Opponents Decry EarlyLearn’s Official Launch Date
October 2, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
October 1 marked the official launch date for EarlyLearn – the Bloomberg administration’s controversial new plan to provide education to low-income preschoolers – but many have already given it a failing grade.
Labor leaders, as well as rank and file members, and City Councilmember Gale Brewer, all gathered outside the gates of City Hall on Monday morning and denounced the mayor’s program as an anti-union scheme, beset with scandal, and causing the unwarranted closure of previously thriving day care programs.
“EarlyLearn was never thought out,” DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George, Jr. said. “It was never tested to see if it will work – and it’s not working now. It’s supposed to go into effect today, but they are not ready to put it into effect.”
Among other things, opponents charge that without appropriate certification from the Department of Health, new sponsors slated to take over long-established programs throughout the five boroughs will not be able to continue regular classes without causing students significant disruption – and forcing parents to scramble for alternatives.
“In the end, what you will have is informal care, which is the worst kind of early childhood education,” Councilmember Brewer said. “We should be enhancing the system, not putting it into turmoil.”
According to George, as many as 700 to 800 union members could be displaced as a result of EarlyLearn’s implementation.
“It’s going to put us at a great disadvantage,” George said. “It’s the same thing that [presidential and vice-presidential candidates Mitt] Romney and [Paul] Ryan are trying to do with the rest of the country – suppress and get rid of the union and make these things for-profit programs. That, or give them to their big-time cronies who want to make money off of child care.”
As well as people losing their jobs, New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez said that organized labor is also concerned about children left out of previously available day care center slots.
“These are good jobs that have been around for many years providing service to lower-income communities, and we need to make sure they’re preserved through the implementation of EarlyLearn,” Alvarez added.
Long-established day care programs like the Highbridge Nursery Center in the Bronx have already been told to completely shut down as a result of EarlyLearn. Millions of dollars in emergency funding from the New York City Council has helped to stave off even more immediate closings – but many parents remain hard-pressed to keep up with the losses.
“We had like minutes, maybe days, until the budget was passed, and we were presented with this huge problem of closures,” Brewer said. “For parents on public assistance it is mandated that you have a slot for child care. But if you’re working poor, and you got off public assistance and you’re trying to make it on your own, this is a cut that you could be faced with. So, that in and of itself is crazy.”
Group family day care provider and UFT member Patricia Johnson said that while EarlyLearn does not immediately threaten the type of home-based program she runs in Brooklyn, she still fears that her funding might yet be “tapped into down the road.”
“As a childcare provider, it’s very important to unite with unions that are doing the same thing to fight against EarlyLearn,” Johnson said.
EarlyLearn’s entire scoring process, meanwhile, has been called into question – with a least one formal complaint charging that consultants intentionally lowered the score that the Alonzo A. Daughtry Memorial Daycare Center in Brooklyn received on its Request for Proposal.
That, in turn, has prompted Alonzo A. Daughtry Memorial Daycare Center Director Karen S. Daughtry to declare EarlyLearn’s scoring system “null and void.”
“This RFP was not the way to go,” Brewer said. “History, quality and past ratings should be taken into account.”
Like the Daughtry Center in Brooklyn, George said that other ousted early childhood education programs throughout the city will continue to oppose full implementation of the mayor’s EarlyLearn’s model.
“That’s the only way to beat back this mayor who’s insensitive to the needs of children and parents,” George said. “He just doesn’t give a damn.”
The Mayor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.