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Watch: NYC mayoral candidate Ray McGuire on early education, youth programs

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The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Christina Veiga (0:00)  

Okay, thanks again for doing this. Today is going to be on Pre-K, childcare, and youth services like after school programming and summer programming. So I want to kick off with sort of the big picture, which is that there’s a lot of federal attention right now being paid to, especially early childhood education. And with that is coming a lot of resources. And so I would love to hear from you how you would prioritize using more federal funds to build and strengthen what we currently have here in New York City.

“Unprecedented federal funding is on the way. High-poverty schools are starting to reckon with how to spend it.” by Matt Barnum and Kalyn Belsha

Ray McGuire (0:35)  

So how would I use federal funds to strengthen what we currently have? I applaud President Biden’s American rescue plan for expanding the Child and Dependent Care tax credit, so that all the families with incomes below $125,000, which is a number of families in New York City, save up to half the cost of their eligible childcare expenses. And for providing what I think is close to $1 billion, $1.1 billion in direct grants for childcare. As part of my plan, my education plan and cradle to career strategy. I will guarantee every parent access to quality early childcare, and education for infants and toddlers, in the program designed to address all aspects of early childhood, which is going to help every kid enter school on a level playing field and ready to succeed. And I’m going to target federal funding to the childcare deserts. These are providers on the verge of closing in areas with the greatest demand.

Christina Veiga (1:30)  

The city is making strides to make to make Pre-K more available, but infant and toddler care is still expensive and hard to come by. So with your Affordable Childcare for All plan, who would qualify for that? What ages would you serve? Where would these children be served? Right now we have a combination of, you know, community organizations, and also public schools. So can you give us a little more detail about how you would build out this system? And who would benefit from it?

Ray McGuire (2:01)  

Sure. So um, how do I make it available for all those? How do I make it affordable, accessible. One access, we got to provide operating funds and capacity building the existing programs, as well as you know, an urgent grant program to help to train providers and launch new programs, in what are clearly childcare deserts. And then we need to make sure that we have quality of instruction, best in class training, or retraining where necessary to all childcare providers. I’d work with CUNY and all the other early childhood education experts. We’ll develop a standard curriculum and certification for all providers based on best practices. Like we have one great one at CUNY. CUNY QUALITYstarsNY program. And then we got to ensure that that they are affordable childcare slots for every family that needs them. Out of pocket costs for families will be based on income for families at lower levels, including those receiving, so will receive fully subsidized childcare. And to cover the cost. We’re going to leverage existing funding streams such as early headstart and the federal programs, which we outlined from the outset.

Christina Veiga (3:12)  

Do you envision this in terms of the family side how they would access these programs? Would it be like a voucher program? Or how would it work?

Ray McGuire (3:19)  

Yeah, I think a voucher program would work well, we need to make certain that that we treat these vouchers differently to how the city’s treated many other vouchers is that you got to actually pay on time to the providers to whom the vouchers are given, can actually continue to operate. So yes, I would cut the bureaucracy, extend the vouchers, make sure that they are paid on time, and make sure you can get the best quality childcare, especially in the childcare deserts.

Christina Veiga (3:46)  

And when you’re talking about “Affordable Childcare for All,” what age group are we talking about here.

Ray McGuire (3:51)  

I want to start early. I want to go my cradle-to-career education strategy has, at its core: I want to start early. Pre-K is good, but as you know, by the time we get to Pre-K, many of our children are already behind. So I want to start the early childcare program at zero, some zero to three, zero to four, to give them the kind of care that’s necessary to make sure we have the appropriate reward for those caregivers as well. So I want to start early.

Christina Veiga (4:22)  

So that’s what you hope to do. Our current system, we have a voucher system where there’s currently a backlog for families who want to benefit from this program. And meanwhile, providers say that they have slots in their centers that are going empty. So what’s your diagnosis of where the problem is there, and how would you solve it?

Ray McGuire (4:41)  

You know, part of this is to make sure that we advertise that the programs exist. That we have ambassadors, if you will, who can go into the communities and to the faith based organizations and to the community centers. We need to revive the community centers, but part of this is letting community you know that the services exists that there is, in fact, affordable childcare. And so part of this is advertising and getting into the community organizations and funding them, making sure that they’re well run. And once we’ve done that, and given the option for childcare, my confidence is that we will bridge that gap of those people who need it, who don’t know about it, and get those people don’t know about it into the opportunity.

