The American Federation of Teachers, along with its partners, commits to help schools nationwide address one of the early childhood movements biggest challengessecuring high quality facilities to meet the growing needs of early childhood programs
As part of this effort, AFT, Invest in Us and labors investment partners, Amalgamated Bank and the National League of Cities will launch a $100 million loan fund to renovate 350 existing classroom facilities in seven cities, starting first with Baltimore, and building an additional 250 new classroom facilities. This commitment is expected to impact approximately 36,000 children in early childhood education programs over the next three years. AFT and Invest in Us will work with local stakeholder coalitions such as school districts, businesses, and foundations in each of the cities to identify schools with the greatest ECE expansion needs. The National League of Cities (NLC) will promote this opportunity to cities/communities that are trying to expand their Pre-K and early childhood programs. Invest in Us will help inform site selection for fund deployment and capital improvement.
This revolving loan fund will provide affordable, flexible capital loans to public school child care operators. The fund will provide for acquisition, construction, and term financing to build or improve child care facilities. Amalgamated Bank will invest through their ULTRA Fund, which currently provides high quality, short-term construction loans to a broad array of properties, including office, retail, condominium, and hotel. The ULTRA Fund currently has $480 million in loans on its books, and will make available $100 million for new loans as the old loans are payed down. The American Federation of Teachers, and its partners will build on the investment team and track record of the ULTRA Fund, and supplement the initial $100 million with additional fundraising from institutional investors. The ECE loan fund uses will include predevelopment, acquisition, construction and renovation, leasehold improvements, and energy-efficient improvements. The individual loan amounts will be determined on a case-by-case basis, and will depend on the cost of the project, the availability of collateral, the borrowers financial history and the borrowers ability to repay. The Funds cost structure is a 4% net fee, which is competitive with current prime and construction loans.
The investments from this commitment are expected to create an estimated 4,200 direct, full time jobs.
Baltimore will serve as the first site for fund deployment, as AFT partners with the city to build age appropriate early childhood classrooms in 20 new schools under construction.
Providing access to high-quality free early education and care for their children opens doors for both women and men, but evidence shows that an overwhelming number of those who benefit from knowing their children are cared for as they enter the workforce are women. Additionally, funds used to upgrade/renovate existing early education facilities should ideally engage the female-dominated early education workforce in the process of determining what constitutes high quality facilities that best meet the needs of young children.
Capital Deployment and Classroom Goals by Year
September 2015- September 2016 (Year 1):
The Fund will be capitalized with $100 million through the Amalgamated Bank and their ULTRA Fund.
$20 million in loans deployed for ECE classroom expansion and renovation. Build 20 new classrooms in new Baltimore schools, and renovate at least 70 classrooms in at least three cities.
2016-2017 (Year 2):
$40 million in new loans deployed for renovation and expansion. Build 100 additional new classrooms in at least two cities, and renovate at least an additional 140 classrooms in at least six cities.
2016-2017 (Year 3):
Remaining $40 million (totaling $100 million over three years) in loan fund assets are deployed. By the end of the three year term 350 existing classroom facilities in eight cities are renovated, and 250 new classroom facilities in three cities are built.
Over the three year period, 36,000 school children will be served by these facility renovations and expansions
The importance of high quality early childhood education for helping children succeed academically, cognitively, and socially throughout the rest of their school career is clear. Research demonstrates that a well-developed ECE program leads to improved critical thinking and attention skills, improved expressive and receptive language proficiency, school readiness in the areas of literacy and mathematical operations, and enhanced decision-making skills for all children.
High quality ECE programs need excellent curriculum, well-prepared staff, engaged parents and a well-thought out and appropriate classroom space. The publication Pre-KSpaces: Design for a Quality Classroom references child care expert Friedrich Froebel who stressed that when care is applied to a childs surroundings, behavior can be guided and inspired and further too often childcare takes place in societys cast-off spaces: church basements or converted warehouses. Even centers built for childcare are often designed with more of an eye to adult priorities than childrens needs.
As Pre-K has become the norm and not the exception in public schoolsand as more and more school systems expand from K-12 to PreK-12many of those same systems find themselves struggling with creating appropriate space for their new young learners. A recent survey of teachers working in Pre-K classrooms and Child Care Centers revealed several challenges with teachers existing classroom and school space, including limited space to work with individual students; no storage, no air conditioning, no counter space, no way to break up the space into activity centers, no bathroom in classroom or inappropriate bathrooms, and limited security of the building.
The expansion of early childhood education around the country carries a number of important challenges. School districts face serious hurdles in both financing and securing high quality facilities. Nationally, one of the early childhood movements biggest challenges remains securing high quality facilities to meet the growing needs of early childhood programs.