Target: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Goal: Expand early learning program to serve all children in New York City
A program meant to increase access to preschools and kindergartens for poor children is actually doing the opposite. Because of center and program elimination, zip code discrimination and new vendors unable to obtain Department of Health certification, there are as many as 10,000 children in New York City who are not receiving critical services, putting families in a position of financial ruin. This policy has to be improved.
Early Learn NYC was adopted last fall without a pilot program or City Council hearing. Before this program began, the city’s comprehensive childcare network was nationally acclaimed. It included daycare, Head Start and an extensive after-school program. Now, according to some estimates, less than 27 percent of eligible children in New York receive subsidized childcare and 60 percent of daycare centers’ workers cannot afford health insurance. To make matters worse, Bloomberg wants to close another 60 centers and eliminate 3,000 childcare slots.
One of the problems with Early Learn Program is that it tries to paint with a broad brush. In determining eligibility of a child for the city subsidy, Children’s Services are using zip codes: areas with the highest concentration of poor children receive the greatest number of subsidized childcare slots. This is a good proposal on the surface; however, life is more complicated than that, and sometimes poor children live next door to the chairman of Goldman Sachs and former chairman of Citigroup, as they do in the 10023 zip code. That is the reason that dozens of neighborhoods across the city have been designated as “non-targeted,” meaning “low priority.” Hence the denials of subsidized childcare and wait lists for kindergartens.
An additional requirement on daycare centers is that they conduct fundraising, which is difficult and time consuming. More than 1,000 unionized daycare center and Head Start workers were fired in the wake of Early Learn. This program has failed kids and their caregivers. Urge Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg to improve the program and expand access to it for all children in need.
Dear Mr. Bloomberg,
Since the inception of Early Learn 5,000 children were immediately removed from the program as kindergarten classes were eliminated from daycare centers, and another 5,000 eligible children currently do not receive services. The city’s kindergartens now have wait lists.
Although well intentioned, Early Learn discriminates against children who live in affluent neighborhoods. It is wrong to assume that just because a child lives in the same zip code as the chairman of Goldman Sachs and former chairman of Citigroup (10023 zip code), he does not need subsidized childcare. At least this policy of “non-targeted” zip codes has to be revised. Another problem with Early Learn is the perception that daycare centers and kindergartens have to raise money. This practice is not for everyone; it takes away time and resources that should be directed to child development.
Children’s Services should accommodate all children in need of subsidized daycare. Please reevaluate the Early Learn Program and modify it to make sure everyone is served, in all parts of the city. These children are our future, and we have to make sure that they get what they need to get ahead.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Choo Yut Shing via Flickr