April 21, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – After suffering a decade of shuttered programs and lost jobs, the union representing the city’s child care workers is poised to undergo a dramatic turnaround over the next two years, as the de Blasio administration looks to more than double the number of available pre-K seats citywide and hire as many as 2,000 more teachers.
“Child care in New York City has been neglected for the last 12 years, but now there’s an administration that appreciates the hard work that our members do,” said Raglan George, Jr., District Council 1707 executive director.
Early Learn reforms under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg knocked out long-running community-based programs around the city, and cost about 1200 union members their jobs.
Now, however, with universal pre-K [UPK] funding from the state totaling $300 million annually, the city will start adding seats rather than shedding them. And that means more top-flight teachers will be needed.
According to the Mayor’s Office, the goal is to have a total of 73,250 pre-K slots available by the 2015-2016 school year.
‘The Bloomberg administration closed a lot of classrooms,” said Gregory Brender, United Neighborhood Houses [UNH] policy analyst. “Now, there’s the opportunity to fill those classrooms with UPK seats.”
Many of the 38 community organizations in the UNH coalition presently provide pre-K classes for New York City kids, but the groups could increase their capacity with the proper logistical support.
The Mayor’s Office hopes to have up to 53,000 UPK slots available by next fall. Incuded in that number are 12,000 seats that were part of the Administration for Children’s Services Early Learn program, which the City Council was forced to step in and fund after Bloomberg’s cuts were imposed.
A significant bump in the pay floor for teachers holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees is expected help attract highly qualified teachers to fill all of the new posts. The existing pay floor for pre-K teachers holding bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees is $36,000 and $40,000 respectively. Those numbers will now jump to $44,000 and $50,000.
As many as 400 New Yorkers will also get help earning their pre-K teaching credentials through a new $6.7 million partnership between the de Blasio administration and the City University of New York’s Early Childhood Professional Development Institute.
Beyond the opportunities for more seats and teachers, G.L. Tyler, District 1707 political director says that the decision to raise the pay floor in an effort to attract the best and brightest also "opens up the conversation of wage parity for teachers who are doing similar jobs as their public school counterparts."
“We’re not fully there yet, but it’s a good start,” Tyler said. "The pay floor is going to be raised, and eventually, all of our members' salaries will be increased."