The ongoing dispute between community-based providers of pre-K and the Department of Education regarding inequitable funding within the city’s Pre-K for All program wound its way to the steps of City Hall on Thursday morning.
The core issue is that public schools are far more generously funded, per pupil, than their community-based counterparts.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson admitted during the rally, which was organized by Campaign for Children, that a DOE teacher with a Master’s degree who’s been in the system for eight years earns about $85,000 a year, while teachers with the same qualifications teaching at a CBO earn around $49,000 annually.
CBOs for Equity, which was founded by providers in Bay Ridge, participated in the rally. Also on hand were a host of elected officials from across the city including Borough President Eric Adams, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn City Councilmembers Mark Treyger, Mathieu Eugene, Laurie Cumbo and Antonio Reynoso.
“This rally is asking for parity,” said Adams. “You cannot talk about pre-K for all if you don’t have equity for all. Something is diabolically wrong.
“If we’re going to give our children the quality education they deserve, we have to make sure that the people who are in front of the classroom are not going through trauma on their own,” he contended. “ I don’t want CBO pre-K instructors to be on the soup kitchen line without the opportunity to provide for their families.
“We have to stop talking out of both sides of our mouths,” Adams added, “Cut the damn check and give them what they deserve.”
“What’s amazing about our city’s priorities is that the people who we trust with our children, we’re not willing to pay them what they deserve,” said Stringer. He said momentum was building to rectify the situation.
“The hearts and minds of New Yorkers side with you,” the comptroller told rally participants.
“This disparity, this injustice has been allowed to exist for far too long and I am telling you that this is the most important cornerstone of our budget negotiations right now,” Johnson said to loud applause.
Treyger, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Education, said that, as a former DOE teacher, he stands in solidarity with pre-K parity once and for all.
“As chair of the Education Committee, as a member of the budget negotiation team and with the support of the speaker and my great colleagues,” he told the crowd, “we will not advance a budget unless there are resources to resolve this parity issue once and for all.”
Treyger called on the mayor to address the issue. “Mr. Mayor,” he said, “you’ve adopted one of Charles Dickens’ themes of ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ Let’s end the tale of two salaries once and for all.”
Contacted for comment, Will Baskin-Gerwitz, a mayoral spokesperson, told the Home Reporter in an email, “Our early childhood educators play a critical role in making pre-K and 3-K for All a reality.
“We’ve listened to the concerns of community-based organizations and made changes to the early childhood RFPs in response,” he said, “and we’ll continue to work together with these organizations to recruit, retain and grow a talented workforce that serves New York City’s children and families.”