(Page 2 of 2)
Yeled V’Yalda Early Childhood Center, an organization based in Boro Park, Brooklyn, won contracts for 850 seats in 16 locations; All My Children Daycare and Nursery won contracts for 860 seats, many of them in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; and Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov won contacts for 630 seats, many of them in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Not all of these seats will go to Jewish students. But some of the locations, particularly in the case of B’Above, will replace locally run institutions.
“They’re recognized as a religious group,” said Andrea Anthony, executive director of the Day Care Council, a membership organization for publicly funded day care programs. “I question whether some parents will place their children there… Remember, parents have to feel comfortable.”
Advocates and elected officials have criticized the allocation of EarlyLearn contracts for failing to fund longstanding neighborhood institutions.
“EarlyLearn is an early disaster,” said James, the councilwoman. “The members of the City Council are urging the administration to go back to the table to fund the existing providers.”
In Boro Park, Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander condemned the EarlyLearn allocation for cutting off Beth Jacob, a decades-old Head Start program.
A spokesperson for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which oversees EarlyLearn, did not respond to repeated requests for comment submitted by the Forward.
Jewish communal officials contacted by the Forward said that they had never heard of B’Above.
The organization, founded in 1992, currently serves 1,100 students in Queens and Brooklyn at 19 sites. The number of students is set to triple and the number of sites will more than double when the EarlyLearn allocations go into effect in October.
According to Vogel, about a quarter of the children his organization currently serves are Jewish. Nearly half of the children Vogel expects to serve under the EarlyLearn allocations will be Jewish.
Vogel said that his organization had partnered with small yeshivas in Brooklyn, arranging to lease space for subsidized childcare programs in their buildings. Vogel said he had partnered with yeshivas serving a swath of Hasidic sects, including Satmar, Skver and Lubavitch.
B’Above childcare centers are scheduled to open in Boro Park, Williamsburg and Crown Heights.
Some of the yeshivas had been reluctant to take government money to run childcare programs inside their buildings, Vogel said, due to concerns about running afoul of laws barring religious content in state-funded educational programming.
“I’ve encouraged many, many of the organizations to just go for it,” Vogel said. “They certainly qualify for the funding, and they should take advantage of it.”
Cultural education, Vogel said, is encouraged. Of ACS, Vogel said: “They understand that Orthodox Jews will have their challah and their foods, just like the other cultures, as long as it’s culture and not religion that’s being taught.”
Vogel, who lived for years in Boro Park before moving to Spring Valley, an Orthodox town in upstate New York, said that he is Hasidic but is not affiliated with any specific sect. He emphasized that his staff is multicultural and that his employees speak nine languages.
Vogel described his organization’s huge success in the EarlyLearn process as almost an accident. “That’s the way it happened to be. It wasn’t something by design beforehand. We won the 3,000 slots by merit, [by] hard work,” he said.
Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at email@example.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis