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January 23, 2018
After an early childhood overhaul, paying families are bringing diversity to some New York City child care centers
New York City's recent early childhood overhaul might inadvertently have laid the groundwork for integration in its highly segregated early childhood programs.
August 23, 2017
New York City child care centers are serving more infants, but for poor families seats are scarce
It remains to be seen whether the city will find a way to increase the capacity for this age group in centers.
June 14, 2017
Can ‘3-K for All’ and child care centers work and play well together? Here’s what we know
To avoid the same problems that child care centers faced when enrolling 4-year-olds, directors say that DOE will need to do things differently.
(Very) early education
May 16, 2017
With a major but little-noticed move, New York City signals that learning starts at birth
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans last month to extend pre-K to 3-year-olds, a massive expansion of his popular Pre-K for All program. But…
December 4, 2012
IBO: City faces budget shortfall for early childhood initiative
The city's redesigned childcare system is safe for now, but faces cuts in the near future and increased funding uncertainties, according to a report by a budget watchdog. Earlier this year, advocates successfully lobbied the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg to nix a plan that would have cut 7,200 contracted child care slots. The proposed cuts were the result of the city's implementation of EarlyLearn — an initiative that aims to streamline and improve early childhood education. But 4,900 of the seats were restored with one-time City Council funding, an annual stopgap solution that does not address "ongoing funding problems faced by the child care system," according to the report, authored by the Independent Budget Office.
June 25, 2012
Budget deal saves child care spots, averts school aide layoffs
Not a single child-care slot will be lost or school aide laid off as a result of this year's budget deal between Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council. The deal, announced late today, rolls back millions of dollars of cuts that Bloomberg proposed in his executive budget last month. Instead of losing 6,500 child-care spots and 30,000 after-school spots, the city will actually have more spots next year than this year. And although Bloomberg had slashing about 400 school aides from the city payroll — more than half as many as were laid off last year — no layoffs will take place. DC-37, the union that represents school aides and other non-teaching school personnel, agreed to trim employees' workdays by about half an hour in order to avert the cuts, city officials said. The budget is "not just a plan on how to spend but also a statement about who we are as a city," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn during a celebratory press conference at City Hall. "And we are a city where every child is given the opportunity and resources to learn." Quinn said the city had also agreed to make changes to its EarlyLearn initiative, which aims to streamline and improve early childhood education.
June 4, 2012
Home providers say EarlyLearn overhaul leaves them in the dark
Hundreds of child care providers like Iraida Tkacheva are affected by the EarlyLearn initiative. On a cool Friday afternoon, 10 bright-eyed toddlers played outdoors, giggling and speaking Russian, before heading inside for a homemade lunch. During the week, they spend more time with Iraida Tkacheva, their child-care provider, than they do with their working parents. Tkacheva has transformed nearly every room in her Bensonhurst house to cater to the children's needs: an area with tables and chairs where the toddlers eat, a library full of children's books, a nap area surrounded by walls plastered with educational posters, and a backyard that accommodates toys for playtime with security gates and enclosed circuit cameras to ensure the children's safety at all times. Yet once the mayor’s ambitious overhaul of the city’s child-care system takes place on October 1, through a program called EarlyLearn, Tkacheva and hundreds of people who offer subsidized child-care in their homes are set to lose their jobs if funding falls through. EarlyLearn – one of Bloomberg's latest education reforms before he leaves office next year – sets out to increase the quality of publicly funded early childhood education while distributing child-care slots to the neediest neighborhoods. It is, according to some advocates, the biggest change to the city’s child-care services in 40 years. Criticism of EarlyLearn has focused on the fact that it reduces the overall number of early childhood seats. But another major change — about who the city is hiring to provide child care in private homes — has some child-care advocates concerned.
May 4, 2012
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.
December 21, 2011
Day care center moved amid flurry of early childhood changes
Parents and Sunset Park residents are up in arms over a decision by a local church to evict a popular day care center and replace it with a higher-paying tenant: the Department of Education. A lease dispute between St. Michael's Church and Sunset Park Early Childhood Development Center surfaced last summer, when the diocese landlord raised the rent to levels the day care center couldn't afford. That lease officially ended on Friday and the center was shut down until late January, when the 400-seat Head Start program will reopen in another church nearby, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. But the new facility needs renovations and does not have enough room for dozens of children with special needs. Families of those children say they still don't know where their children will attend school next month. "That's part of the issue," said Maritza Arrastia, an Sunset Park organizer who is joining with parents and other community members today to rally in front of St. Michael's. "It’s hard to get any information that’s clear." The DOE will start renovating St. Michael's in January — months after a $1.2 million foundation-funded revamp meant for the day care program — and aims to open a new DOE school in the space in 2014, according to a department spokesman. The relocation comes amid surge of policy initiatives that are threatening to reshape the state of early childhood education in the city.
