Effort Launched To Revolutionize Early Childhood Ed In New Haven

Allan Appel PhotoWith the help of $1 million, a new group called NH ChILD has kicked off a 10-year effort to transform the landscape of early child education in New Haven.

If all goes according to ambitious plans, the initiative will provide access to top quality early learning for all of the city’s kids from birth to 8 years old.

That news and transformative aspiration emerged Friday morning at the Friends Center for Children at the top of East Grand Avenue in Fair Haven Heights.

The occasion was a meet-and-greet and welcome for Beth Bye, the new commissioner of the State Office of Early Education.  On hand were U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Friends Center Executive Director Allyx Schiavone, and some 50 early childhood movers and shakers.

At the event, Schiavone previewed the launch of the new group, in advance of an official announcement scheduled for Monday. The idea has been percolating among city educators since 2017. The aim is to advocate for increasing access for kids, especially from lower-income and working families, to get good child care, and to make that happen through upgrading the training, pay, and support of teachers in the field.

At Friday’s event, attendees heard about how the state has a need for 50,000 daycare spots. Meanwhile that state reimbursement rate for programs like Care 4 Kids, which reimburses poor parents, is so low it covers as little as 4 percent of the cost. (Click here to read a previous story about local daycare providers pressing Bye recently on that subject.)

Over half of the state’s daycare centers are below the quality needed to make a positive difference in kids lives, said Bye. “Mediocre or poor,” is how she described them.

Among the chief culprits: chronically low pay, low esteem and negative gender bias attached to the largely female job of early child care teachers.

“There was a time,” said Bye, “when the child care worker was a social justice worker. We need as a culture to value early childhood educators. We’ve lost ground on wages for early childhood educators. It all starts with wages. For the number one predictor of the quality is wages” of the teachers.

NH ChILD

The new group NH ChILD aims to change over the coming decade, starting here in New Haven. Among the goals:

•  2,500 new early care spots in New Haven.
•  a professional learning community for all of the city’s 642 early childhood educators.
• 68 new in-home daycare programs.
• an access network so one common application can avoid the frenzy of multiple approaches families currently go through.
• 700 new jobs for women—60 percent of them black or Latino—in the field and to support all early child teachers who must now have a bachelor’s degree.

Schiavone reported that the group has received a $1 million grant from the New Haven based Stonesthrow Fund. It hopes to raise $50 million over 10 years.

Schiavone said the funding will make possible the hiring of a director, among other first steps. The advisory board for the project is led by Schiavone, Elm City Communities Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton, and United Way of Greater New Haven President Jennifer Heath.

Although the atmosphere at the breakfast gathering was collegial and low-keyed, there was an unmistakable sense of urgency. Schiavone’s center currently works with 104 kids; it has a waiting list of 169, with only six spots available for next year. The center plans to open a new classroom later this year and building a new building in 2020, she announced.

Citywide, 3,000 New Haven kids need of the kind of quality day care that the Friends Center provides.

Bye said many providers are struggling to get by because reimbursement rates in the Care 4 Kids program— the vouchers that moderate-income and poor families can qualify for through Bye’s office — are exceptionally low in Connecticut.

She said she’s working to raise that rate and to grow the access to the reimbursements from the current 14,000 families to 18,000. The federal funding is there, through the state, Bye reported; her proposal is pending at the state Office of Policy and Management.

DeLauro said advocates’ work is cut out for them in the light of President Trump’s proposed budget.  The federal pre-school development block grant, which was $250 million last year, has been zeroed up in the budget the president submitted.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information on the NH ChiLD program.

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posted by: wendy1 on March 15, 2019  3:05pm

I hope some of the local multi millionaires like DeLauro are throwing $$$ at this worthy project.

posted by: RHeerema on March 15, 2019  4:19pm

Win-Win-Win—I love this ambitious project and these wonderfully visionary leaders!!

posted by: Patricia Kane on March 15, 2019  4:37pm

We need federally funded Child Care and Early Learning Centers so that ALL children have a good Head Start.
Once we stop our perpetual wars and Offense Department funding increases, we can invest in people here and abroad in ways that matter.
War and death only create new enemies, although very profitable for the Merchants of Death.
It’s time to bombard people with medicine, food, shelter and kindness.

posted by: CityYankee on March 16, 2019  7:56am

So much money spent doing the job that parents should be doing….

posted by: LivingInNewHaven on March 16, 2019  11:16am

Yes! Yes! Yes!  Bring it!!!

posted by: Patricia Kane on March 16, 2019  2:44pm

@CityYankee: the recent college admissions scandal blows the lid off the idea of a level playing field and a meritocracy.
  Yes, it takes a lot of programs and money to try to remedy a system that doesn’t provide decent housing, medical care, family leave and child care and that bases a child’s educational resources on her zip code.
  We were told that education is the great leveler, but that’s just another myth.
  Clearly the best strategy is to be born to parents who are high achievers or trust fund babies because they can provide the resources for a good start in life, special tutoring if needed, access to “the right schools” for additional opportunities and allow the offspring to graduate without being indentured servants for the next 10 years.
  Until we’re committed to equal opportunity, funded by the tax dollars currently hoarded by wealthy non=profits and profiteers masquerading as international do-gooders, you and I will pay for minor tinkering here and there, all of it too little and too late to overcome the “legacy” students, the ones who parents can donate a library and the ones who come from political dynasties.

posted by: George Polk on March 18, 2019  10:23am

Maybe the government should assign a team to raise, educate our children? When they’ve collected enough data assign them to a career track that their caretakers deem they are suited for. I am sorry it seems only the shrinking middle class realize the high cost of children, I don’t care what some chart or study says, too many people are having children they can not afford and don’t understand the consequences of expecting programs to raise them. Pre K, head start and now National Daycare? If multimillionaires fund it I believe they would want to see positive results, and set the rules, they want to see a return on their investment.

posted by: RHeerema on March 18, 2019  11:20am

With the high cost of living, and two incomes needed to sustain working class living standards, YES, we need high-quality, full-day childcare. Those who want to sneer at working parents better be advocating for at least a $15/hour state or federal minimum wage! that doesn’t exempt food workers!

posted by: George Polk on March 18, 2019  12:49pm

@RHeerema, Has there ever been a real study on the reasons for the high cost of living and the two income families? More people looking for employment suppresses wages, the increase of programs needed to do a job a parent traditionally did have increased taxes and deficits? How free is it for a middle class family when the “free” daycare” they send their kid to shows up in an increase in property taxes or rent increase? A large reason for it being hard to convince businesses to come to New Haven is the amount of “Programs” New Haven “Promises.”