to require companies of a certain size to provide childcare resources to your employees.

“However,” Mariano added at the time, “we know this isn’t a complete fix, and that more extensive solutions to the childcare crisis working families are facing will be necessary.”

The current House budget proposal includes $912 million for early education and care, roughly $100 million less than the Senate’s proposal.