Preliminary Budget Hearing Testimony: Child Care in NYC

Mar 18, 2024 | Blog

Presented before the New York City Council
Committee on Education, Preliminary Budget Hearing
March 18, 2024

The Education Trust–New York is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to educational equity. We work to attain educational justice through research, policy, and advocacy that results in all students – especially those who are from low-income backgrounds or students of color – achieving at high levels from early childhood through college completion. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony for this hearing.

Research shows that brain development during the first three years of life is unparalleled to any other time of life and that these early years offer a unique opportunity to maximize a child’s learning potential. High-quality early childhood education programs support positive outcomes throughout life; as economist James Heckman’s landmark studies show, high-quality early childhood education programs result in a range of 7-13% return on investment of early childhood programs based on school, economic, health, and social outcomes.

In New York City, families with young children have left the city in larger numbers in recent years, citing affordability challenges as the key motivator. High child care costs exacerbate financial strains on working parents, especially working mothers, who rely on child care services to earn income. Parents unable to meet the demands of high rent and child care costs may then have to make the difficult decision to become either unhoused, unemployed, or send their children to affordable yet unregulated and potentially unsafe care. No parent should ever have to make this decision.

New York City cannot create an equitable, comprehensive system of care without including explicit strategies that center the unique needs of infants, toddlers, and support the most marginalized of families.  We offer the following recommendations to ensure that a high-quality early childhood care and education system is accessible and affordable for all families.

  • Increase access to and capacity of high-quality child care programs that offer infant and toddler slots and offer non-traditional hours of care. According to a recent analysis from the Citizens Committee for Children, only 11% of New York City families can afford care for an infant or toddler in a child care center.
  • Increase access to child care programs that meet families’ needs. Early childhood programs, including 3K and Pre-K, must be available to all families, especially those who are furthest from opportunity. Programs must be located in communities with the highest need and incentives to open and sustain programs, such as property tax credits, can help support capacity. Application support is essential to addressing systemic barriers to access for families who are involved in the child welfare system, families experiencing homelessness, parents/children with disabilities and learning differences, and immigrant and migrant families.
  • Early childhood educators and providers must be compensated consistently and equitably. Decades of under-investment in the early childhood education and care sector have led to inequities that must be remedied; a quarter of child care providers live in poverty, with the industry average hourly salary of $16.78/hour, and even less for home-based providers. The early childhood care and education workforce needs sustainable wages that reflect the true cost of care, including parity for all early childhood educators, directors, and staff across the full spectrum of programs.
  • Adapt a culturally responsive quality rating system for all early education and care programs, including child care programs. A universal, transparent quality rating and improvement system is needed to ensure that all families, especially families with disabilities, families of color, immigrant families, and others who have been historically marginalized, have access to early childhood education and care programs that are inclusive of their needs and values.

The Education Trust–New York is committed to the work of creating a high-quality, early childhood system that gives every child the opportunity to receive care that works for their family. We are grateful for the opportunity to submit testimony and stand ready to support the creation of a comprehensive early childhood system that equitably supports all families, particularly the most vulnerable.

Please contact Lara Kyriakou, Associate Director of Early Childhood Policy & Advocacy at The Education Trust–New York, at [email protected] with any questions regarding this testimony.