Early-childhood providers will have access to a $100 million loan program to pay for classroom renovations and other infrastructure improvements, through a partnership announced Sunday at the Clinton Global Initiative’s meeting in New York.
The loan funds will be used to renovate classrooms in seven cities and to build 250 new classrooms over the next three years, according to the announcement. Baltimore will be the launch point.
The fund was created through the collaboration of the American Federation of Teachers, Washington, D.C.-based Amalgamated Bank, the National League of Cities, the First Five Years Fund, and Invest in Us, a public-private coalition to support early learning. The partners say the loan program will affect 36,000 children.
AFT president Randi Weingarten said during a press conference announcing the fund that creating learning spaces for young children involves different considerations than creating traditional classrooms. Sinks, bathrooms, and areas to change clothing all have to be pint-sized. The space also has to meet different safety standards than a classroom for older children.
Lack of Money Hampers Preschool Renovations
But early-childhood providers have traditionally operated on razor-thin margins that don’t allow much extra money for renovations or buying new buildings, and this is particularly true of centers that serve children from low-income families. Preschools and day-care centers often have had to operate in makeshift spaces, such as a Massachusetts center housed in a building that was once a turkey coop, and a San Francisco center with no outdoor space that required children to use public transit to get to a playground.
The announcement offered few details of how the program would work, but the Community Investment Collaborative for Kids, a program of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in New York, has been making renovation and purchase loans to child-care providers for 15 years.
In an August editorial published in the Hechinger Report, Amy Gillman, the collaborative’s national program director, wrote that the right kind of space for early-childhood programs is crucial to those programs’ success. She described one center that struggled to operate in a former clothing store in a strip mall before a renovation loan improved the facility.
“Brick and mortar are only part of the picture. Quality directors, teachers, materials and parent involvement are a must. But even the best efforts will fall short in a building that ignores the needs of its littlest learners,” Gillman wrote.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.