Education ∙ Jobs ∙ Racial Equity
Early Childhood Education
The earliest years of a child’s life are critical for ensuring proper brain development and social skills. NYC has made significant progress over the last several years in equalizing opportunity for young children. Our city is a national leader in this area: researchers from Rutgers rated NYC in the top “gold” tier, as one of the top five cities out of 40 total cities in their investigation. Still, much work remains to be done. In the area of early childhood learning, a Yang administration will ensure all children are reading proficient by 3rd grade, beginning instruction in 1st grade and using 2nd grade as a safety net year. Yang will fulfill the current administration’s existing commitment to expand 3-k and establish a high-quality early education program for 0-3 year olds. This will empower communities of color who will run these programs and ensure wage parity to economically empower women of color.
Invest in and update literacy instruction so that all students are reading by second grade.
NYC is failing its students at the core of educational instruction: reading proficiency. 52% of students tested below proficiency in 2019. Teachers ought to be trained on the science of reading and use the same set of strategies, this includes secondary teachers to ensure middle and high school students who cannot read get the support they need, because a Yang administration will ensure we no longer give up on these students. Given that nearly one in five students are diagnosed with a disability, all teachers, especially for young students, must be trained in how to properly identify disabilities and support each student and their individual education. There will be an added focus on intervention methods, training teachers to recognize when a student needs extra support and steps to provide this enrichment before the students in a timely manner. Yang will also continue to fund the After School Reading Club, which provides literacy support to homeless kindergarten through 5th grade students. The ARC serves approximately 1,200 students living in shelters. Andrew will also expand the city’s summer programs, which are even more critical in the coming years to make up for the COVID achievement gap.
Identify Dyslexia and Target Interventions
Dyslexia, characterized by a difficulty in processing language that impedes reading, is the most common learning disability. Some experts estimate the percentage of children on the dyslexia spectrum ranges from 10 to 20%. Dyslexia can be overcome with explicit, evidence-based instruction using a multi-sensory structured literacy approach, yet, too few children with dyslexia have access to the instructional support they need. In large part, this is because this type of instruction is only available at private schools and one public charter school on Staten Island. We must ensure our public schools are endowed with the right identification and supportive methods. Andrew Yang will implement a universal screening in all universal pre-k classrooms to help identify students who need support and will extend training to teachers on how best to apply methods to bring students up to reading and speaking proficiency. Yang will also evaluate calls to create the first public school for students with dyslexia, which would provide an all-day every-day focus on direct, multi-sensory instruction across subject areas.
Establish a DOE public school in NYC for students with dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities.
Andrew Yang will also work with professionals to establish the first-ever public school in NYC dedicated to dyslexia. Currently a proposal for such a school is making its way through DOE’s planning process. The school would have smaller classes and train or hire teachers familiar with approaches to reading instructions such as Orton-Gillingham or Wilson, which emphasize phonics. In 2019, Bridge Preparatory Charter School on Staten Island opened to 90 first and second-graders, the only public school in the state that caters to students with language-based learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Realizing the vision for a k-8 public school that provides scientifically proven instructional programming to students with dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities will bring high-quality services to students within DOE. Currently, this type of instruction is only available at private schools and one charter school on Staten Island. We must make our public schools more robust to support the needs of our students while also reducing the need for parents to seek private special education.
Commit to seeing through the expansion of pre-k and 3-k.
Pre-K for All is widely regarded as Mayor de Blasio’s most significant accomplishment as Mayor. The city has been praised by New Yorkers, the media, and experts alike for its pre-K access and quality. In 2017, Mayor de Blasio expanded this vision from pre-K (for four-year-olds) to “3-K” For All. In March of 2021, the mayor announced that each of the city’s 32 districts will offer schooling for 3-year-olds, expanding seats by 16,500, to bring the total number of children to about 40,000 for the 2021-2022 academic year. The free program, called 3K, is expected to save eligible families about $10,000 a year, building upon the universal prekindergarten the nation’s largest school district already offers. Andrew Yang will commit to seeing this expansion through to completion.
Universal high quality early childhood education affordable, available, and accessible for all children 0-3 years old.
Andrew Yang recognizes the vast progress the city of New York has made in establishing a successful program to first make pre-k universal and then expand these offerings to 3-K. Andrew Yang is committed to continuing to develop the city’s capacity to care for its young and maximizing the opportunities opening up with the Biden Administration’s American Families Plan.
A Yang administration will strengthen the early learning experiences for all infants and toddlers in child care across the city and create affordable early childhood education available for all families. Under the American Families Plan, the Biden Administration proposes fully funding child care for low income families and capping expenses at 7% of income for families up to 1.5x their state’s median income level. While this is an incredibly exciting development, the challenge is that the city only has enough licensed child care to accommodate 23% of infants and toddlers, with many parts of NYC having no center-based capacity at all. That’s unacceptable under any circumstances and particularly when limited capacity potentially stands in the way of New York families claiming $2-3 billion in federal money per year to help pay for childcare.
