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Senate Finance Committee

Early learning educators and faculty at the Day Without Childcare Rally in Mt Sinai. Photo by Aidan Johnson

By Aidan Johnson 

Early learning educators on Long Island took part May 13 in a rally for a Day Without Child Care, a movement centered around affordable child care and fair wages for teachers who work in child care.

The demonstration took place near the Paper Planes Early Learning Center in Mount Sinai, and was attended by staff along with teachers from other early learning facilities in Suffolk County.

“Child care is paid solely out of the pockets of the parents — there’s no funding for child care unless you’re getting a subsidy,” explained Maria Ahrens, owner of PPELC. She further described how everything, including the teachers payroll, supplies and the building itself, is paid for by the parents out of pocket.

“And so when you have ratios to follow, such as one-to-four infants [per teacher], there’s almost no profit margin,” Ahrens said.

She stressed the importance of early learning education, as 90% of a child’s brain develops during their first five years.

This lack of funding does not leave room for high wages, benefits or health care for the teachers, helping contribute to the turnover rate of teachers in private pay age 0-5 learning centers.

Some teachers in the Day Without Child Care rallies are fighting for universal child care, which would be supported by taxes in the same fashion as public K-12 education. However, Ahrens also saw a voucher program that isn’t reliant on one’s income and can help families choose a quality child care facility as a starting point.

Ahrens said that support has been received from state legislators from both sides of the aisle, including Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Sen. Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn). 

A bill was introduced by Brisport and Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) that would have allowed social service districts to provide child care assistance to parents during more than just the hours they spend in work or education. This was aimed to help parents and caretakers who have uncertain work hours or other big responsibilities outside of work and school. 

While Bill S5327A passed both the Assembly and Senate, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) vetoed it last December.

In a statement Brisport said, “Governor Hochul knows exactly how bad tying child care to employment is for families, for child care providers and for the economy as a whole. It’s remarkable to see how consistently this governor will publicly claim to support universal child care while quietly moving New York in the opposite direction.”

“She’s a governor who chooses her words based on the needs of voters, but her actions based almost exclusively on the interests of her ultra-rich campaign donors,” he added.

Despite Hochul’s veto of Bill S5327A, Brisport is pushing again for improved child care services by sponsoring Bill S8152A, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.  

“All of us love [teaching] because it’s our passion,” Ahrens said. “We love children. We want to educate them, but the pay isn’t enough to survive on.”