September 26, 2017
This post originally ran on PowHerNY.
As election season continues to build, candidates should know that New York City voters want to see a continued expansion of early childhood education, after-school and summer programming.
The Campaign for Children (C4C), a coalition of over 150 advocacy and provider organizations, has spent many years urging elected officials to not only protect but to expand capacity for early childhood education, after-school and summer programming. These programs enable parents to work, while ensuring children and youth are safe and developmentally stimulated – ready to succeed in school and life.
Over several years, the Campaign has had much success – informing the creation of full day prekindergarten for four year olds and universal after-school for middle school students, securing annual budget restorations for summer programs, and helping to achieve the first contract with a salary increase in a decade for the community-based early childhood educators. Yet, despite these successes, there is so much more to do to ensure that the needs of New York’s children and families are better met.
April 2017, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) commissioned a poll on behalf of C4C. Global Strategy Group surveyed 800 New Yorkers from April 6-10, 2017, who are likely to vote in the upcoming general election. The results showed that 87% of general election voters support expanding access to free and reduced price child care, after-school and summer programming. In addition, anxieties run high as nearly eight and ten voters said they worry about being about to afford raising a family in the city. Eighty-three percent of general election voters reported that the cost of child care is a major burden for NYC parents.
As a candidate in 2013, Mayor de Blasio’s mayoral race platform included expanding full day pre-kindergarten to all four-year olds and expanding after-school programs to all middle school students – and he kept these campaign promises. He has also begun to build on these critical steps by starting to expand free pre-kindergarten programs to three- year olds.
These are steps forward for which we are grateful. But as our poll demonstrates, New York City families need more from the city over the next four years. This includes expanding full day programming for infants and toddlers, expanding after-school programs for elementary school students, and ensuring that all children have access to summer programming.
Furthermore, as the city moves forward to create a program of free universal prekindergarten for three-year-olds, it is critical that this be done in a manner that strengthens the entire early childhood system, and notably the subsidized child care system. Important lessons from the implementation of prekindergarten for four-year- olds must guide the development of 3-K, as well as the transition of the EarlyLearn contracted subsidy system from the child welfare agency to the Department of Education. These lessons include ensuring full work-day and summer care for children; making salary and benefit parity for all early childhood staff in both CBOs and DOE schools a reality; eliminating the fees for subsidized care that are not a component of universal programs; ensuring the roll-out of UPK and 3K does not create a situation where children are in classes segregated by income; and ensuring the system meets the needs of English language learners and children with special needs.
These key issues impact the equity and mobility experienced by children and their parents. So be sure to make your voice heard!