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Education ∙ Racial Equity ∙ Cash Relief

Revolutionizing NYC Schools

For decades, New York City schools have been deeply inequitable as we have enabled a system of haves and have nots. Many have acknowledged the failures, but interventions over the years have done little to bring about systemic change. With the incoming federal funding and President Biden’s affirmation that early childhood education should be widely accessible and affordable, New York City has been given an opportunity to make drastic and lasting changes for the families and students most in need. Andrew Yang will capitalize this opportunity and make each dollar count by putting it in the hands of families, and towards the futures of our students. 

Establish an Education Opportunity Fund 

New York City schools have long been deeply inequitable as we have enabled a system of haves and have nots. Keeping with Andrew Yang’s ethos for a human-centered economy and the importance of direct cash relief to empower communities, a Yang administration would establish an Opportunity Fund, which will provide $1,000 a year to each family of a student whose family income puts them at the poverty threshold, has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or who has been designated an English Language Learner (ELL). The funds can be used for additional needed educational services or learning opportunities – for example, private speech therapy sessions, after school programs, music or art lessons, to support  traditionally underserved students in accessing educational and developmental enrichment. With an estimated total 500,000 students experiencing some combination of living in poverty, having an IEP, and being an ELL, a Yang administration expects the total cost of the program to be approximately $500 million, which will be funded by the $4.5 billion NYC schools are expected to receive from the federal government. The funds will be provided on a debit card, allowing for research into uses that best promote student academic and social emotional growth. Putting this money directly into parents’ hands gives them the resources to create quality learning environments for their children, especially in the wake of the pandemic that exposed the inequities and lack of resources so many families face. Low-income families should have the same ability to provide positive experiences for their children as more affluent families. This infusion of funding will spark the launch and scaling of programs, especially by entrepreneurs of color, to meet family needs.

Making 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 opened up by 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 options for all families by making sure there is quality, 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 currently only has enough licensed child care to accommodate 23% of children, with some neighborhoods having no center-based capacity for infants and toddlers. 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 child care. 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 early education 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 for every $1.00 their white counterparts make. A Yang administration will support robust  training and professional development for the industry and recognize childcare workers by:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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; 
  4. 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.


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