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Mayor’s EarlyLearn NYC a travesty, providers say

Brooklyn provider Jacqueline Comerie (left) — preparing here to take the childre Miller Photography

Brooklyn provider Jacqueline Comerie (left) — preparing here to take the children in her care apple picking with her assistant, Phylicia Mussington — has been forced to switch networks and hasn’t been paid since mid-October as a result of EarlyLearn NYC.

Parents, children and child care providers have been left in chaos in the wake of the Oct. 1 launch of EarlyLearn NYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s long-anticipated and ambitious overhaul of New York City’s early childhood education services, according to officials at the UFT, which represents 21,000 family child care providers.

The professed goal of the overhaul was to streamline the provision of subsidized child care services for the city’s working-poor families by consolidating the number of networks that have contracts with the city to provide subsidized care. But it has had just the opposite effect, said Tammie Miller, the chair of the union’s Family Child Care Providers Chapter.

“It’s a mess,” Miller said. “The mayor has shown a complete disregard for the needs of children and the working poor.”

As a result of the overhaul, Miller said, approximately 1,750 providers — just under two-thirds of all providers working for networks — have been displaced by the closure of their networks, and many of them have not received final paychecks, in some cases for months’ worth of work.

Making matters worse, Miller said, none of the providers now working for the 29 child care networks operating under EarlyLearn have been paid since Oct. 1, and it could be months before they receive their next paycheck — although they continue to care for the children in their programs.

The problem, Miller said, is that only two of the 29 networks’ contracts have been submitted to City Comptroller John Liu’s office for certification. The holdups on the contracts mean the networks don’t have money to pay the providers, Miller said.

“If there had been proper planning, there would have been adequate time allotted for ACS to roll out the contracts and for the networks to then submit them to the comptroller’s office,” Miller said.

Queens provider Melinda Hardin, who was forced to switch networks because of EarlyLearn and has not been paid since Oct. 1, agreed with Miller’s assessment.

“It was implemented haphazardly,” Hardin said of the overhaul. “The city should have transitioned in the new networks before closing the old ones. Either they didn’t think it out, or they didn’t care about how it would affect providers.”

The old system may not have been great, Hardin said, “but at least it was working. Providers knew that they were going to get paid.”

Now, Hardin said, she has fallen behind on her gas and electric bills as well as the rent. She worries that if she is not paid soon, she’ll have to close her program, leaving parents and children in the lurch.

“So I’m sitting here with no money, no idea when I’m going to get paid, and I’m behind on my rent,” Hardin said. “Right now, I’m in a situation where I could end up in a couple of weeks with no place to live.”

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