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The Daunting Logistics of the Pre-K Plan

Friday, February 07, 2014
UNH Executive Director Nancy Wackstein comments on the need for Universal Pre-K in New York City's communities and addresses some of the logistical challenges to implementing the Mayor's plan. 

“There’s hardly any community you go in that doesn’t have a big need for pre-K,” said Nancy Wackstein, the executive director of United Neighborhood Houses, a coalition of 38 community organizations, many of which currently provide pre-K and are willing to increase their capacity under the mayor’s plan. "What it will require is all the city agencies pulling together to make it happen, and to expand in many cases. We in the nonprofit sector are sometimes the victim of slow city processes.”

Read more here>>

A de Blasio-connected Education Coalition Presents its Blueprint for Pre-K

Friday, November 22, 2013

An organization affiliated with some of mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's closest advisers has presented him with a plan to implement his signature universal pre-K and expanded after-school plans.

Campaign for Children, a coalition of 150 education providers and advocates, released a detailed plan on Wednesday for how de Blasio can make his pre-K and after-school promises into policy.

Jennifer Jones Austin, the co-chair of de Blasio's transition team, is also the C.E.O. of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, which serves on the steering committee of the Campaign for Children. The Campaign for Children is also represented by Berlin Rosen, the firm that steered de Blasio's campaign to victory, and might be in a position to get this particular plans noticed from among the litany of priority memos and education wishlists de Blasio is being inundated with. 

The plan was delivered to de Blasio's transition team Wednesday after a rally at City Hall.

"The Campaign for Children seeks to be a partner in this endeavor, but also to hold the Administration accountable for its implementation," a spokeswoman for the Campaign said in a release. 

Campaign for Children's plan involves baselining $120 million of City Council discretionary funds for pre-K and after-school for 47,000 children, plus securing $30 million of one-year funding in the after-school system.

The plan also involves extending the current contracts through 2015 to avoid waiting on the Council to renew them this June, just six months after the de Blasio administration takes office. 

De Blasio should also create a new office, the group advised, to be called the Office of Early Childhood, which would focus exclusively on children ages 0-5. 

Campaign for Children has also advised the transition team to begin incorporating Common Core standards beginning in Kindergarten.

“The Campaign is excited and encouraged to have a Mayor-Elect who is a long-time champion of early childhood education and after-school programs, and who has made strengthening and expanding these programs a top priority for his new administration,” Nancy Wackstein, director of United Neighborhood Houses New York, one of the Campaign's members, said in a statement. 

EarlyLearn, the city's current system for enrolling children in pre-K programs, currently serves only 27 percent of eligible families, according to data from the Administration for Children's Services.

The Campaign for Children called EarlyLearn "under-funded and unstable" in a statement.

De Blasio's transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

Here are Three Things the Next Mayor Should Do for NYC's Youngest

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Here are Three Things the Next Mayor Should Do for NYC's Youngest

Expert Advice on How to Strengthen the Early Childhood System

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 - 02:11 PM

Pre-kindergarten students (Yasmeen Khan)

It’s been one year since the Bloomberg Administration launched EarlyLearnNYC, an ambitious model aimed at improving the quality of the city’s contracted child care system for children ages 6 weeks to 4 years old. As we look back at its first year, we see that EarlyLearn, while laudable, has not been fully realized.

As it exists, the current EarlyLearn system is under-funded, decreases the capacity of the contracted system, and includes rates that are inadequate for providers.

According to the Mayor’s Management Report, EarlyLearn enrollment in fiscal year 2013 was 30,096, a substantial decrease from the more than 45,000 children enrolled in the contracted system the year earlier.

When we look at total enrollment in the contracted and voucher systems, we see a 19 percent decrease in the number of children served by ACS in 2013 (101,852) compared to 2010 (120,809). This decrease in the number of children served is particularly troubling in light of the fact that ACS has found that only about one third of all eligible children are being served as it is.

The numbers are moving in the wrong direction.

We see a path for the next mayor to take to truly maximize access to a high-quality, affordable, full-day early childhood education experience. EarlyLearn's overarching goal is to deliver a higher level of service; something that early childhood education providers and advocates agree is of vital importance in preparing high-needs, low-income children for kindergarten and beyond.

Here are three things we want to see the next mayor do to ensure the early childhood system's success:

1. Stop the annual budget dance. First and foremost, the more than $60 million of one-year City Council discretionary funding for child care must be baselined so that the money is permanently in ACS’s budget. This would eliminate the annual budget dance where the City Council restores the one-year funding each June and would result in a more stable system.

2. Increase funding. The city must address the EarlyLearn rate so that it is sufficient to fund the high-quality services that EarlyLearn envisioned. The per-child rate must be increased so that providers can meet standards, retain appropriate and credentialed staff and meet the costs of operations, administration, and materials for children.

3. Respect the staff. We must ensure early education staff has adequate compensation and benefits. An investment in the early childhood education system must include resources for the workforce, including professional development, support for obtaining credentials and advancing education, and improved compensation and benefits, including affordable health care coverage.

Subsidized child care is an investment in New York City’s future. Every child deserves access to safe, high-quality, and affordable early childhood education.

Going forward, the next mayor, public advocate, comptroller and City Council members must have a plan for making high-quality, affordable early education available to every New York City child.

