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ACNJ Testifies at Senate Hearing Focused on Mixed-Delivery Preschool Model

Posted on June 6, 2024

On June 3rd, ACNJ with other advocates and partners participated in a public hearing on the state's full-day public preschool mixed-delivery model. The NJ Senate Education Committee wanted to learn how well school districts were partnering with local child care providers in the state's effort to expand public preK. Organizations testifying included the National Institute for Early Education Research (NJAECY), NJ Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), NJ Early Care & Education Consortium, NJ YMCA State Alliance, NJ Head Start Association, Dr. Lisa Goldey, Tinton Falls School District Superintendent, and individual #NJchildcare providers from Jersey City, Bayonne, Trenton, Oakhurst, and Tinton Falls.

Learn about New Jersey's nationally recognized mixed-delivery preschool model.

Since 2018, with preK expansion a top priority, Governor Murphy and the Legislature have increased preschool funding by more than $427 million.

As the state continues to expand public preschool, we need a strong system that supports the continuum of care for children birth to age five. This requires addressing the unintended consequences related to expansion. New Jersey must be deliberate in structuring and expanding preschool delivery while considering the sustainability of the child care infrastructure to prevent reducing the availability of infant and toddler slots, which could lead to child care center closures and restricted access for families statewide.

ACNJ's Recommendations:

Addressing the Barrier to Collaboration

Recommendation 1: Align the Department of Education’s square footage requirements for community providers, which is currently 63.3 sq feet per child, with the Department of Children and Families' Office of Licensing guidelines of 35 sq. feet per child like most of the United States. It is important to note, that this misalignment only occurs in NJ and New Hampshire.

According to a recent report, more than 62% of NJ providers cannot meet the DOE sq. footage requirement, which means many providers cannot collaborate with their local school districts, thus risking the sustainability of their businesses as well as the availability of infant and toddler care throughout our state. In Fall 2022, of the nearly 20,000 preschool students in districts funded through PreK Expansion, only 3,300, or 17%, are in private providers or Head Start classrooms.

As it stands now, in order for a community provider who is already educating students 3- and 4-year-olds to participate in the public preschool program, they would need to combine two classrooms into one, thus further limiting child care availability or find additional space and undergo the lengthy, expensive, and daunting child care licensing process before being able to collaborate.

Recommendation 2: Form a stakeholder group composed of child care and Head Start providers participating and not participating in the public preschool program, representatives from NIEER, NJAEYC, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Human Services, advocates, and school districts to work with the DOE to modernize the provider contract. This will help remove barriers to collaboration, reduce administrative burdens, and fix funding formulas that disincentivize retaining infant and toddler programs within community provider sites.

Recommendation 3: Establish legislation that treats child care providers collaborating with public schools as a protected vendor class in school contracts, allowing multi-year contracts to secure funding for facility upgrades and new program start-up costs. The current one-year contract makes it nearly impossible for community providers to secure bank loans to cover the long-term financial investments needed for collaboration with the school district. Additionally, it offers no assurance that the collaboration will continue beyond the current school year, creating an imbalanced power dynamic between the school district and the provider.

Addressing Fractures in the Current System (focusing on workforce, enrollment, funding, and pay parity).

Recommendation #1 Workforce: Provide financial support and time for non-certified public preschool teachers to return to school and become degreed teachers. This includes funding for books, child care, transportation, and remedial courses, with pay increases as milestones are met similar to what we did during the early days of Abbott. In December 2023, we surveyed Abbott providers across our state, and 96 providers responded. Of those, 65% stated that they currently have substitute teachers in the classroom due to the challenges of finding certified teachers. A copy of that survey has been included in your packet today. Abbott districts are now losing their certified teachers, putting the achievement gap we worked so hard to close over the last 25 years in jeopardy of resurfacing. It is imperative that we do everything possible to support our current workforce while also working to build a pipeline for the future.

Recommendation #2 Enrollment: Launch a statewide public awareness campaign about public preschool and work with districts to reduce barriers to school enrollment. Ensure a fair distribution of student enrollment across in-district and provider sites. Reject proposals to open new preschool classrooms if provider sites are not fully enrolled. One provider surveyed in December stated, “The school district continues to open up in-district preschool classes and poach our parents to register with them instead of collaborating.” Moveover, we have heard similar comments from many other providers indicating to us the significance of this problem. We have also heard about school districts only allowing providers to educate three-year-olds as opposed to students ages three and four years old. This means yearly providers must recruit their full number of contracted slots while the district capitalizes on the community providers’ student population, limiting their recruitment needs and unduly penalizing providers. This is just one example of an unfair power dynamic that hurts partnerships.

Recommendation #3 Funding: Ensure that districts fully fund participating child care providers for all of their contracted slots. Currently, school districts are fully funded for their total reported enrollment but penalize community providers who are under-enrolled. When providers meet with the district’s fiscal specialist to create their budget for the upcoming year, they should review the number of contracted slots to determine if the allocation is appropriate. Once agreed upon, the contracted amount should be maintained without any cuts during the year.

Recommendation #4 Pay Parity: Clearly define and require pay parity between district teachers and teachers at provider sites. Again, according to our December survey, 6 out of 10 programs have lost P-3 certified teachers to the district. Providers have reported salary differences ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. Addressing this issue is essential for ensuring quality and equity across the preschool program.

