first steps

first steps

New York

City's early childhood overhaul moves forward, draws criticism

An overhaul of the city's child-care offerings that has concerned providers and advocates for nearly a year took a major step forward today, when the city announced which centers would receive new contracts for next year. The city awarded contracts to 149 child-care providers on the basis of quality and experience. But providers that together currently offer more than 6,500 spots did not get contracts. On top of the proposed cuts to after school programs included in Mayor Bloomberg's budget proposal, more than 14,000 city children could go without care next year. The overhaul, called EarlyLearn, is meant to improve the quality of city-funded programs and allocate seats more efficiently across neighborhoods. Last fall, providers had to reapply for contracts with the city — and the requirements were steep. Here's what we wrote about the reauthorization process last summer: The new standards are steep: Programs must show how they provide support to parents, create a challenging curriculum that prepares students for kindergarten and instruct children in health and safety. They need to find more time for staff development, guarantee service for children with special needs and be assessed annually according to a new grading program. Children will need to be screened for health, social and hygienic needs and assessed for academic gains. Some programs will have to expand their hours of operation. And for the first time, centers will need to pay for a portion of this themselves. Resistance to the overhaul has grown as its implications have grown clearer.
New York

Day care center moved amid flurry of early childhood changes

New York

Council members ask Bloomberg to delay child care overhaul

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.
New York

Housing projects in affluent areas face daycare funding cuts

The Mabel Barrett Fitzgerald Day Care Center sits within the Amsterdam Houses public housing complex, recently the site of a sweeping drug bust. A few blocks away, however, glitzy Lincoln Center is flanked by some of the most expensive apartments in Manhattan. The location provides rich field trip opportunities for the Fitzgerald program, which this year received city funding to serve 58 low-income children. But now the center's zip code could take a toll on its budget. The threat comes from the funding structure underlying EarlyLearn, the Administration for Children Services’ ambitious reform of the city’s public daycare system. This summer, ACS is requiring that all public centers, including Fitzgerald, submit applications showing why they deserve continued funding, and next spring, some programs will learn that they have not made the cut. The evaluation process will focus on quality. But it will also take into account something outside centers' control: their address. Under EarlyLearn, the number of city-funded daycare seats across the city will drop, and ACS plans to allot a larger portion of the remaining seats to neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of needy families. To assess need, ACS is looking primarily at the poverty level in the zip code where each center is located. That means that centers in high-poverty zip codes stand a greater chance of receiving continued funding, while the number of slots in more affluent neighborhoods could decrease sharply. Childcare experts and center directors say this approach could shut out poor New Yorkers who live in relatively affluent areas. In particular, they say, residents of some housing projects are at risk of being left without the childcare on which they’ve come to rely.
New York

Anxiety at public daycare centers as system overhaul gears up

Students at the Stagg Street Center for Children On a recent morning at Stagg Street Center for Children, in Williamsburg, a class of 4-year-olds put up an abstract, angular structure in the first-floor art gallery. The were inspired by Louise Nevelson's "Sky Cathedral," which they had seen on a recent trip to MOMA. Later, that same class sculpted in clay with a visiting artist, while a portable kiln warmed up behind them. For more than four decades, Larry Provette, Stagg Street’s director, has provided rich, arts-focused experiences for low-income children in his neighborhood. But he fears that Stagg Street might not be around much longer. That's because a city initiative to boost early childhood education is requiring every publicly funded daycare center, from mom-and-pop operations working out of apartments to larger centers housed in city facilities, to prove that they are worthy of city funding. Directors welcomed the news late last week that their deadline to do so has been pushed back a month, to Sept. 12. That deadline is for the first step in an ambitious overhaul, called EarlyLearn, of the city's public daycare system. Under EarlyLearn, the city's 647 daycare programs and family care networks, which together served 51,766 children in 2010-2011, will have to meet higher academic and developmental standards starting in 2013. By September, all programs must reapply for approval from the Administration for Children’s Services, which funds and oversees them. The proposals must describe each center's existing programs and outline how they will be updated to meet the new standards. ACS and the Department of Education, which will help review applications, plan to announce which centers will receive new contracts in March 2012.