“Mayor de Blasio, Clean Up Your Mess!” Non-Union Pre-Kindergarten Staff Speak Out.

This is a guest post by Chloe Pashman, an Education Director of a CBO preschool in the Bronx. She has worked in the Early Childhood Education field for over twenty years.

On July 9th, 2019, after decades of unjust, racist, and illegal pay disparities between CBO (Community-Based Organizations) PreKs, and DOE (Department of Education) PreKs, we sat in the Blue Room at City Hall, listening to Mayor DeBlasio go on and on about the “Pathway to Parity” that he had finally agreed upon with the labor unions. For several reasons it was a bittersweet day. Yes, we had fought for years —  some, for decades — to close these glaring pay gaps Of course, there were many smiles, hugs, cheers, and sighs of relief, as there should have been.

But it was bittersweet because the Mayor didn’t really want to do this. We wish he had. The  women who work in CBO PreKs, almost all of color, were responsible for the “success” of the “PreK For All” program that he constantly touts as his own. In fact, sixty percent  of the PreK seats in New York City are in the centers where they work, year-round (read: no summers off), for tens of thousands of dollars less in salary, benefits, and with few of the “perks” offered to DOE PreK employees. 

This past July 1st all CBO PreK contracts were transferred under the DOE. CBO PreK staff authorized a strike back in May and the Mayor was threatened with lawsuits over the pay disparities, which would have surely been the end of his presidential run. So he had no choice but to throw us all a bone. 

In some cases it wasn’t a bone but a few crumbs. Despite the “victory” for the Lead Teachers who had worked hard to earn their Master’s degrees and state certification (qualifications that were equal to those in the DOE), the Assistant Teachers and Teachers’ aides, many of whom also work year-round in PreK classrooms, received little in return. The support staff –- Family Service workers, custodians, cooks, etc. — were in the same boat. Some of the folks in those positions also have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and decades of experience. Their DOE counterparts are paid above and beyond their salaries. They received only a small “ratification bonus” and will see a slight bump in their salaries in October 2021. 

Don’t spend it all in one place, ladies and gentlemen!

Finally, and this might sound odd  (it should), it was bittersweet because MOST PreK Lead Teachers in the city did not receive anything at all. Yes, you read that correctly! Two thirds of the PreK For All teachers in New York City do not belong to labor unions. The non-union CBO PreK teachers and staff were told only that the new pay scales for the union workers would act as a “template” for other preschool educators in the city. 

Does that “promise” (if you can even call it that) pay the bills? We think not. 

Non-union CBO PreK educators and administrators in New York City strongly agree that words are not sufficient. Actions are needed. Here are just a few statements from educators and administrators at Staten Island CBO preKs, but I receive emails, texts, and social media messages constantly from people around the city regarding this issue. 

“What we want is simple; EQUAL PAY for ALL teachers. As someone who has recently earned her Master’s degree and teacher certification in Early Childhood Education, it breaks my heart that my hard work and passion for being a teacher is being devalued and underpaid.”  Andrea Culotta, a current 3K (and former UPre-K) teacher. 

“We outnumber unionized staff 2:1 (according to YOU)…ALL PreKs matter! We have the same education and certifications. We should be paid equally!” Lorraine Ricca, Lead PreK For All Teacher. 

“Mr. DeBlasio…needs to pay ALL teachers the same salary so that ALL children CAN have the same high quality education [that he says he wants them to have]…he started the program – now he needs to finish it!”  Lori Cangiolose, Assistant Director.

“I have been an Assistant Teacher at a CBO [in a PreK For All classroom for the past 10 years. I currently make an embarrassing $15/hour. This is unacceptable! I have a B.A. in Early Childhood Education, Teacher’s Assistant Certification, and I have completed countless hours of online training, workshops, and professional development, yet I don’t make the same salary as my peers in the DOE. This is an outrage and needs to be changed, immediately!” asserts another PreK educator.

In PreK we encourage children to finish each task that they start. They are taught to clean up a mess if they make one. Each child is treated fairly, and we model this behavior so that students learn to treat others in an equitable manner. We must hold the Mayor, Chancellor, and others who are in charge of NYC’s school system and leading our city to at least the same standards!

What do you think?

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