News & Resources

News and Resources

Pre-K Providers Pressure de Blasio Over Salary Disparities

Thursday, January 15, 2015


By Eliza Shapiro

As City Hall gears up for the second year of its massive pre-kindergarten program, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration will have to reckon with mounting pressure from community-based organizations about salary and benefit disparities that have long plagued the city’s early education programs.

C.B.O. providers, who operate pre-kindergarten classes in facilities that are not public schools, stayed relatively quiet during the lead-up to the pre-K rollout last fall, careful not to hedge their enthusiasm about the expansion of early childhood education. But they are now voicing significant concern about pay discrepancies, which can stretch to tens of thousands of dollars, between community center teachers and staff and their Department of Education counterparts.
Some of the administration's most reliable pre-K allies, rather than the charter school advocates and reform leaders who are regularly critical of the mayor's policies, are leading the push to address salary disparities. 

“We have the tale of two school systems right here in the early childhood field,” said Nancy Wackstein, executive director of United Neighborhood Houses, which oversees 38 community organizations, many of which offer pre-K.
Salary and benefit disparities, she said, will be “a profound challenge going forward.”
D.O.E. pre-K teachers can make up to $91,000 with a masters’ degree and 20 years of experience. C.B.O. teachers with identical credentials can earn up to $50,000. D.O.E. teachers are represented by the United Federation of Teachers, and are eligible for new raises and benefits in the new U.F.T. contract.

After a relatively smooth launch in September,  which was hardly guaranteed, the administration has repeatedly stressed that the pre-K roll-out would be a two-year climb, with any initial hiccups addressed in year two.

The administration filled over 53,000 spots this year, and is planning to extend the program to 70,000 four-year-olds this fall, with C.B.O.s making up more than 60 percent of the city's 1,700 pre-K offerings. 

If C.B.O. providers and advocates get their way, the administration will hone in on salary disparities, which they consider to be perhaps the most substantial issue going forward.
C.B.O. teachers typically belong to either District Council 1707’s Local 205, which represents daycare employees, or the union’s Local 95, which represents Head Start employees. Some C.B.Os have both Local 205 and Local 95 employees.

Benefit disparities are another major issue, providers and advocates say. C.B.O. teachers typically work longer days, as centers are open into the evening hours to accommodate working parents, and teach year-round. Their public school peers usually get summers off, teach until mid-afternoon, and have better health insurance plans provided by the U.F.T.

The issue of pay disparity has come up repeatedly in recent months in an early childhood education task force run out of City Hall, according to several members of the task force. The group has been meeting regularly to oversee the pre-K rollout, and is expected to report its findings to de Blasio during the last week of January. The task force is run by deputy mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli and Administration for Children’s Services commissioner Gladys Carrion to develop recommendations for the city’s early childhood education.

The administration moved to address the problem, which long predates de Blasio, last April, pledging $16.9 million of the $300 million dedicated pre-K funds to increase starting salaries for certified teachers in C.B.O.s.

Starting salaries for certified teachers at C.B.O.s with bachelors degrees were raised from about $35,000 to $44,000, and starting pay for certified teachers with masters degrees to $50,000. That's still slightly below the starting salary rate, $46,000, for D.O.E. teachers.
Advocates say the increases were helpful for child care employees, but haven’t been sufficient to accommodate the vast expansion of teaching staff.

David Nocenti, executive director of the Union Settlement Association in Harlem, which offers pre-K, pointed out that the increases didn’t account for more experienced teachers, or the many uncertified teaching assistants and staff members. And many Head Start teachers with bachelors degrees were already making the same  amount under their union contract.

“This is a single, high-quality system where four-year-olds are learning new multi-syllable vocabulary words, exploring through interactive science experiments and gaining critical interpersonal skills while making friends and engaging in meaningful play,” Devora Kaye, a D.O.E. spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We have made investments in training, given organizations new recruitment tools, and continue to provide ongoing resources to attract and retain the best teachers. Across every classroom we had a qualified lead instructor, and this will continue as we expand to new neighborhoods across the city. This is part of our profound commitment to giving every child a great early education, of which pre-K is the beginning."

Still, providers say they’ve lost students and some of their best teachers to D.O.E. schools due to the salary issues over the last year, as the scale of the pre-K roll-out has in some cases aggravated existing retention issues.

“What has typically happened in many cases is now exacerbated,” said Maria Collier, director of the Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation, a C.B.O. in Brooklyn. Pointing out that many C.B.O.s, like her’s, provide pre-K in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, Collier said the salary disparities can lead to loss of teachers, putting low-income students at a greater disadvantage.

