Help people train or retrain into the field of early childhood education. Address the inequity of suspension and expulsion of black and brown preschool children. And possibly save child care businesses in New Haven from going under.
A new not-for-profit is taking on those challenges in the Elm City.
The organization, Cercle, is the brainchild of a couple of child care providers in New Haven. It was founded to address some of the unique challenges of the business of child care and the delivery of early childhood education outside of the school system.
Last week, the organization’s founders, Kim Harris and Georgia Goldburn, pitched alders on helping them identify people who might be interested in the early childhood education field.
The organization, which started in September 2015, is looking to tackle he shortage of early childhood educators who meet the state’s criteria for working in early childhood education. Back in 2011, the state passed a law requiring that early childhood educators obtain a bachelor’s degree or risk losing their job when the law took effect in 2015.
On the lead up to the implementation of the law, the state Office of Early Childhood Education issued guidance that gives state-funded programs various options for meeting the education and certification requirements by July 1, 2020.
The new requirements created a sort of Catch 22 for child care providers in New Haven,and the rest of the state, said Goldburn, director of the Hope Child Development Center at 1 Long Wharf Drive.
Providers now need teachers who are properly credentialed, even if they can’t pay them more money for that degree without significantly raising the cost of care. They had people with many years of experience working in day care centers but no degree and little prospect for obtaining one.
Without those degrees many are in danger of losing their jobs because of the law. The women of Cercle told alders at the board’s meeting last Tuesday that they wanted to do something about it by starting an early care and education teacher-in-residence program.
“Programs are one, finding it difficult to find those people and two finding it very difficult to pay for those people,” Goldburn said. “As the costs of child care businesses is going up, what we’re finding is that child care businesses are struggling to survive. Many of those businesses actually exist in the city of New Haven, and even though New Haven has one of the largest groups of child care businesses, access to care is really still a problem for parents.”
Cercle has secured a $75,000 grant from the Graustein Memorial Fund to create a 12-month intensive program in partnership with Gateway Community College and on-the-job training with the organization’s members, said Executive Director Tammy Robinson.
“We’re here tonight to ask you guys to help us find individuals in your communities that you’re in touch with on day-to-day basis who are unemployed or underemployed who you think might be a candidate to enter into the program,” said Robinson (pictured). “This is a peer mentorship program that is intended to last the entire career so we hope to bring them in give them an opportunity meet standards that the state implemented. We also train them in what they actually need to know.”
In addition to tapping into alders, Cercle is working with Workforce Alliance to create a pipeline of people who are unemployed or underemployed and are interested in training or retraining into the early childhood education field. The organization also is specifically looking to connect with people who are receiving SNAP and TANF benefits, and providing them a career path.