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Who Is Really Paying For NYC to Have “Free” Pre-K for 3 Year Olds?

The recent “3K For All” expansion has once again been hailed as an altruistic “achievement” of the DeBlasio administration, and, of course, it is anything but. 

“Chloe, how can you say that? Isn’t it a good thing that more children can go to school?” Absolutely! I think we all can agree on that. However, I always say “Give credit where credit is due.” In this situation, the credit goes to CBOs. 

Who? What? Yes, CBOs – community-based organizations where the majority of the 3K seats in this expansion will be located (read: NOT in DOE buildings). CBO preschools and their staff members (mostly women of color) bore the brunt of the 4K (Pre-K) expansion, and now will have 3K hoisted onto their tired shoulders. Additionally, there are staff (even in classrooms), making minimum wage. Truly shameful.

CBO Pre-k educators, leaders and support staff have done the hard work, in most cases, year-round (read: no summers off or DOE breaks) and for extended days (read: no running out before 6pm – yes you read that right). 

They have done this work through a pandemic, mostly in person. CBO teachers, leaders, and support staff are still doing this work for much less money, despite the fact that they hold equal or higher qualifications as and often have more experience than their DOE counterparts. A “pathway to parity” was finally established a couple years ago, after decades of neglect, but even so, salaries are still only inching closer to the STARTING salaries of DOE teachers, even for educators who have worked for decades. CBO preschool directors, like myself, who are in CSA (yes, the same union as DOE principals, assistant principals, etc.) are working under an expired contract, and for much less than even a DOE TEACHER who has worked for a couple years. How can we accept this? The answer is that we cannot. 

CBO Pre-k staff have gone above and beyond, for decades, in a gallant attempt to support the mostly black and brown, low-income students and families we serve, and have bent over backwards in cooperation with the DOE, as they “take us over.” 

The most recent thanks we are getting is to be browbeat into accepting ridiculously tiny budgets that would require us to reduce the amount of teachers in classrooms (yes, still during a pandemic), accept a lack of full time school nurses and security), to be bullied into working a longer day and year, because the DOE staff prefers an abbreviated schedule, and much more. 

How insulting. No thanks! 

DOE – do better and do it fast! We are tired of being taken advantage of, and it stops now. The many disparities are evidence of the continuing structural racism still stubbornly embedded in the Early Childhood systems in this city (and state) and they need to be remedied. Talking about equity is NOT enough!

Hooray for the 3K expansion, and a bigger hooray for the sheroes and heroes who REALLY made it happen! Show us the money and give us the respect we deserve as professionals whose backs the system has been built on. Even more so, clarify publicly and decisively who and what has value. 

Mr. Mayor, what say you? 

DOE folks, what about you? 

City Council? State politicians? Unions? Anyone? 

In this country, for better or for worse, what and who you spend money on is where the greatest value is placed. Without a question, it SHOULD be on Early Childhood Education for our most vulnerable children and the selfless, dedicated and talented CBO staff who teach, nurture and support them.

– Chloe Pashman, Bronx CBO PreK Director and CSA Member

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