“Teachers will gain experience or study while they are at a C.B.O., and as soon as they get their credentials they will go to the D.O.E.,” Collier said. "It’s totally understandable because many of them graduate owing lots of money, but it puts the C.B.O. at an extreme disadvantage because you cannot compete with the D.O.E," she said. 

Collier said she was lucky to lose only a few teachers to the D.O.E., this summer, but she said her center was “scrambling” just before the first day of school to hit enrollment targets, as parents tried to game the system by applying to as many programs as possible, creating long and unreliable waitlists.
Another pre-K provider who asked not to be identified said her program lost several of its best teachers to the D.O.E., along with students whose parents had been promised that enrolling at a district pre-K spot would help guarantee Kindergarten admission at the same school.

“Some of our agencies really have seen an exodus of staff,” said Gregory Bender, a policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses.

Attrition has been a long-standing issue for C.B.Os, Collier and other providers said, but more students, teachers and programs have made the scope of the issue clearer.

“What the [rollout] revealed in stark terms was that the city has to have a better integrated early childhood system,” Bender said.

Different insurance plans for C.B.O. and D.O.E. staff have been another major disincentive for community-based teachers and staff, providers say.

Bender said as many as 60 percent of staff at some of the pre-K programs United Neighborhood Houses oversees have opted out of their health insurance plans due to the cost. Collier said several members of her staff, particularly custodial and kitchen staff, have also had to opt out of insurance plans.

The rollout has also shed light on another subtle layer of disparity that providers say is causing tension in their centers: salary differences between C.B.O. teachers providing pre-K to four-year-olds, and teachers who work with children 3 years old and under.

While C.B.O. teachers with master’s degrees and 20 years of experience who provide pre-K instruction can earn up to $50,000, child care providers who work with younger children earn less, only up to $39,500 at Cypress Hills, Collier said.

“When there is salary disparity within your own center, it magnifies dissatisfaction,” Collier said.
And while all parents of children in C.B.Os pay a basic fee for services, typically around $60 or $70, parents of younger children pay a larger amount.

The providers and advocates, most of whom have been longtime supporters of de Blasio and his early childhood goals, say they are grateful to have a mayor who recognizes the importance of pre-K, and all praised the initial rollout of the program.

The first year of the rollout was about “prying the door open,” said Nancy Kolben, the executive director of the Center for Children's Initiatives and a member of de Blasio's pre-K implementation working group. But, she added, “we have these two systems that should be aligned but aren’t there yet.” 

Voice Your Support - Here's How!

Friday, January 09, 2015
As advocacy season heats up, we wanted to share this fun and inspiring video created by UNH member University Settlement. Their adult literacy students will show you how to make a simple call to your City Council Member to voice your support for various issues or campaigns you may see UNH working on. Watch below!



Credit: Michael Hunter

Remembering Governor Mario M. Cuomo

Monday, January 05, 2015

United Neighborhood Houses mourns the passing of former Governor Mario M. Cuomo.  Mario Cuomo understood the power of settlement houses to stabilize and heal communities, starting with his involvement in the creation of UNH member agency Queens Community House (formerly Forest Hills Community House) in the l970s.  Prior to entering electoral politics, Mario Cuomo helped negotiate the end to a bitter community dispute in Forest Hills, Queens over a proposal to locate public housing there.  One part of the solution was to create a community services agency that would serve the entire community, regardless of race, income or status.   His vision became Forest Hills Community House, which continues to do the fine work Governor Cuomo imagined they would be able to do.  Governor Mario Cuomo continued to support settlement houses and community agencies providing essential services over the course of his long career leading our State government.  We are grateful for that support.  He will be missed.  

The DYCD “Haves” vs the “Have-Nots”

Friday, December 05, 2014


One of the most significant problems which providers faced as part of this year’s Summer Initiative was the wide disparity in funding levels between the 70 DYCD Cornerstone programs, which received approximately $90,000 to cover the costs of expanded hours and programming, and the 37 NYCHA-operated and nonprofit-sponsored NYCHA centers, which received only one third of that amount, little more than $30,000.

“The inequity in funding between DYCD Cornerstone and non-DYCD sites was a real problem,” says UNH’s Gregory Brender.  “The non-DYCD-funded providers were not able to offer the same quality services with the lower funding levels.  Unless more money is put into to the budget, we will face the same problem next year.”

Read the full article here.

