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NYC Teacher Speaks out: City Still Falls Short on CBO Pre-K Pay Parity Promises (Part 1 of 3)

“NO 3K Without Equal Pay!”

This is a slogan that was written several years back on a sign that has been gathering dust in an office closet at the Bronx Community Based Organization (CBO) preschool in a NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) development where I work. Guess it may be time to take it out again, as the mayor and city council (yes, no caps on purpose) neglected to include money for the leaders of CBO pre-ks, who have made both the PreK For All (4 year old) and 3K expansion possible.

The hardworking and grossly underpaid staff in CBO pre-ks educate and support children and families in the most underserved areas of the city. Much of the support staff, even those working in “PreK For All” and “3K” classrooms are barely making above minimum wage. It’s utterly shameful. Whether union or nonunion, we are mostly women, and many women of color work in CBO settings. Our students and families are predominantly poor and of color. Sadly, none of us seem to matter to the self-described “progressive” mayor and city council. 

Yes, the mayor did very reluctantly agree a couple years back (after threats of walkouts and lawsuits during his failed “presidential” run) to a “pathway” to parity for lead teachers in CBOs. The city council, at that time, refused to pass the budget unless these funds were included. In their recent explanation for why they did not fund parity for school leaders of CBOs, they reiterated their past “accomplishment” re: lead teacher parity. 

However, as my colleague Marina Kolmanovsky, a Brooklyn CBO preschool director notes, this isn’t even completely resolved! She bluntly describes the current unacceptable, morally reprehensible, and possibly even illegal salary disparities between CBO staff and those working in DOE buildings (even though all CBOs are “under” the DOE as of 7/1/2021). 

She is at at the “end of her rope” in her struggle to retain quality staff and keep her school afloat. From delayed payments from DOE to the lingering pay parity disparities, and utter lack of support, she is just done, and I can’t blame her! 

She told me, “Starting September 2021, all certified teachers employed under the DOE contract at day care centers will have a salary of roughly $68,500, regardless of years of experience. The starting DOE salary for certified teachers with NO experience is around the same amount, plus benefits – all health benefits now and after retirement, annuity, commuter benefits, employee discounts and many others. I interviewed several current DOE teachers for 3K positions, all of whom make over $100,000 + benefits because of years of teaching experience. DOE really expects me to offer them $68,500 with no benefits?! I realize English is not my first language, but I am far from stupid. I might have to relook the definition of ‘pay parity’, but I do not see any parity here whatsoever.“

What happened this time? Why would they (sort of) fund teacher parity but not parity of pay for those who supervise the teachers and run the entire school? Why would they tout their “accomplishment” re: teacher pay parity when that hasn’t even really happened? It just makes no sense. 

I have received countless messages of frustration, sadness, anger, and frankly, utter despair from my school leader colleagues, many of whom, including myself, hold the highest credentials possible in the field. Some of us are in CSA, the SAME union as the DOE principals and assistant principals, with which we are equally qualified. However, despite working more hours a day, for a longer year, with much fewer resources and support, CBO directors are paid about HALF of the salaries collected by our DOE colleagues! It is important to note that as of 7/1/2021, all CBO pre-ks are officially part of DOE. CBO school leaders also have bills to pay, families to support, and lives to try to live. We are struggling, and it’s not fair. The entire operation of the school and all of the related responsibilities are heavily weighing on our exhausted shoulders. This is unjust and just plain insulting. 

Fix it…NOW! 

Part #2 coming Friday, July 9.

What do you think?

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