Cost Effective Expansion of Early Educational Services
August 15, 2011
By Neal Tepel
As more two, three and four year old children attend early childhood classes in New York City the unionized city day care network of centers is the most likely route to absorb the expansion. The alternative is an unrealistic costly building of additional public schools which we cannot afford at this time.
City funded day care centers are strategically located in neighborhoods throughout New York City and already provide educational services to young children below age five. Centers operate under the city’s Administration for Children Services and are closely monitored by the New York City Department of Health and City Department of Education.
These facilities are linked through the New York City Day Care Council forming a school system for young children. Program standards and teacher requirements parallel the public schools. Centers must maintain a percentage of licensed teachers and supervisors, and develop an early education curriculum aimed at preparing youngsters for the next level of schooling. Educators work under union contracts similar to the public schools. However, teachers and center directors earn much less than their colleagues working in the school system.
With limited space available in the public schools, qualified non-profit facilities are essential in providing early childhood educational services. The integration of the day care network with the public school system would allow for every 2, 3 and 4 year old child in New York City to be provided with a quality education at little or no cost to parents.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity New York City Council Commission of 2006 recommended that Universal Pre-Kindergarten funding in community based organizations be the same as that received for youngsters in the public schools. In spite of the council recommendations, the city refuses to compensate publicly supported non-profits the same as it does for the Department of Education.
It is extremely unfair that community based city funded educational programs providing the same services and meeting the same standards are allocated less funding than public schools. Inadequate financing is forcing many day care centers to close reducing the pool of community based educational programs. These early childhood facilities hire credentialed and qualified teachers that should be paid at the same rate as educators working in the public schools. If we are to plan for future expansion of services to young children the payment rate equity issue must be addressed.
With clear research available indicating the importance of early education, and the Mayors commitment to student success in schools, the city needs to provide equal funding for all the city’s children and equal pay for educators.