For ECE Members, It’s Time To Do The Right Thing
Enough Talk, Let’s See Action On Pay Parity
One dearly held tenet of the American dream has been that education can address inequities of birth and open up limitless opportunities for all children. Bolstering this belief is a body of cherished narratives about famous citizens who started out with the disadvantages of poverty, immigration, dysfunctional family life or health challenges. Thanks to comprehensive research, we now also know that the earlier children start school, the greater their chance of later academic success. This is especially true of otherwise disadvantaged children. So in terms of recognition and respect, Early Childhood Education is in the ascendancy. That’s why it is exasperating to see that many Early Childhood educators in our city are not rising, too. This is an equity issue itself: the great majority of these neglected educators are women of color.
In June, CSA leadership and members joined DC 1707 AFSCME at a rally to demand that the administration eliminate the stubborn disparity between compensation paid to teachers, staff, and administrators at community-based ECE centers with the compensation paid to their counterparts in the DOE. This isn’t the first or even tenth time we’ve raised our voices about the shockingly low salaries of our Early Childhood members. The City of New York pays these experienced supervisors and administrators approximately 60 cents on the dollar and offers inferior benefits compared to school leaders employed by the Department of Education. As the city has laudably expanded its programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, community-based centers, due to this glaring inequity, have sometimes had trouble keeping directors and attracting teachers.
You may recall that we made some progress during our last round of bargaining when we were able to ensure that our Early Childhood Directors and Assistant Directors would not be paid less than those they supervise. However, that “progress” is not only insufficient, it is a disgrace that they were treated with such disregard to begin with.
It’s impossible to shake these thoughts at a time when the mayor and chancellor have been on their soapboxes about equitable access for black and Latino students at the city’s best schools. “The shot heard around the world,” the chancellor has called it. It’s time then that he and the mayor end their silence about the lower salaries for mainly black and Latino Early Childhood educators. It’s time they step into those community-based pre-K and 3-K centers and take a look at the phenomenal work being done with mostly minority children in the mayor’s landmark pre-k/3-k program.
They can go to Sheila Willard’s Rena Daycare Center in East Harlem where amazing teamwork among staff has created an upbeat atmosphere where little ones are proudly counting and enthusiastically belting out learning songs. At Chloe Pashman’s Bronxdale Kindergarten and Nursery in the South Bronx, 4-yearolds are reading and identifying their colors in a holistic setting that caters to the children’s social, intellectual and creative development. At CPC Queens School-Age Child Care Center in Corona, award-winning educator and CSA Vice President Lois Lee and her staff work with mostly low-income children from seven language groups. They focus on thinking skills, problem solving, decision making, and development of mathematical concepts. In all these centers, and so many more, the mayor and chancellor would see little ones learning as much as any DOE children, and they would be proud.
As superb educators like Sheila, Chloe and Lois are preparing our youngest citizens to contribute to society, it should seem obvious that they should be fairly compensated. It would cost the city so little to bring a mere 200 educators to parity. Why is it that as mayors and chancellors come and go, they nod in agreement about this and yet do nothing? Is it because it is not worth the bother when so little credit will accrue to them? It’s true they will get no major news stories. They will win no awards. But maybe what they will get from this is the pure satisfaction of doing the right thing.
Mark Cannizzaro is president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.