City Councilman Al Vann, along with 41 other members of the City Council sent a letter last week to Mayor Michael Bloomberg regarding concerns it had over the city's Administration for Children’s Services’ (ACS) EarlyLearn NYC Request for Proposals (RFP).
The letter, which was circulated by Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, and signed by 42 members, asks the Mayor to address a number of concerns before moving forward with the RFP, specifically as it regards the funding model.
“While EarlyLearn’s goal to improve the quality of child care is commendable, there are significant outstanding concerns with the RFP and its anticipated impact,” said Council Member Al Vann. “As evidenced by the number of council members who signed onto this letter, the concerns raised span the city’s different communities, although the number of eligible children within Bed-Stuy outpaces most other neighborhoods across the city."
Released in May 2011, the RFP lays out an ambitious series of reforms that would overhaul how the City operates its subsidized child care system. While the Council Members praised the vision of EarlyLearn, they point out that the rate structure is insufficient for the providers to be able to meet the requirements as outlined, without running very large deficits at a time when many non-profits are already struggling.
The flaws in the rate structure are created in part by the City's changes in how child care facilities and health insurance costs for child care workers would be paid for. Council Members also expressed concerend over the RFP's efforts to cut approximately 10,000 subsidized child care slots, claiming it could simultaneously reduce system capacity.
“This summer, the City Council joined parents and advocates from around New York City to protest against the Mayor’s proposal to eliminate more than 16,000 child care slots in this year’s City budget,” said General Welfare Chairwoman Annabel Palma.
“The Mayor, to his credit, heard the public outcry and came to the negotiating table with the City Council to work out a common sense solution that restored many of these slots. Quite frankly, it is disheartening that only two months later, we’re once again being faced with a series of devastating cuts to child care, this time nicely packaged in an RFP meant to strengthen the very system it would gut.”
Council Members also expressed concerns that the current structure may actually undermine the stated goals. The Council Members have committed to working with the administration to protect the City’s subsidized child care system while creating a foundation for comprehensive early childhood education.
The RFP deadline for the BID is September 12. The four-year contracts, with options to renew for an additional two years, are scheduled to begin on October 1, 2012. Although these dates already reflect a delay in the rollout, Council Members asked the Mayor to further delay until all concerns are addressed.
"We must make sure that in the city’s efforts to improve the system, that we maintain the capacity for the number of children currently served, preserve our high-quality community-based providers who have been serving our communities for years, and ensure a circumstance whereby contracted child care providers can maintain stability while also providing fair benefits to their employees,” said Vann.