New York City Council and Advocates Criticize DOE for Delayed Payments to Early Childhood Initiatives
The Department of Education was criticized on Wednesday, October 18, by council members and activists for holding payments to early childhood programs contracted by the city. According to The NY Post’s report from last month, these organizations are collectively owed millions of dollars in reimbursements.
In a hearing on early childhood programs, the City Council raised the issue of hundreds of employees being without pay for months, which led several contracted providers of low-cost care to cease their neighborhood programs.
The head of the council’s education committee, Rita Joseph, questioned, “Where is the breakdown? What is the DOE doing, if anything, to assist families who have lost early childhood programming?”
Due to flawed billing systems at the DOE, a recent audit conducted at the request of the Day Care Council of New York revealed that the financial burdens for the 2017–2018 school year reached $464 million, with close to 20 groups claiming deficits of over $5 million.
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According to Jahmila Edwards of the District Council 37 union, which represents childcare employees, “Centers are closing, children are being displaced. Parents are being left stranded and workers are being let go unpaid.”
While speaking at a demonstration prior to the council oversight session, Edwards added, “We simply cannot afford to let these places go out of business because of paperwork issues.”
Affected providers include Sheltering Arms, which has six locations spread over three boroughs. They recently stated it might shut down this winter due to enrollment problems and unpaid invoices, leaving roughly 400 of the city’s youngest students in a precarious situation.
Veronica Leyva, a mother of a 3-year-old who will be evicted from her Sheltering Arms site in the South Bronx at the end of this year, stated, “This is where our priority should be.”
Speaking through a translator, Leyva noted, “We are communities with minimal resources, and if you take away this major resource, where will we land? Where will we end up?”
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The march to demand that the DOE fulfill its contracts was attended by more than a dozen council members, along with hundreds of childcare providers, advocates, and union officials.
According to Joseph, who spoke on the steps of City Hall, the situation has “created untold hardships for workers, including falling behind on rent, not being able to afford prescription medication, and being forced to leave the careers they love.”
Just 61% of providers have been paid on time, according to statistics cited by council member Julie Menin, who recently sponsored a package of childcare legislation. “I give that an F. This is a poor grade,” Menin stated.
The vice chancellor for early childhood education, Kara Ahmed, testified that the DOE is streamlining invoice processing timelines and reducing “burdensome” monthly reimbursement procedures, such as decoupling enrollment and attendance reporting requirements from invoicing. The amount still owed to the providers in monthly payments was unable to be disclosed by the early childhood division.