September 21, 2023
On Thursday, September 21st, 2023, Policy and Advocacy Associate Rebecca Charles provided testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Women and Gender Equity on the current state of the early childhood education system in New York, highlighting the various issues of instability that must immediately be addressed by city leaders. Rebecca then commented on two pieces of legislation: Int 0941-2023 (Councilmember Gutierrez) and Res 0560-2023 (Councilmember Menin). She touched on CCC’s overall mission to achieve universal child care for all New Yorkers, and how bringing stability to the system is a crucial first step in attaining that goal.
Since 1944, CCC has served as an independent, multi-issue child advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce. We document the facts, engage, mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for New York City’s children and their families. Our mission is to ensure that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe.
We would like to thank Chair Caban and all the members of the New York City Council Women & Gender Equity Committee for holding today’s important hearing on improving our city’s childcare system. CCC’s testimony below addresses current issues within the ECE system and recommended solutions, as well as commentary on bills Int 0941-2023 and Res 0560-2023.
New York City has long been a leader in early care and education, and city leaders have recognized how essential these resources are for supporting young children’s social emotional development and school readiness, as well as the critical supports they offer working parents. Unfortunately, the past few years have revealed serious and long-standing problems within the system that have led to service instability and inaccessibility.
CCC’s Early Care and Education report released last spring highlighted an array of barriers families face when trying to access care, including a complicated centralized enrollment process, unaffordable care, and a lack of options that fit the schedules of working families. The report also drew attention to the perspectives of providers, who cite contract inflexibility, the current enrollment structure, and financial instability exacerbated by lack of timely payment as the biggest hurdles impacting service delivery.i
As a result of this report and close work with C4C coalition partners, CCC put forth the following policy recommendations to move our city toward system stabilization:
We applaud City leaders for taking a step in the right direction in the most recent budget by baselining $15 million for Extended Early Childhood Education to convert 3 K school-day, school-year seats to extended-day, extended-year seats, as well as providing $16 million to continue providing childcare services to undocumented families through Promise NYC. However, the other recommendations outlined above remain critical if we hope to address the challenges within our ECE system, and we are eager to continue working with the City Council and the Administration to advance these priorities.
CCC has long been a champion of childcare access for all New York children and families regardless of employment, income, or immigration status, and we look forward to partnering with Councilwoman Gutierrez and other city leaders to achieve this goal of universal access.
CCC’s more recent analysis on the affordability of childcare utilizes data to highlight the affordability crisis that families across New York City are facing. Among all families in need of care for an infant or toddler, just 15 percent can afford home-based care and only 11 percent can afford the cost of center-based care. Of families with children ages 3-5, 19 percent can afford home-based care and 14 percent can afford center-based care. These analyses are based on the federal government’s benchmark that family copayments should not exceed 7% of a family’s annual income.ii This crisis of unaffordability is untenable in New York City, and we commend Councilmember Gutierrez for fighting to address this grave issue.
The path to universal childcare must include an operational approach that will address the many issues that currently exist within the City’s ECE system. CCC and our C4C partners on the Campaign for Children have heard countless accounts from staff and leadership at contracted early care and education programs about the challenges experienced. Like many nonprofit social services programs, the contracted early care and education community experienced significant disruptions throughout the pandemic. Both family child care and center-based providers experienced a shuttering of their doors in the initial days, followed by hybrid and then in-person services. Adding to an already challenging situation, as new contracts came online, the DOE prioritized school-day and school-year services over extended-day, year-round services. From our discussions with providers and partners, we know that the confluence of these factors has had a significant impact on enrolling and retaining families.
Furthermore, the transition to new leadership in the DOE and considerable loss of staffing within city agencies led to unacceptably long payment delays. In September of 2022, Seachange reported $464 million owed to childcare providers for the FY’22 fiscal year (a fiscal year that concluded in June 2022).iii And while the DOE committed to meet the center-based contract payment floor of 75% of the full contract value and has employed rapid response teams to work with providers and permitted the batching of multiple months of invoices to help expedite catching up on FY’22, we continue to hear distress from providers about payments that remain owed for FY’23.
Sadly, at a time when early childhood education providers in contract with the City’s Department of Education continue to recover from severe financial hardships due to delayed payments for FY’22 and FY’23, the FY 2024 Budget moved New York City away from the path to universal child care by cutting $568 million from 3-K for All. The Budget also failed to take action on other investments and operational reforms needed to stabilize and strengthen the early childhood education system and meet the needs of children, families, and the workforce.
Bringing stability to the system by completing a catch-up on back payments owed timely and providing robust advance payments; implementing flexible contracts; conducting multilingual outreach; expanding service options that fit the schedules of families; and addressing other long- standing operational issues are the first steps to building a truly universal system.
To move these operational issues forward and to ensure we can expand system capacity, it is crucial to secure sustainable funding through a combination of City, State, and Federal resources. Today, of $1.7 billion spent on Universal Pre-K at DOE $576.3 million comes from the state, $503.4 comes from the federal government, and $574.5 is city tax levy. When we look at the $498 million spent on early childhood programs, $10.4 million comes from the state,
$198.7 million is from the federal government, and $288.9 million is city tax levy.iv We recommend that this legislation acknowledge the City, State, and Federal funding partnership required to achieve universal care. CCC stands ready to partner with Councilmember Gutierrez in advocating for greater State and Federal investments and city tax levy funding for Early Care and Education to make universal care a reality.
CCC supports Councilmember Menin’s resolution to pass state legislation S.4924/A.1303, which would prohibit the requirement for parents to earn at least a minimum wage and work a certain number of hours in order to be eligible for subsidized child care. This legislation would remove yet another bureaucratic hurdle that families face when trying to access care and would provide for more flexibility for parents to pursue educational or professional goals that would advance their careers and all-around well-being. CCC looks forward to partnering with Councilmember Menin in taking the necessary advocacy steps to pass this bill.