March 9 — 12:00 am, 2006

A tradition of well-funded centers, well-paid teachers

New York City has invested in developing an early care and education system

Just 90 miles up the road is an example of a city where the financial commitment to provide a quality, affordable early care and education system stands in stark contrast to Philadelphia or most American cities.

New York City operates the largest publicly funded child care system in the country except for the State of California. The city fully funds 360 nonprofit early childhood centers providing year-round child care for 27,000 young children, mostly ages 2 – 5, along with 7,000 school-age children in out-of-school-time care.

All of the centers’ costs are covered by federal, state and city funds plus parent fees. Parent fees are on a sliding scale and top out at 10 percent of family income.

Directing funding to these centers rather than dispersing it through vouchers to individual parents means centers can afford to hire and retain well-trained early childhood teachers. City requirements for teacher qualifications are among the highest in the country. Each preschool classroom must have a head teacher and an assistant teacher, and the head teacher must have a master’s degree in early childhood education – or be close to completing it.

Salary rates in the city-funded centers are $39,350 for a head teacher with an M.A. degree and $27,200 for an assistant teacher with a B.A. degree.

All the child care system’s almost 9,000 employees have union representation and receive 30 days of paid vacation, as well as health insurance, paid sick leave, and a pension contribution.

In addition to the early childhood centers, 9,000 young children – mostly under age 3 – are in family day care homes overseen by agencies under contract with the city. The city also provides voucher funding for 15,000 children in other centers and family day care homes.

New York City also gets state pre-K funding for preschoolers and federal funds for Head Start children. In all, close to 80,000 New York City children get a publicly funded early childhood education.

New York City itself puts up 30 percent of the funds for its massive child care system – about $220 million this year. That includes an investment of $165 million over and above the money required to match federal and state child care block grants.

New York’s children reap the benefits of a huge expansion in the child care system in the early 1970s when the city tapped a pool of federal funding to build more than 200 centers in high-need areas.

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