December 20, 2011
Federal Head Start reauthorization puts city's status in jeopardy
Chancellor Dennis Walcott prepares to read to a group of 4-year-olds at the Bank Street Head Start center in November. (GothamSchools) New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is at risk of losing a $190 million grant, after the federal government included it on a list of 132 substandard Head Start agencies across the country this week. Head Start is the half-century-old federal preschool program for low-income children. ACS, among the oldest and largest Head Start agencies in the country, did not meet the “quality thresholds” set by the federal Office of Head Start, according to a list made public Tuesday by the Administration for Children & Families, which oversees the program. Educators and advocates said the announcement could mean major upheaval for ACS, which serves 120,000 children and families in New York City and oversees contracts for 250 Head Start centers. “It would have a huge impact,” said Nina Piros, director of early childhood programs for University Settlement, which runs two Head Start centers on the Lower East Side under a contract with ACS. “If ACS does lose its grant, then delegate agencies will be out of business, to put it mildly,” she added, referring to the centers that contract with ACS. “There’s a lot of jaws that dropped,” said Steven Antonelli, administrative director of the Head Start program at the Bank Street College of Education.
December 16, 2011
New York not among Race to the Top early-learning winners
When the Obama administration announces winners of the second Race to the Top competition later today, New York will not be on the list. That's according to the Associated Press, which reports that nine states are sharing the $500 million in funding for early childhood programs. Those states are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, a source at the U.S. Department of Education told the AP. Being shut out means New York will not get federal funding to build a "kindergarten readiness measurement tool" — or a test that all children would take when they enter school. The state had been eligible to receive as much as $100 million. The nine winners are culled from 35 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, that applied for the federal funds this fall.
October 20, 2011
State to develop kindergarten test as part of Early Learning bid
Starting in 2014, children will have to take a test when they start kindergarten, according to a commitment New York State has made to boost its chance of winning up to $100 million in the federal "Early Learning Challenge." Currently, New York City administers a school readiness exam, called Bracken, to children applying for gifted programs. But in most schools across the city and state, kindergarten teachers learn about their students' strengths and weaknesses over the course of the year. Now they will have a standard "kindergarten readiness measurement tool" to help them. The new test will let schools identify a "baseline" for each student who enrolls against which they can measure progress — or lack of progress. But children won't be barred from enrollment or sent to special education on the basis of poor scores, and the scores won't be factored into teacher evaluations, according to the state's press release. The tool is one promise in New York State's application to this year's lower-key Race to the Top competition, which focused on early childhood education. The application also promises that New York will create Common Core-aligned pre-kindergarten standards and introduce a quality rating for early childhood programs. The rating system named in the state's application, QUALITYStarsNY, is the same one being used in New York City to rate programs as part of a local bid to improve early childhood education.
October 13, 2011
In audit, Liu and DOE spar over pre-K funds the city doesn't use
The city isn't sending as many 4-year-olds to pre-kindergarten as it could, according to an audit by Comptroller John Liu. Liu's latest Department of Education audit looks at the way the city uses state funding for "universal pre-kindergarten" programs. The funds can be used to pay for half-day pre-K classes at public schools or through city or community-based preschool programs. Even though many public schools maintain waiting lists for pre-kindergarten classes, especially where space is tight, many 4-year-olds are not enrolled in pre-K classes that could help prepare them for school. Every year, the audit calculates, the city returns an average of about $30 million in unused pre-K funding to the state. "DOE's failure to fully allocate all UPK funds means that children who could have received pre-kindergarten classes are not being served," concludes the audit, which radiates evidence of tension between Liu's office and the DOE. The department submitted its response to the audit "under protest" and calling the audit's focus "deliberately and stubbornly myopic, thereby rendering it of little, if any, worth." If Liu's office had looked at efforts to expand pre-K enrollment, the DOE argues, it would have found that the problem lies not with the department but in constricting state regulations. An enormous challenge, the DOE and Liu's office agree, is that the state will only pay for two and a half hours of pre-K per day for each child.
July 18, 2011
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.
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