Child care advocates say budget funding falls short of expectations and needs

Photo courtesy of Danielle Asher via Twitter
Sen. Tim Kennedy, left, addresses a rally in the Capitol for more child care funding.

Despite Gov. Cuomo’s promise to protect the rights of working people — namely women and people of color in New York during his State of the State address — a group called the Empire State Campaign for Child Care is questioning Cuomo’s commitment to this promise.

Earlier this session, the Empire State Campaign for Child Care held a rally in the state’s Capitol calling on legislators to address the state’s child care system. The campaign believes that Cuomo’s latest budget proposal falls short of the $100 million in funding called for by child care advocate.

Some other details that the campaign has called on the state to do when it comes to child care funding include increasing state funding to stabilize the child care workforce and infrastructure. The campaign also believes that the state should direct a portion of the Economic Development funding dollars to further reduce the number of qualified families who are currently denied subsidy assistance.

There were an estimated 200 participants at the rally, including parents, early care educators and other advocates. Attendees of the event held up signs that read “fund child care,” “keep parents earning, children learning” and “keep working families working.”

The Empire State Campaign for Child Care was formed this past summer and consists of more than 45 groups that advocate for children and families, child care providers as well as church and union leaders. They disagree with Cuomo’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year which they say would only restore $7 million of the funding that was cut in last year’s budget.

Blue Carreker helped organize the rally and called for a greater investment in child care from the state.

“We believe that family comes first for most New Yorkers,” Carreker said. “That’s why we urge Cuomo and legislators to invest in child care now, even in light of the difficult budget year ahead.”

According to Carreker, the $7 million cut in the 2017-18 budget included a $2.5 million cut to the Advantage After School program, which is a program based in public schools that provides quality youth development opportunities to school-age children and youth for three hours directly after school. Overall the cuts translated to 900 fewer slots for subsidized child care.

The campaign has called on the state to increase funding to counties for child care subsidies by $31 million which would restore the child care subsidy program to the funding level that was established in 2016.

Notable speakers at the rally included Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo, who said he wants to make increased child care funding a priority.

“As a father of two young children, I understand the importance and expense of child care,” Kennedy said. “There are too many disparities with child care funding across every demographic in the state, it shouldn’t be like this.”

Assemblywoman Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, talked about her personal experiences with struggling to find good child care.

“I grew up seeing my mother who was a single parent struggle to find adequate care for us,” Wallace said. “People must realize that this is an economic issue.”

Kelly Jones, a teacher at a Newburgh preschool, raised the issue of low pay for educators who care for and teach children across the state.

“I am a committed early childhood teacher for the past 26 years, yet I need to work two jobs in order to make ends meet,” Jones said. “I am living paycheck to paycheck.”

Carreker said New York is more than capable of providing the necessary resources for child care.

“We are the wealthiest state in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. New York has the resources, but we have to make it a priority to give our children a solid, healthy start in life,” she said. “We can do right by our children and the people who care for them today for better outcomes tomorrow.”