Mayor’s Summer Surge in Youth Services Keeps City Peaceful

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Heading into the summer of 2014, New York City’s tabloids were predicting a law and order meltdown. Mayor Bill de Blasio had halted the Bloomberg administration’s policy of rampant and seemingly random “Stop and Frisk” searches of youth in minority neighborhoods.  And, the Daily News and New York Post claimed the result was a surge in shootings across the City.  By early June, the number of shootings was up 13% compared to a year earlier– although experts argued whether stopping “Stop and Frisk” had anything to do with the surge and actual murders were hitting a 50-year low. Nevertheless, with the end of the school year coming, the possibility of a long, hot summer was becoming a significant source of public concern… even for the new administration itself.

On July 8th, the Mayor responded by announcing a major $210 million initiative “to make the City’s neighborhoods safer and reduce violent crime”, particularly in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments.  While most of the funding went to repairs, maintenance and security enhancements at NYCHA buildings – as well as redeployment of 200 police officers -- the new initiative also included a $15.6 million allocation of new funding to expand community center activities and other key programs in NYCHA projects this summer.

Read the full article here. 


UNH Hosts 2014 New Yorkers Who Make a Difference Benefit

Thursday, November 06, 2014

United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) hosted its Annual New Yorkers Who Make a Difference Benefit on October 21st. The event, which gathered 400 supporters to Tribeca Three Sixty, raised $640,000 to help UNH support settlement houses and New Yorkers in need throughout the city.

This year’s New Yorkers Who Make a Difference Honorees were Jack Krauskopf and Stanley S. Litow. Krauskopf’s award was presented by Steve Banks, Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, and Litow’s award was presented by Lorie Slutsky, President of the New York Community Trust. The program was emceed by Michelle Yu of SNY, and featured a special vocal performance by the students of the Union Settlement Rising Stars After School Program at PS 112. Golden benefactors included Paul Balser and Paula Del Nunzio, EmblemHealth, Judy and Lew Kramer, Ruth and Sid Lapidus, and Lois and Arthur Stainman. 

“UNH is grateful for the support of our foundation, corporate, and individual donors that makes our work possible. With this, we will continue to serve as a voice for our member agencies and for our New York City neighbors,” said Nancy Wackstein, UNH Executive Director. 

Read the original article here. 

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Citi Donates $138,000 To Aid NYC

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Citi announced today that they will write a check to City Harvest, United Neighborhood Houses, USO of Metro New York and YMCA of Greater New York to the amount  of $138,000 to combat hunger and aid youth in miscellaneous mentoring endeavors.

Citi committed to donating $2,000 to one of four tri-state area community partners and the Citi Thank You Home Runs for Communities Program that launched during the New York Mets’ 2014 season was successful.

Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson served as a player ambassador of the program and is happy to see the positive results in the form of a substantial donation. “The program added so much excitement to the on-field action at Citi Field this season,” said Granderson.

“And as a result of our 59 home runs, Citi is able to donate funds and continue to support the community even further.”

Read the original article here. 


This Week in Education with SCAN New York

Friday, October 17, 2014


UNH member SCAN New York was featured on Red Rabbit's blog for their pilot project to develop a plan for resident-driven initiatives to increase access to and use of fresh healthy food in NYCHA communities. This project is funded by The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund in partnership with UNH. 

Learn more about SCAN's project here! 

It Could Be You: Documentary Makes Poverty Relatable

Thursday, October 16, 2014


On Octber 7, UNH, with the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, sponsored a screening of American Winter and a community forum, titled “Thawing of the American Dream.” Broadcast journalist Hugh Hamilton moderated the panel discussion. 

Panelist Ken Walters, Director of Members Services at United Neighborhood Houses of New York, said that his organization doesn’t approach his the poor as “clients” but as partners in an effort to engage leadership through advocacy, like testifying at city hall. He said that even the most hard-nosed politician would find it difficult not to be moved by face-to-face encounters. 

Read more about the event here. 


There's Still Time to Enroll Your 4-year-old in Pre-K This Fall

Friday, October 10, 2014
 

It's not too late for parents to enroll their 4-year-olds in free full day pre-K programs at public schools or nonprofits for this school year.The de Blasio administration — whose ambitious pre-K expansion aims to draw 53,000 kids this year — is letting centers continue enrolling kids past the traditional Oct. 1 deadline because there are still scores of open seats.

"We think the extension is a prudent decision given that this is the first year of this large expansion, and we want to ensure that every family has the opportunity to enroll their child in a program that fits their family's needs," said Gregory Brender, a policy director at United Neighborhood Houses, an umbrella group for the city's settlement houses, many of which offer pre-K programs.

Read the full article here.