The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has ordered its day care centers to stop serving children that are turning five this year. Displacing these young children from the ACS centers has resulted in thousands of additional 5-year-olds being forced to attend already overcrowded public school with no assurance that they can get the child care they need for their out-of-school hours.
It is hard to understand why New York City is persisting in pushing its 3,300 5-year-olds into over-crowded public schools this year when doing so would force the Department of Education to increase the class size of its kindergartens, default on its State-funded requirement to reduce class size, spend thousands of dollars on bussing young children to schools out of their neighborhood, and create enormous hardship for their hard-working parents.
Many parents have had difficulty securing a kindergarten placement for their children. In addition, well over half of those that have found a kindergarten space in an accessible public school find themselves still in a bind because there is no Year-Round Out-of- School-Time child care program serving that school. This was not an issue for those that attended a day care center since that program provides educational services from 8 AM to 6PM.
When ACS decided to stop providing child care for the 5-year-olds in its centers, it was unaware that three out of five of the schools that the children would be going to do not have OST Year-Round child care. These 5-year-olds are all in need of subsidized child care for their out-of-school hours and they have an entitlement to continue city funded child care. If they have been unable to find a kindergarten placement in a public school or if there is no Year-Round OST program serving their school, State regulations require ACS to continue providing them with child care.
It has two options for doing this: Instead of ordering its centers to replace their 5-year-olds with 3- and 4-year-olds, it could let them keep the 5-year-olds for their kindergarten year. Or it could provide the parents with voucher funding that they could use to pay their center for their child’s kindergarten year.
But those voucher payments would be an enormous additional expense for the city. The market rate for voucher-funded out-of-school-time center care is $8,800 per child. A District Council 1707 survey found that as many as 1,900 5-year-olds will be in need of voucher funding because there is no OST child care in the schools they would be going to. In the face of the fiscal crisis, there is no way the Bloomberg administration can justify shelling out the huge amounts of voucher funding that would require.
ACS needs to take immediate steps to notify the 5-year-olds’ parents that if they have been unable to get a kindergarten placement for their child in an accessible school, or if the school does not have DYCD Year-Round OST, they can keep their child in their ACS center for their kindergarten year, getting the kindergarten education and child care they need.