The Massachusetts Senate unanimously advanced an ambitious bill Thursday to radically reshape the state’s delivery of early childhood education and care. The move ramps up pressure on the House to act with just three weeks remaining in the current legislative session.

“Very few bills that we debate in this chamber have the potential for impacts as far reaching as this bill does,” Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education, said prior to the 40-0 vote.

“It will benefit countless young children by promoting appropriate development, school readiness, and long-term success,” Lewis added. “It will improve ... economic well being and opportunity for hundreds of thousands of working families, especially for mothers. And it will greatly benefit our employers and our economy, by growing the workforce and boosting productivity.”

The bill contains several measures aimed at strengthening the existing system. For example, it would expand the number of families eligible for subsidized care by gradually increasing the ceiling for aid from about $66,000 annually for a family of four to roughly $164,000.

It also includes provisions aimed at giving childcare centers more financial stability and boosting compensation for the state’s childcare workers, who earned an average annual salary of about $30,000 before the pandemic. One in six childcare providers in the state live in poverty.

While Thursday's vote was preceded by the discussion of dozens of amendments, the outcome was expected. When the so-called Act to Expand Access to High-Quality, Affordable Early Education and Care was unveiled at a State House press conference last week, it was touted by Senate President Karen Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues and Senate Education Chair Jason Lewis, a show of support that suggested official passage would be a formality.

Even so, the Senate vote is a significant development on a topic of intense interest to lawmakers in both chambers.

In March, a special legislative commission released a report that identified a loosely cohering childcare system beset by grave challenges, from low pay for staff to high costs and a lack of available services for parents seeking to place their children.

The report also suggested that the status quo was hurting the Massachusetts economy by rendering it difficult for many parents, especially women, to return to work or remain there after having kids.

Since then, both Senate and House leaders have made it clear that they agree with that analysis and see improving the system as a top priority.

In a joint interview with Spilka conducted by State House News Service’s Katie Lannan after the report’s release, Mariano suggested that business leaders complaining about a dearth of workers fail to recognize the economic challenges they face.

“When you’re paying three-quarters of your salary for daycare, it doesn’t make much sense to go back to work,” Mariano said at the time.

The question now is whether the House — which unveiled a more modest set of proposals aimed at strengthening the system earlier this year — will follow the Senate’s lead before the legislative session ends on July 31. While the Legislature’s often sluggish pace tends to ramp up as the clock ticks down, there may simply not be enough time for the House to pass comparable legislation and for House and Senate negotiators to iron out the differences between two bills.

The potential cost of the reforms proposed by the Senate may also give Mariano and other House members pause. While Rodrigues and Lewis did not offer a clear price tag last week, Lewis noted that the aforementioned commission, on which he served, had concluded that fixing the system could require $1.5 billion annually.

The pending budget proposals from the Senate and House, which still need to be reconciled, propose different levels of spending on childhood education and care. The House budget plan contains $912 million in directed investments, about $100 million less than the Senate’s.