DC 1707 and City Testify at Hearing
December 15, 2011
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council agreed to provide $82 million this year in one-time funding to avoid cuts to child care subsidies. But Sarah Vecchiotti, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Child Care and Head Start, told Senator Diane Savino at a hearing on December 12 that because of the lack of additional federal stimulus dollars, there is uncertainty about how the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) will be able to subsidize child care in Fiscal Year 2013.
Vecchiotti also told Savino, Chair of the Committee on Children and Families, that ACS is committed to providing high quality care to families in need of child care, but DC 1707 officials, who represent day care center and Head Start workers, claim that the City, through the EarlyLearn NYC proposal, is seeking to dismantle one of the most comprehensive and progressive day care systems in the nation.
ACS is responsible for administering early care and education to approximately 120,000 children in Child Care, Head Start and Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs. The services, provided entirely up to now by non-profit organizations, are designed to help mostly low-income families who necessarily can’t afford private child care or quit their jobs to be home with their children.
The City claims that the EarlyLearn Request for Proposal (RFP) “will strengthen children’s development and educational experiences,” but the RFP is the first time the City will allow private contractors to bid to provide early child care services. This action troubles the union because the City is entering unchartered waters.
Raglan George Jr., Executive Director of District Council 1707 AFSCME, testified that, “EarlyLearn is being conducted without an environmental impact study or testing this outlandish scheme through a pilot program.”
According to ACS, this action by the City is not unprecedented, “as existing Head Start contractors are required to contribute in-kind or monetary funds to comply with a federal match of 20 percent to access Federal Head Start funds.”
The EarlyLearn RFP also calls for contractors to pay their employees’ health care benefits, which likely will be passed onto their employees. Michael Fagan, an ACS spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail that, “It is an increasingly common practice for non-profits that provide employee health insurance to cover costs with a contractor and employee contribution and/or co-pay.”
Savino strongly urged the agency to reconsider its proposed health care structure because it will place providers, particularly small-sized providers, at an economic disadvantage, and may hinder their ability to hire qualified candidates as compensation may not be sufficient.
DC 1707 officials have warned that the EarlyLearn RFP will reduce by 10,000 the number of children currently served because the organizations that have traditionally contracted with the City for early child care services that DC 1707 members have delivered, “may be forced out because they do not have the surplus funding those richer non-profits and for-profit corporations have.”
The union contends that EarlyLearn is a broadside to weaken the union as for-profit contractors will be motivated more by the profit motive rather than providing essential services to families in need. Thomas Murray, an attorney for DC 1707, said there is greater potential for sleaziness because ACS has not stipulated that it will provide oversight over the bid winners.