Christina Veiga (5:28)  

I want to turn to the workforce, the early childhood education workforce, which is predominantly women and many women of color. They are among the lowest paid workers in the city. And while the city has made progress on salary parity in some areas, there are still things like longevity pay, and also teachers in Special Education Pre-K centers have not seen much movement in terms of salary, salary equity. So what is your plan for addressing salary parity during your administration? And do you have a timeline in which you’d like to see that accomplished?

“Does Biden’s plan for a $15 minimum wage for child care workers go far enough?” by Ann Schimke, Cassie Walker Burke, and Koby Levin

Ray McGuire (6:01)  

So what is my plan to address salary parity, it is immediate. My plan is to make sure that is immediate. Given what’s taking place in the school system. Today, we need our child care givers. So my initiatives are support childcare workers in the city, many of whom are small business owners, and were amongst the most impacted by the pandemic. Salary parity is key to supporting them, all childcare providers are going to have a seat at the table. When these initiatives are introduced, ensure they earn fair wages and benefits, investing in childcare for all is going to increase for local providers so they can continue to grow, and create more accessible jobs in our communities. I have a track record of making certain that where we need to make sure that we are equitable, pay equity, we need to do that. And given that this is these are the most precious times for our children, we need to make sure that we have salary equity. So I’ve said Pre-K is good, before Pre-K, and making certain that those child care givers are appropriately compensated.

Christina Veiga (7:03)  

So I want to turn to youth services now, after school and center programming are really important for working families. But providers say that every year they’re caught in a budget dance where they have to advocate for this funding to be reallocated. And so I’m wondering, are there specific programs in these areas that you would like to see funded on a more long term basis? And if so, Which ones?

“NYC official: Funding for summer jobs program expected to increase, following year of steep cuts?” by Reema Amin

Ray McGuire (7:27)  

Yes. So after school and summer programs are essential, you know, th way I got here, I got here through education. I had a summer job that allowed me to, to one, have that summer job so I could learn about the possibilities, also allowed me to, it was a paid summer internship. My sense, my view, and my education plan addresses this directly, is that: we need to invest in after school and summer programming, which is critical for students to stay engaged, we’ve lost far too many. During the free time they can learn skills in areas that may not be taught in school. I will increase funding and training to the local not-for-profits, so they have the capacity to provide a multitude of afterschool and summer options for the students. They can include programs in theater, in coding, in nutrition, and all the other academic subjects. We need to invest now in our children as we move from an industrial world to a technology world. And for the older students. I’m going to leverage my relationship both big and small in New York City employers to launch what I call my “Comeback Summer Job Program.” I’m going to build an existing Youth Summer Employment Program, which is one of the first things that this administration said it was going to cut. I’m going to build on that, guarantee summer job to every New York City public high school student who watch one. Summer jobs, they help our young people develop skills and relationships. And they allow them get the first job out of high school, have valuable internships during college. They’re fundamental to this city. So whatever it takes public private partnerships of which I would be very supportive to get our kids paid summer internships, so they understand the possibilities of the future, are also part of my cradle to career, core education, where I restructure education here. So it’s not random Pre-K to 12. But it’s transformed to be intentional about how our kids grow and develop and have opportunities.

Christina Veiga (9:13)  

Something else that’s really important for working families is to have child care beyond a typical school day or the school year, year round care and extended hours. Providers say that there are not enough of these slots. Do you think that access to extended day and extended school year slots should be universal?

Ray McGuire (9:31)  

I do. I think that we should increase given where we are in education when our child’s children’s lives are determined by their zip code. And if I look at the Nation’s Report Card and the state report card, where third to eighth grade students, Black and brown 80% below proficient. Yes, I need I want to extend the school year. I want to extend the school day to take care of that three-to-five or three-to-eight hour where a lot of mischief occurs. Make sure that we have invested in our children during those times in the community centers. Focus on making certain we get the resources that the community center so that we can add summer jobs, clearly summer jobs, and maybe even the year round, as I think about my overall approach to education, so the answer is, yes. We should have it across the city. And we should have it available to all New Yorkers.

Christina Veiga (10:19)  

Does that include childcare and Pre-K?

