By David Manchester
[A comment on the post Code Blue: A Call to Save Jewish ECE’s]
Where is the innovation?
When I look at the Jewish ECE sector, I see a sector that has lacked innovation for decades. Sure pedagogies have changed but not much else.
One of the issues this article identifies is “tax” or “rent” charged by host institutions. If that is such a burden, then where is the movement creating independent Jewish Early Childhood Centers? JData, which for years tracked the field, has a list of 1003 ECEs nationwide. Among those, it seems at least 84% are part of a larger institution (synagogue, JCC, Chabad, day school, part time school).
Jewish ECEs are one of the few Jewish institutions that serve a needed market for which a tax payer funded option does not exist! (except some areas with universal Pre-K). If Bright Horizons is able to manage over 600 ECEs for profit in the US, where is the comparable Jewish system? Such standardization and scale could solve the issue of directors being expected to manage various skill sets as there could be centralized HR, Marketing, IT and other services.
Additionally, many Jewish ECEs have not adapted to trends in family needs. As more and more Jewish couples are dual income, families need an ECE solution earlier in their child’s life, yet less than 25% of Jewish ECEs offer infant care. These families also need longer hours so they can drop their child off, get to work, and be able to work a full day before having to pick up their child. The solution is longer days yet less than half of our centers operate 8 or more hours a day.
I am a huge supporter of Jewish ECEs and you are welcome to read a longer piece I authored a few years ago on the topic (link below). I agree that the Jewish community needs to support early childhood. Yet, in a time when young Jews are less institutional, when they are moving to neighborhoods that lack existing Jewish infrastructure, when they require more expansive services, when they are burdened with school debt unlike any prior generation, I think the field needs some disruptive innovation to create sustainable solutions to the identified issues.