UNH Releases "PEG'd Away: The impact of NYC PEG plans on New York City, its people and its communities"

Tuesday, March 05, 2013
PEG'd Away is a issue brief by United Neighborhood Houses, detailing the impact of PEGs to City agencies that provide core community services, such as Department for the Aging, Department for Youth and Community Development, Administration for Children's Services, Department of Homeless Services, and others. 

Twice a year, in order to close gaps in the City's budget, City agencies face the task of cutting spending; in City-speak, these budget reductions are known as Programs to Eliminate the Gap (PEGs). Over the last several decades in NYC, Peg'd has become the most unlikely of verbs, as in "this program just got Peg'd," meaning the City budget proposal includes a program that will be restructured or eliminated for cost savings.

PEG'd Away also explores the changing role of the City Council. Once, the Council was able to use its discretionary funding to support innovative initiatives and meet emerging community needs. Now, this one-year discretionary funding is used to keep core human services afloat. Learn more by downloading PEG'd Away or viewing it online

Mixture of Hope and Concern for City's New Daycare Program

Friday, July 27, 2012

The city hopes EarlyLearn will make for higher-quality city-funded daycare. Despite funding shortages and doubts about the way contracts were awarded, some agencies and advocates believe the program has promise.

Read the full article>>

Balanced budget saves child care, libraries and fire companies

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Queens Courier 

Without raising the tax bar, education, child care, libraries and other city services will be spared – despite original concerns of heavy cuts – in the 2013 Fiscal Year budget, city officials announced Monday, June 25 attributing the balanced budget to several cost-saving methods.

“When times were better, the city set aside surplus revenue — and when the first storm clouds gathered in 2007, we began cutting budgets,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “These actions — and our work over the past decade to diversify the economy and make it less reliant on Wall Street — have allowed us avoid the severe service cuts that many other cities are facing.”

About $150 million will be added from the mayor’s May Executive Budget, which proposed a large child care cut, to the Administration for Children’s Services Child Care Program and the Department of Youth and Community Development Out-of-School Time program, ensuring child care stays well-funded in the City.

The funding is a major accomplishment for child care, said Gregory Brender, policy advisor for United Neighborhood Houses.

Read the full article>>

151 Orgs Urge Bloomberg to Restore Child Care & After-School Funding

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A total of 151 organizations claiming to represent more than 1 million New Yorkers have joined the Campaign for Children and signed a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposing proposed cuts to child care and after-school programs.  The groups say that the Mayor’s Executive Budget proposals for FY2012-13, which begins July 1st, will eliminate funding for 47,000 child care and after-school slots.

“Enacting these cuts will deal a devastating blow to struggling children and families,” the letter states.  “As a Mayor seeking to improve the education of our children, ensure college and career readiness for black and Latino youth, and stabilize the City’s economy, we believe you should reassess proposed budget cuts in the realm of child care and after-school.”

Read the full article. 

Michael Bloomberg's Budget Proposal Elicits Protest From Campaign For Children

Monday, April 02, 2012

A coalition of more than 150 New York organizations, ranging from the Police Athletic League to the Children's Aid Society, have signed a letter urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to restore $170 million for children's services to his proposed budget.

The coalition, called the Campaign for Children, is asking the mayor to make sure that his budget includes funding for some 47,000 child care and after-school slots currently bound for the trash bin. The letter notes that funding for child care and after-school programs has declined each year since 2009. As a result, the city's subsidized child care and after-school systems serve 43,000 fewer children than they did five years ago.

The coalition plans to send the letter on Thursday. Gregory Bender, a policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses NY and a spokesperson for the coalition, said, "This massive display of support is a message loud and clear from New York City to Mayor Bloomberg: 'You must restore funding for child care and after-school programs that children and working families depend on.'" 

Read the full article. 

Council Budget Hearings Launch with Child Care Kickball

Thursday, March 08, 2012
   The New York World  

Low-income families are guaranteed child care assistance under federal law, and their care is paid for through block grants. But under the new city rules, households just above the poverty level would not be guaranteed assistance. The changeover is expected to remove at least 8,200 seats currently used by low-income working families.

Depending on how many contracts are approved, as many as 15,900 seats could be cut, predicted Greg Brender, a policy analyst at the United Neighborhood Houses.  “The Mayor just hasn’t made the commitment he needs to to New York’s children,” said Brender. “There’s just not enough care available for those who need it.”

Read the full article.

NY1: Funding For City's Head Start Programs In Jeopardy

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tens of thousands of the city's youngest and most at-risk children attend Head Start programs every year. The federally-funded prekindergarten is designed to boost learning and development before kids even get to school and provide free, high quality childcare for low-income families.

However, 250 of the city's Head Start programs may now be at risk.

The bulk of the city's Head Start money goes to the Administration for Children's Services, which then distributes it among 250 individual programs. But now ACS has landed on the federal government's first-ever list of substandard Head Start programs. That means ACS will have to re-apply for its $190 million grant. 

“They have a whole vision and a model for how to deliver quality early childhood to low income kids. Without Head Start funds, that whole thing falls apart and thousands and thousands of kids would lose an opportunity to have quality care,” said Nancy Wackstein of United Neighborhood Houses.

Watch the news story here>>