Ray McGuire (10:21) 

Yes, it does include childcare and Pre-K. Yes, I want to transform this right. It can’t be the case today that this is sustainable, because we have the systemic inequities that exist in education. Our children are not being educated in the way that they should be. We paid $26,000 a year to educate a child on average, in New York City. We pay $446,000 a year to keep an inmate at Rikers Island. We need to invest now, or pay later. I’d rather invest today.

Christina Veiga (10:49)  

So I want to zoom out to the school year to come. The next mayor will will take office about midway through the next school year. But I’d love to hear from you: what you think the city needs to be doing now to build trust with families, so that they actually return to in-person learning. We’ve seen steep drop-offs and enrollment in Pre-K this year. And we’ve seen many families of color decided not to return to building so how can the city turn that tide for the next school year?

“No remote learning option for NYC next school year, de Blasio announces” by Amy Zimmer and Alex Zimmerman

Ray McGuire (11:17)  

So the first thing we need to do is, to plan for it better than what we planned for this school year. And that means we need to have those people who provide the tablets available. We need to build the broadband out immediately. So that to the extent that that we do, and I’m saying this to the last alternative. I think kids need to be in school. I think our teachers need to be in school, which means that we need to get vaccination out. We need to have a better a better way of communicating the vaccination, because many of many people, our community are skeptical of vaccination. So we need to make sure that they understand that the fact that that the vaccine is, you know, is efficacious. That the vaccine is not going to harm, we need to do much better job at that. We need to get the vaccine into the healthcare and transportation desert, so that all those who are eligible for the vaccine, and how we’ve reduced the age requirements can get a vaccine. We need to educate on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We need to get our kids back in school. So I would plan for our kids getting back in school immediately, which is how I’m going to address the COVID vaccine, get them back into school, get the teachers back in school. And then as a insurance, let’s make sure that all of our children have tablets, and or laptops that work, and that we have broadband that is successful. I sat on the board in New York Public Library, where we made sure that we could, where available, get Wi-Fi hotspots into the branches so that kids can go to homework. Our children need to have access to Wi-Fi. It should be a basic right for anybody, but especially our children here,

Christina Veiga (12:47)  

There’s a lot of attention paid to segregation in the K-12 space in New York City Schools. But Pre-K is actually more segregated than kindergarten classrooms here. But it’s often left out of the conversation. And so I’m wondering, is integration at the Pre-K level, something that’s important to you? And if so, do you have any ideas for how to address that?

“Racial, economic gaps are widening among NYC’s free pre-K programs, researchers say” by Christina Veiga

Ray McGuire (13:06)  

So the answer is, I am looking forward to having quality education in every zip code. It is not possible to integrate so that we can achieve that through integration. So where we can integrate, I’d be for integration. So I want to be clear: only way I got here is education. So I want the highest quality education. in whatever form it comes to the form of integration that comes in the form of district schools, comes in the form of magnet schools, comes in the form of parochial schools, and it comes in the form of charter schools. Parents have a choice, which makes certain we get the highest quality education, so the parents can choose that which is best for their children. And so that means, yes, integration if that’s going to achieve that. But how far are you going to integrate, and how far you’re going to integrate a child in a completely different borough? So that becomes that much more challenging given the all the other challenges that our parents or caregivers have. To take them from one borough, her or him from one borough to the next borough, as a toddler, Pre-K. It’s not so practical that we can do that. But we can do is make sure that we get the best toddler Pre-K programs in our districts, in our zip codes, which is that which I’m going to advocate for at the highest level with the loudest voice.

Christina Veiga (14:24)  

I’m going to turn it over to you quickly in case there’s anything that we haven’t addressed in terms of the early education, space, and Youth Services.

Ray McGuire (14:41)  

So listen, education is what got me here. We need to make sure to ensure that every child in New York City gets an education, so that they have the opportunity to go on and be productive citizens in this community. Today, we’re not doing that. And today, we need to transform the way we approach education, from the random Pre-K to 12, to something that’s much more intentional, which is my plan for cradle to career, which you can see at Rayformayor.com, focus solely on what’s in the best interests of New York City’s children. We have a triangle, which are the parents, the caregivers, and the child. That parents, caregivers and the teacher, or the parents, teachers all together, and the child. And so we need to focus on that triangle today. We need to bring it together in ways that up to this point, we’ve not done so well. My focus is on again on educating our children.

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