Mixed delivery is vital to the sustainability of New Jersey’s child care system. By addressing these issues, we can ensure that all children have access to high-quality early education. With the support of the Legislature, we can solve these problems, protect community child care centers, and strengthen NJ’s mixed delivery system.

NJ Department of Health Launches a Survey: The Power of NJ Birth Stories

Posted on June 5, 2024

Coming soon, THE POWER OF NJ BIRTHS survey!

The New Jersey Department of Health wants to learn about New Jersey birth experiences to help improve our state's maternity care. An invitation will be sent to selected individuals to participate in the online survey, Power of NJ Birth Stories. Participants will be selected based on birth certificate data. It is completely voluntary and all information collected will be kept private and confidential.

If you are invited to participate in the survey, you will receive a packet in the mail with more information.



Did You Know New Jersey is seeking to implement a permanent enrollment-based child care subsidy program starting in January 2025?

Posted on May 29, 2024


By Shadaya Bennett
Senior Legislative Analyst

For more information on this topic, contact Shadaya at sbennett@acnj.org.

Did You Know Blog Banner

What is the Subsidy Program? 

The New Jersey Child Care Assistance Program, administered by the State Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Family Development, provides financial assistance to low-income, working families to help cover the expenses of child care. The program operates based on specific eligibility criteria to alleviate the burden of child care costs.

Subsidy based on enrollment versus attendance

The child care subsidy program underwent a shift amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, the program operated on an attendance-based payment model, meaning providers received subsidies based on children's daily attendance. However, due to fluctuating attendance during the pandemic, the program transitioned to an enrollment-based model. This change not only offered more stability in funding to child care providers but also streamlined payment processes for families. Initially considered a temporary measure, this shift garnered support from policymakers, parents, providers, and advocates, like ACNJ, who recognized its value and advocated for long-term implementation.

The State Legislature aimed to extend the enrollment-based subsidy provision, but faced obstacles such as concerns about the overall expense and diminishing federal funding that helped pay for the reformed program. Despite efforts to extend the provision until June 2024, in January, legislation stalled at the governor's desk. After the legislation received a pocket veto, the governor proposed extending enrollment-based subsidy payments until December 2024 in his State Fiscal Year 2025 Budget. 

Federal regulations and N.J.’s decision to make changes to the program permanent 

In response to nationwide program reforms, the U.S. Administration for Children and Families introduced new regulations governing child care subsidies, with a focus on enhancing accessibility and affordability for families while simplifying program participation for providers. Among these regulations is the mandate for states to transition to permanent enrollment-based subsidy payments. Most recently, New Jersey’s Department of Human Services requested a change to the Department’s budget plan to continue enrollment-based payments which would be permanent as of January 2025 pending the State Legislature’s approval. 

What’s next

The proposed extension of subsidy based on enrollment in the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget, legislative initiatives for permanent enrollment-based payment, and the Department of Human Services' desired shift to permanent enrollment-based payments demonstrate New Jersey's commitment to finding solutions that support families through the subsidy program. However, sustaining New Jersey's child care subsidy requires funding commitments from both the state and federal levels. 

DHS’s recent request for additional funding in the State Fiscal Year 2025 Budget would be used to enable the state to serve all eligible families through the reformed program. There is also a push for federal funding to support the program. Furthermore, ensuring the program's viability requires not only securing adequate funding, but also expanding eligibility criteria to serve more families. A comprehensive approach including sufficient state and federal funding and an expansion of eligibility guidelines is imperative for the program's sustainability and efficacy. 

ACNJ Participates in Child Care Site Visit/Roundtable with Congressman Tom Kean Jr.

Posted on May 20, 2024

ACNJ staff members Shadaya Bennett and Keith Hadad were invited to a site visit and roundtable discussion with Congressman Tom Kean Jr. (NJ-07), and his wife, Rhonda, at Temple Emanu-el’s Early Child Care Center in Westfield. Organized by New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children (NJAEYC), this event focused on the child care staffing crisis and why increased funding is necessary to help revitalize the industry.

On May 14, Representatives of NJAEYC, ACNJ, the Temple and specifically its Child Care program, and Congressman Kean all discussed how access to affordable quality child care is essential to a stable and growing economy. Bennett detailed how ACNJ has also been advocating to the state’s legislators to increase funding so providers can raise the wages of their staff to properly compensate for their unique skills and the value that they bring to the community.

“ACNJ, as well as NJAEYC, is having conversations with members of leadership to get them to understand the actual need and to understand that investing in child care shouldn’t be looked at differently than investing in our K-12 system. It’s just as important and maybe even more important,” Bennett said, while conversing directly with Congressman Kean. The congressman agreed, replying, “If we don’t have a reliable and safe child care infrastructure, we don’t have a functioning economy.”

The lack of proper compensation for child care providers in our state and beyond has also snowballed into a shortage of proper quality and experience in the field. If provided with the take-home pay and benefits that these workers actually deserve, then more qualified and skilled employees will fill this workforce. As Meghan Tavormina, the Director of Public Policy for NJAEYC, said, "It's a profession, and not an entry-level job, despite the way that the system is treating it right now. We want these people professionalized. We want them to have paid time off, retirement funds, health benefits, etc.”