June 10, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Parents of day care center kids all around town are sweating summer’s approach this year because many of the programs they have come to rely on to educate their children are in very real danger of folding.
The Mary Walton Children’s Center in Harlem and the Nasry Michelen Day Care Center on the Upper West Side are among a group of about 20 public-centered day care centers that face closure by month’s end.
The unions representing educators at the threatened centers say the Administration for Children’s Services [ASC] is failing both parents and their children, while the entire system continues to grapple with the lingering effects of Mayor Bloomberg’s disastrous Early Learn programming.
“I really need my daughter to stay in [day care],” Harlem parent Kawanesha Lane told LaborPress on Tuesday. “She needs to learn more. Even though I do help her out at home, I need to work.”
Parents who recently learned that their children’s day care centers are headed for closure say they are having trouble finding alternatives because “everybody is too full or afraid of closing down.”
Councilmember Ben Kallos [D-5th District], who along with Councilmember Steve Levin, has introduced legislation requiring ACS to enact a public and transparent process around proposed closures, said that the administration needs to do everything in its power to stave off this round of possible closures – but that “there doesn’t seem to be anyone trying to do anything other than close things down.”
“Single parents often have to choose between working and taking care of their kids, but no parent should have to do that,” Councilman Kallos said.
As difficult as the loss of long-running day care centers will be on hard-pressed parents, some 400 employees, many of whom haven’t had a raise in a decade, could now lose their livelihoods entirely.
“We didn’t get a grant so, unfortunately, we are one of the centers slated to be closed,” said Carlene Smith-Hafen, a teacher at the Mary Walton Children’s Center. “Hopefully, by some miracle we’ll stay open. The center has been there a long time and we have done some great things. Some of my students are leaving already reading, and ready for kindergarten.”
Mary Walton officials say that they responded to ACS’s request for proposals [RFP] way back on January 15, only to later learn that the agency was apparently unaware of the submission.
“We insist that this administration make an effort to find a way to fund these centers,” DC37’s Oliver Gray said. “They cannot close. In may ways, we see this as a summer of crisis. A summer in which there are problems all over. But the one problem we cannot afford is the problem of these children not having their services.”
ACS issued a statement saying that providing affordable, quality early education is a priority for the agency, and that it is activley working to help providers who were unsuccessful in the recent RFP to assist their families in finding chilld care services.
According to ACS, 31 providers successfully went through the RFP process, while 9 others were rejected. The agency also maintains that 7 others did not apply.
District Council 1707 Executive Director Victoria Mitchell placed the blame for the current crisis at ACS’s doorstep.
“New York City’s vital child care system barely survived the blistering twelve-year assaults of the previous administration,” Mitchell said in a statement. “The failure of this administration to more quickly move to solve the problems in our social service safety net places our children at risk and parents without the child care they must have to go to work and build the city’s economy.”
Advocates for parents and teachers say they will continue to press for vital funding throughout the executive budgeting process.