Included in Governor Cuomo's 2017 State of the State are two proposals that go in the right direction toward making high-quality early childhood education more affordable for more families. The first proposal would raise the tax benefits that middle-class families receive for payments for child care services. The Enhanced Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit will provide families earning between $65,000 and $125,000 with approximately double their current credit, easing the burden on the cost of child care. In addition, the Governor proposes a $5 million increase in pre-kindergarten spending. High-need school districts that do not currently have a program will get priority for this funding.
The Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance (BT3), a project of Adirondack Foundation, applauds these proposals as important steps toward helping Adirondack working families pay for high-quality care for their children. These proposals are important because they address the growing twin problems of affordability and quality of early childhood education across our region and the state. Early brain research has proven that 90 percent of critical brain development happens in the first 1,000 days of life. The skills formed during this time are directly related to skills needed later in life: language development, motor skills, social and emotional connections and others.
Unfortunately, parents struggle to pay the cost of high-quality care which can run anywhere between $8,000 and $12,000 per year, per child. The strain that this expense has on families is also felt by the child care providers who are forced to balance what they need to charge to provide high-quality services with what families can afford to pay.
If these proposals are approved by the Legislature, BT3 will support their implementation by getting the word out about the tax benefit to families and providers across the region. In addition, we will work with schools identified as priorities to apply for pre-kindergarten funding and develop programs that strengthen our existing system of services.
These new opportunities support our efforts to ensure that every family across Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties and the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation has access to high-quality early childhood education for their children.
While we support and applaud these efforts, there is still more that can be done. Our early childhood programs and providers are struggling to stay in business, and want to provide the highest quality services. We see this in the 25 regional providers that are currently enrolled in QUALITYstarsNY – New York's continuous quality improvement program for early childhood education. QUALITYstarsNY has helped our providers develop and implement quality improvement plans. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of providers can participate and QUALITYstarsNY is flat funded in the budget, meaning no new providers can enroll this year.
We hope that the Governor and the Legislature recognize the need to grow this important support for early childhood education programs and increase QUALITYstarsNY funding in the final budget.
Providing access to high-quality early childhood education is one of five building blocks that BT3 seeks to make available to ensure that all children are prepared for success in school and life. The others include universal nurse home visiting of pregnant women and parents of new born children; family resource centers that provide evidenced-based parenting education; comprehensive home visiting services for our region's most vulnerable families; and access to comprehensive high-quality health care. BT3 is convinced that making these resources readily available to families with young children will make a positive difference in the lives and outcomes of our region's children.