The vast majority of City Council members are sounding the alarm over the city’s plans for overhauling its child care system.

We wrote about the initiative, called Early Learn, last month. Reporter Chris Arp found that child care center directors and advocates were deeply concerned about being able to prove by the Sept. 12 deadline that they would be able to meet steep new standards — and foot more of the bill themselves.

“It’s going to put us all out of business,” Larry Provett, the director of a Williamsburg child care center, told Arp. “All programs are at risk, very much so.”

Now 42 of the City Council’s 51 members have signed on to a letter to Mayor Bloomberg asking him to delay Early Learn’s rollout. They say they are concerned that Early Learn, as it is currently constituted, would shrink the city’s child care system, eliminate jobs, and disproportionately burden some centers that serve poor students. The funding structure would make it harder for centers located in some housing projects to receive funding, Arp reported in a second article about Early Learn.

Earlier this summer, the city restored funding to several child care centers on the brink of closure, a move that the council members praised in a press release about their letter to the mayor.

“Quite frankly, it is disheartening that only two months later, we’re once again being faced with a series of devastating cuts to child care, this time nicely packaged in an [Request for Proposals] meant to strengthen the very system it would gut,” said City Councilwoman Annabel Palma, chair of the council’s general welfare committee, in the press release.

The entire press release is below.

COUNCIL MEMBERS WRITE TO MAYOR EXPRESSING DEEP CONCERNS OVER ACS’ EARLYLEARN NYC REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS 

New York, NY — Today members of the New York City Council delivered a letter to Mayor Bloomberg expressing deep concerns over the Administration for Children’s Services’ (ACS) EarlyLearn NYC Request for Proposals (RFP).  The letter, which was circulated by Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, and signed by 42 members, asks the Mayor to address a number of concerns before moving forward with the contentious RFP.

The RFP, released in May 2011, lays out an ambitious series of reforms that would overhaul how the City operates its subsidized child care system with a goal of raising educational standards, increasing family supports and strengthening professional development.   While the Council Members praised the vision of EarlyLearn, they have many concerns related to the funding model outlined in the RFP.  Specifically, the letter explains that the rate structure outlined in the RFP is insufficient for the providers to be able to meet the requirements of the RFP without running very large deficits at a time when many non-profits are already struggling.  The flaws in the rate structure are created in part by the City’s changes in how child care facilities and health insurance costs for child care workers would be paid for.  Further, Council Members communicated deep concerns over projections that the RFP could reduce capacity of the child care system by cutting approximately 10,000 subsidized child care slots.

“This summer, the City Council joined parents and advocates from around New York City to protest against the Mayor’s proposal to eliminate more than 16,000 child care slots in this year’s City budget,” said General Welfare Chairwoman Annabel Palma.  “The Mayor, to his credit, heard the public outcry and came to the negotiating table with the City Council to work out a common sense solution that restored many of these slots.  Quite frankly, it is  disheartening that only two months later, we’re once again being faced with a series of devastating cuts to child care, this time nicely packaged in an RFP meant to strengthen the very system it would gut.”

In the letter, the Council Members express concerns that the current structure of the RFP will not allow the goals of EarlyLearn to be met and may actually undermine the stated goals.  The Council Members have committed to working with the administration to protect the City’s subsidized child care system while creating a foundation for comprehensive early childhood education.  Bids for the request for proposals are to be submitted by September 12th.  The four-year contracts, with options to renew for an additional two years, are scheduled to begin on October 1st, 2012.  Although these dates already reflect a delay in the rollout of the RFP, the Council Members asked the Mayor to further delay the process until all stakeholders are satisfied that their concerns have been addressed.