Research has shown that a child’s brain undergoes a crucial period of development from birth to three and that brain growth is strongly affected by the child’s experiences with other people and the world. Experience, defined as the interaction between the individual and his or her relationships and environment, is important in the development of cognitive skills, such as improved perception of speech sounds and face recognition. By the time a child turns three her brain has grown to 80% of an adult size. Children who experience more positive interactions in their early years go on to be healthier and more successful in school and life. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. Poverty, community violence, trauma and lack of access to quality early learning experiences can negatively impact a child’s early brain development, and subsequently, their long-term success.
Addressing systems of inequity.
The American Rescue Plan, American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan provide significant momentum and much needed resources to invest in childcare. As the Biden administration has recently amplified, until now federal and State funding for early childhood has been incredibly lacking. As a result, many of the factors that can inhibit a child’s success in school already show up by the time that child enters Kindergarten. In New York City, out-of-home care is largely provided through the private market, with the majority of regulation around health and safety; not education and a focus on what those learning experiences look like. With the absence of quality training for all caregivers and a lack of public funding that makes care prohibitively expensive for many working families (the average cost of a year of center care for an infant in NY is roughly $15,000 per year), the city of New York has a role to play in stepping in to fill this gap.
Program scope, design, and funding.
President Biden’s plan will invest billions “in universal preschool, child care assistance and a national family and medical leave program that would be life-changing for many Americans.” The city of New York should strategically leverage these investments and design a comprehensive 0-3 education model to better support students, families, and childcare providers.
To rise to the challenge of the American Families Plan, we need to invest substantially in upskilling existing caregivers and training and licensing new ones as well as clearing away senseless rules such as the requirement that daycare centers operate in ground level retail to create the room for the federally-backed caregiver economy to flourish. According to several research and advocacy groups, “states and territories can use the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) (including the $3.5 million in CARES funds, the $10 billion in CRRSA funds, and $15 billion in ARP funds for child care, as well as the regular state allocations) for minor renovations” in child care facilities. Likewise, the “$24 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund enacted in the American Rescue Plan presents an additional opportunity to invest in health, safety, quality and supply of childcare facilities.”
With nearly 350,000 infants and toddlers up to age 3 in the city and at least 230,000 in NYC under 400% of federal poverty, we expect at least 150,000 children will participate assuming a 50% take up rate of the total number of 0–3-year old’s. On average, the annual cost of childcare in New York City is roughly $15k per year, with higher quality programs costing roughly $30,000 per year. New York can expect around $2-3 billion in annual federal funding on the program through dollars that have been dedicated to childcare costs.
Investing in a professionalized workforce in the childcare economy.
This program will simultaneously help young children at a critical stage in their development, while helping parents return to work and small childcare businesses that are disproportionately owned and employed by women of color succeed. While women of color represent 20% of the American population, they comprise 40% of the roughly 1.5 million child care workers in the U.S with 93% of the childcare workforce in NYC being women. But for too long, these jobs have been devalued, underpaid and lacked access to the meaningful training necessary to ensure the highest quality programming. 25% of childcare workers in NYC live in poverty and Black providers earn $0.78 less per hour than their white counterparts. A Yang administration will support robust training and professional development for the industry and recognize childcare workers by:
- Working with existing providers to stand up the program in a diverse delivery system that taps into the existing ecosystem of businesses, including community based organizations, center-based care and family child care homes to implement through diverse delivery systems;
- Establishing an apprenticeship model for experienced educators to continue working while advancing their skills and deepening their expertise as they work toward higher degrees and credentials in child development. Training will be conducted while providers are on the job so experienced educators can translate theory and research into practice while not having to leave the job market to advance their skills;
- Create a strong pipeline with institutions of higher education and professional development intermediaries (CUNY, private colleges and nonprofits) all of which will be key partners as they are on the current DOE pre-k and 3-k initiatives, to offer advanced degrees, credentials and expertise;
- Increase compensation for infant and toddler educators to eradicate pay disparities and ensure that the childcare profession is fairly compensated. The city will establish scales that begin at the entry level position having a living NYC wage and that progresses in levels of pay through articulated and transparent ways as higher levels of certification are attained.
By investing in this industry, we will support our children and the people who do this work. Much more information on best practices can be found in Bank Street College of Education’s report “Investing in the Birth-to-Three Workforce: A New Vision to Strengthen the Foundation for All Learning”.
Establishing a Universal Quality Care Model
According to Bank Street College of Education’s report on Investing in a Birth-to-Three Workforce, “developmentally meaningful interactions take place with peers and with attuned adults who watch for accurate readings of a young child’s often subtle cues through observation and follow their lead while providing an environment that has simple but rich materials for exploration and discovery.” Andrew Yang supports Bank Streets vision for a developmental-interaction approach (DIA) and will support programs to to uphold principles of unique value and dignity for each child and family; partner with families for sustained involvement; engage children in consistent routines while remaining flexible when confronted with the constant change that comes with caring for infants and toddlers; be consistently present, available, and engaged.