Programs

Eric Adams Erods New York’s Early Childhood Education Programs

If COVID-19 exposed the gaping holes in America’s public health safety net, the closure of schools and daycares demonstrated how fundamental these institutions are to enabling workers to work. Juggling the demands of remote work or limited childcare options has forced many parents and caregivers into impossible situations. The federal government has provided funds to expand child care, but for the most part state and local governments have not stepped in to help parents and caregivers. No policies were launched to protect the jobs of parents and carers during school closures, childcare services for essential workers were severely limited, and parents’ struggles were largely dismissed or ignored.

But one of the positive outcomes of this crisis has been the widespread recognition that childcare, especially early childhood education, needs serious reform. A broader coalition has emerged to support more universal and accessible policies. For example, in 2021, the New York Times compared the US private child care system unfavorably to the heavy public investments of peer countries. Pediatric Cochlear Implanter Surgeon, Dr. Dana Suskind, caused a stir by calling for increased government support for early childhood care. Joe Biden’s doomed Build Back Better (BBB) ​​bill would have revolutionized childcare in America for most families over the long term.

Yet BBB was never adopted, and parents’ grievances over their unmet needs led to surprise Republican gubernatorial victories, such as Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, as Democrats failed to understand how the Parental alienation and marginalization remained a politically significant issue in the second year of the pandemic. Even ‘tough on crime’ Eric Adams aired his first TV commercial for his New York City mayoral bid to include a pledge to universal child care and other social policies.

New Yorkers, especially parents like me, may have felt a little smug when Build Back Better entered the national political discourse, since Biden’s early childhood education plan appeared to be based on New York City’s own policies. The movement towards expanding early childhood education was well underway before the pandemic. But Mayor Eric Adams is moving the city in the opposite direction, weakening the city’s child care programs rather than strengthening them.

Former mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned in 2013 for the creation of a Universal Pre-K Program (UPK). The program started in the most needy neighborhoods and eventually became institutionalized across the city, and it’s a huge draw for families. All of the children in my son’s birth cohort (born in the year de Blasio was elected) were guaranteed a place at a universal pre-K facility in their district. Due to limited capacity, some children attended a public preschool and others attended a private school or a preschool that operated a state-funded preschool for four-year-olds. The only requirement to qualify was that the child lived in New York.

As a result, the PUK was extremely popular in all classes and communities, and the successful deployment of the PUK in New York was one of the most successful and popular achievementswith an enviable public education campaign, immediate teacher recruitment and pilot seats available within a year of his election, and seventy thousand four-year-olds (including my son) enrolled in the fall of 2017.

My children were born three years apart, so when my second child started private child care, I was very fortunate to send my four-year-old to a high-quality preschool program in my home for free. piece. It was a game changer for my family. Shortly after the birth of my second child, de Blasio announcement a Universal 3K (U3K) program, providing public funding for high-quality education and care for three-year-olds in the city, in April 2017. The program has been gradually rolled out to the “most needy” communities.

In 2021, before de Blasio left, he called for an expansion of 3K seating in the city, allowing more students in more neighborhoods to have access to seating. The vast majority of federal stimulus money earmarked for the Department of Education (DOE) has gone to expanding 3K seats, but federal funds would run out by 2026. De Blasio’s Financial plan expects a robust post-COVID recovery to provide the tax revenue needed to cover ongoing 3K spending.

But instead of continuing to invest during this transition period in New York’s DOE, Mayor Adams recently backtracked on his commitment to universal 3K seating and now says he is “committed to maximizing access to care, based on family needs and preferences. , for ages from birth to five years” – and refusing to commit to expanding the program is truly universal.

Citing low enrollment as fewer seats are currently filled than offered, Mayor Adams appears to be moving away from de Blasio’s vision of early childhood education for all three-year-olds in the city. . Parents, activists and elected socialists recently gathered on the steps of the town hall to demonstration the systemic underfunding of our education, early years, child care and preschools, but the Adams administration has yet to respond.

Adams understands that altering a once universal program is an effective way to erode his political support and popularity, reducing a universally beneficial program to a means-tested “eligibility program”. Keeping this curriculum universal will bring a diversity of families into our public school system. This creates strong bonds within our communities. It takes the stress out of families who may not have affordable care options. It provides employers with stability, knowing that employees can rely on quality early childhood education to keep their children going through the school year. Continuing to offer 3K as a universal program helps ensure that it will be well-funded and of high quality, as a diverse coalition of stakeholders will fight to protect such a program.

City governments must recognize the need for greater social protection for families in times of economic and public health uncertainty. Policy studies have shown that every dollar invested in U3K save the town $13 in future expenses.

As a mayor who sings a lot about public safety, Adams would do well to fund and promote the U3K program as a way to promote healthier and safer communities.