New York education advocates have won the Foundation Aid battle in Albany, so they are turning their attention to a new front in the war for equity: child care. 

Currently in New York, it can cost an average of $15,000 a year for one child in child care.

“The child care sector in New York has been so neglected that many providers have closed their doors. About 1,500 providers permanently closed their doors during the pandemic,” Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, told Capital Tonight.

Because of those closures, child care is not only very expensive, it’s hard to come by. 

It’s also considered necessary by advocates to help rebuild the state’s economy.

Both state legislative one-house budgets build on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $1.4 billion investment in the sector. The state Assembly will add another $3 billion; the Senate will add another $2.2 billion, though Gripper said they are still discussing details with the Legislature.

While the numbers sound enormous, Gripper said it’s going to take an even bigger investment than lawmakers are proposing. Gripper and her allies are pushing for a $5 billion investment in the sector. And that investment is an annual one.

“It’s going to cost more than $5 billion next year, actually. We want the industry to grow. We want more children to be served each and every year,” Gripper explained. “In addition, we have to incentivize providers to come back to field, so we need to invest in…wages.”

Child care providers are among the lowest paid workers in the state. Many can’t afford to live on what they earn.

What advocates are envisioning under the umbrella of “universal child care” is expansive. They want the state to cover the cost of infants and toddlers in care all day, as well as the cost of care for school-age children before and after school.

Gripper explains that the dividends the investment will pay off are high.

“If you invest in high quality child care right now, that means that children are more likely to read on grade level by third grade. They’re more likely to graduate high school in four years and they’re more likely to go off to college and careers and be successful,” she said. “It is the right investment to make. It is way better than giving a billion dollars to the Buffalo Bills.”