By Ariama C. Long | NY Amsterdam News | Word In Black
This post was originally published on NY Amsterdam News.
(WIB) – Mayor Eric Adams last week vowed to invest in the city’s 500,000 children under the age of five in its blueprint for childcare and early education. But many say that a large part of the money should go to chronically underfunded childcare providers.
“As a child, my mother had to work three jobs and still find a way to take care of me and my siblings,” Adams said in a statement. “And during the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 375,000 parents were forced to resign or move their jobs because they had no other way to take care of their children. Now my administration is working to make sure that no parent has to make that difficult choice between childcare and putting food on their table again. ”
According to the city, approximately 52% of New York City families with children under the age of four cannot afford child care, and since the beginning of the pandemic, one in four parents has had to refuse a job, change jobs, or take leave due to childcare needs. ”
The plan aims to support working families, reverse the economic impact for colored parents and boost the economy. The city budget childcare grants include $ 9.2 million for low-income vouchers, plus a promised $ 800 million in investments over the next four years. In total, the funding should yield an approximate total of $ 2 billion in childcare spending, the mayor’s office said.
There will be a new application available on an online portal that will cut red tape and “alleviate the frustrations” of an often difficult and complicated application process for families. It also allows $ 10 million in investments for undocumented families to receive childcare benefits and will expand access to childcare in “high-need neighborhoods” nationwide.
“This investment in early childhood education will greatly benefit working families by providing accessible child care and taking great steps to include undocumented families who were previously excluded from these opportunities,” U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat said in a statement.
There was little concern about education programming for the city’s youngest, but the issue of pay parity for childcare staff has come up time and time again. There is hope that the mayor’s blueprint will not erase the issue as money is distributed.
Gregory Brender, director of public policy at Daycare Council NY, said staff salaries among infant and toddler care providers are critical. At present, city-funded childcare providers, such as those at home in a building or at a larger childcare center, are receiving lower rates than Department of Education (DoE) staff, he said. At least 109 of these group child care centers closed during the 2020 pandemic, Brender said, who were unsure how many have since managed to reopen.
“Traditionally, and unfortunately, childcare staff have not paid as much as public schools. “I think it was a legacy of discrimination, because it is a workforce that is mostly women and women of color,” Brender said. “We are hopeful that they will change that.”
Every time there is poverty involved, the city agencies do not respect you.
SHANITA BOWEN, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR ECE IN MOVING
Bronx native Shanita Bowen is the director of operations for ECE On The Move, a group of more than 600 home-based child care educators established in the city in 2019. Bowen ran a child care center near the Grand Concourse in the Bronx called the E&A Freedom. Center for 14 years. She said she was married and changed residence just as the pandemic hit in 2020. After everything was closed, it was impossible for her to start her business with the application process and get kids to fill out her class list. Her business soon closed.
Bowen said most of her colleagues are underpaid women of color and only Hispanic Spanish women. Her organization advocates for resources such as higher pay, benefits, health care and pensions for child care providers.
Bowen said the mayor’s blueprint acknowledges the low pay, but in her opinion does not pay enough attention to it. She said the current pay rates, although better than they were a few years ago, are not good for workers and will in fact create a divide between independent childcare providers and DOE-affiliated providers on the city’s network. None of them pay well, she said.
“Any time poverty is involved,” Bowen said, “the city agencies do not respect you. And because we are paid such low wages, it has always been there. They have always been so disrespectful to us and the families we serve. ”
Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), agreed that higher wages for providers are essential for quality childcare. She said she was concerned that the mayor’s office would rely on subsidies by childcare companies and would not give more money to families and staff. Gripper said that since the pandemic, there has been a major renewal in child care at every level of government. Child care has historically been considered “women’s work”, says Gripper, who according to her speaks why it is so undervalued and underpaid in the country.
“This is a field in which we as a country have generally under-invested. We need to do better because we have not invested in all of it. We see these big gaps exist everywhere, ”Gripper said.
In a report compiled by AQE, Gripper and others concluded that childcare centers in the city are very expensive, lack of choices for families, require higher childcare subsidy rates for families, lack of transportation access, are overcrowded, and a product of “deep-seated inequalities” in the system.
“It easily costs $ 15,000 a year for a 2-year-old to be in care, it’s unaffordable for low-income and middle-income families. And we need to address that,” Gripper said.
Ariama C. Long is a member of the Report for America Corps and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA award helps her write stories like these; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w