Preschool special education providers have been seeking salary parity with school districts for years. The inability for 4410s and 4201s to pay their teachers appropriate compensation has resulted in a mass exodus from providers, especially in New York City, where many experienced staff members have gone to the NYC Department of Education (“DOE”). So, what can preschool special education providers do? The DOE has opened up the Pre-K and 3-K for All to 4410s and 4201s by offering a contract enhancement. In essence, if providers agree to follow UPK regulations, NYCDOE will give these programs an opportunity to access financial and programmatic supports available to other DOE-contracted early childhood programs.
The DOE will release a solicitation in fall 2021. All current and prospective 4410 and 4201 center-based providers in New York City will be eligible to respond to the solicitation, and enhancement services will begin in summer 2022. Unfortunately, at this point the enhancement program is only available for NY City children.
How the Enhancement will Work:
The enhancement will provide additional funding on top of eligible programs’ existing SED contract and bring these programs into the Division of Early Childhood Education’s (“DECE”) Birth-to-Five early childhood portfolio. 4410 and 4201 programs receiving a contract enhancement will be held to the same quality expectations and will receive the same supports as the rest of the DECE early childhood portfolio. DECE supports and expectations will consider existing State requirements and monitoring processes, and we will operate in collaboration and alignment with NYSED.
Providers receiving the contract enhancement will be expected to meet the same program requirements as Pre-K for All and 3-K for All School Day and Year programs, including:
- Day length and schedule
- Programs must provide 6 hours and 20 minutes of programming daily. At least 5 hours of instruction must be included daily, in alignment with current State requirements.
- The enhancement will provide sufficient funds to cover the increased staffing costs of providing a 6 hour and 20 minute day.
- Programs must include nap and meals/snacks as part of all children’s daily schedules. These may account for the 1 hour and 20 minutes of daily programming that is not required to be instructional.
- Programs must participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and provide meals aligned to CACFP requirements; programs may receive a waiver.
- Program Policies
- Programs must meet all Birth-to-Five Early Childhood Policy Handbook requirements, with reasonable modifications as necessary to meet the needs of children with disabilities
- Curriculum, instruction and assessment
- In alignment with the DECE’s curriculum policy in fall 2022, programs must use a DECE-provided curriculum or submit a waiver to use an approved alternative. DECE-provided curricula include the Pre-K for All Interdisciplinary Units of Study and 3K for All Explorations: Interdisciplinary Instructional Guidance, and are research-based curricula aligned to the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (for 3-year-olds) and the New York State Preschool Learning Standards (for 4-year-olds).
- Programs must collect and analyze data using a DECE-approved assessment tool to understand and meet the needs of all children. Teaching teams are required to complete developmental summary reports three times during the school year, at the fall, winter, and spring citywide checkpoints.
- Programs must participate in CLASS and ECERS program assessment offered by DECE, which have been adapted for special classes. Programs will have access to training on the tools prior to observation.
- Programs must report attendance monthly, using DOE systems, in addition to continuing to meet the current CMR requirements.
- Section Planning
- A goal of the enhancement contract is to support programs to align their program offerings to the need for center-based preschool special education seats as presented in the regional need assessment, which the DOE determines in partnership with the State Department of Education.
The DOE is looking to place children in the least restrictive environment (“LRE”) while still meeting the regional needs of children with disabilities. Programs participating in the enhancement program may be required to align their class offerings in line with regional need. The DOE will also be looking to expand the number of children within SCIS classrooms. Programs will be required to collaborate with the DOE on section planning.
- Reporting and fiscal oversight
- Budgeting and financial reporting consistent with the Pre-K and 3-K for all programs would be required for enhancement funding coming from the City.
- Birth-to-Five Policy Handbook requirements, as applicable
The Enhancement Contract Funds will Support:
- Higher teacher salaries to support programs in recruiting and retaining teachers who can staff new classes
- Start-up funding for expenses related to opening new classes (for example, construction expenses or classroom materials)
- General education seats will be added to contracts as needed to create SCIS classes
Programs responding to the solicitation will be expected to identify what program additions or modifications they would make, pending state approval, to align their programs to the regional need. Once contract decisions are made, the DOE will then work with programs to finalize seat plans and to support the State approval process. The DOE may also reach out to programs in areas of need to request expansion if additional seats are needed. Programs may opt-out of expansion for legitimate reasons such as insufficient space or facilities issues that would prevent state approval.
The DOE will be hosting a series of listening sessions to gather your feedback on the enhancement program. These sessions will occur:
- Tuesday 8/31 | 1:00pm to 2:00pm
- Wednesday 9/1 | 10:00am to 11:00am
- Thursday 9/2 | 10:00am to 11:00am and 1:00pm to 2:00pm
- Wednesday 9/8 | 1:00pm to 2:00pm
Albert Borghese, CPA
Albert is a member of Cerini & Associates’ audit and consulting practice where he focuses on serving the firm’s special education and nonprofit clients. Albert is also involved in the marketing and development of the firm, and frequently participates in recruiting efforts, and research.