Equitable pay and respect for early childhood educators were themes of New York State Senator Jabari Brisport’s remarks at the QUALITYstarsNY all-staff convening on Oct. 23.
Brisport, a former middle school teacher who represents Brooklyn’s 25th district, introduced the Universal Child Care Act to the Senate in late 2021. Speaking to QUALITYstarsNY staff, he noted that a universal free child care system could look much like a public school system — and he emphasized that early childhood caregivers should be considered educators on par with public school teachers.
“Education starts from birth, and teachers are teachers whether they’re teaching high schoolers or 2-year-olds,” he said.
To achieve free, universal child care, Brisport underscored the importance of equitable pay for early childhood caregivers.
“We’re fighting hard on the pay front. One goal of the legislation is to raise wages for early childhood caregivers to bring them to parity with teachers,” he said. “We have child care centers that are under-enrolled not because there isn’t interest in attendance from families but because we need more educators in the workforce — and the way we get more people into the workforce is to pay them more,” he said.
Yessenia Rosario-Adon, the director of quality improvement at QUALITYstarsNY, thanked Senator Brisport for his previous support and spoke about the ways in which QUALITYstarsNY program participants receive support from other New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute initiatives.
“We connect our QUALITYstarsNY program leaders with the Career Development Center to help them create study plans and career pathways for their staff. They can receive coaching and mentoring support from the Leadership Initiative. The Aspire Registry houses professional development trainings and data we can use as a state,” she said.
QUALITYstarsNY’s statewide team of Quality Improvement Specialists, Program Quality Coaches and administrative and leadership staff gathered in Manhattan this week for extensive professional development, team-building exercises, and planning. As the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System for early childhood programs, QUALITYstarsNY provides support and resources to early childhood programs across New York State.
Brisport, who was there to kick off the day, also told the QUALITYstarsNY staff about visiting child care programs across New York State — including several QUALITYstars NY sites — as part of his “child care listening tour.” Speaking with providers and families across New York State, he said, had helped him understand the importance of early childhood caregivers and educators and their needs.
“As a teacher, I learned the immense pressure of knowing you feel responsible for your students not just in the year they’re with you but in the years ahead,” he said. “In early childhood, you carry the weight of a child’s entire life on your shoulders, and I know you take that seriously.”