Protect UAB CDC Teachers

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To the Child Care Task Force: 

UAB is a flagship institution, and its exemplary Child Development Center (CDC) is a major reason why many highly marketable faculty and staff continue to work for UAB. The outsourcing of its management to a third party raises concerns in that it will lead to high teacher turnover that will negatively impact the level and quality of child care provided by the center.

With this letter, we outline our issues with KinderCare at Work’s (KCW) takeover, list concerns voiced by parents at the CDC (page 2), and request actions be taken to mitigate these issues (page 2).

Timeline of events

On June 9, families enrolled at the CDC were informed of “plans to engage an outside company (subject to Board approval) to manage the Center.” With no additional update, we received news on September 18 that the “Board of Trustees approved the contract for external management of the Center in preparation for the new child care facility.” Some of the CDC families did not receive these emails, so many were informed on October 16 of the decision to outsource the management operations of the CDC to KCW.

It is unclear to us which task force members were involved in the problematic final decision to choose KCW. We understand that only one parent with a child currently in the CDC was on the task force, and her short tenure on the task force did not begin until October 2, 2020, after many decisions were already made. No teachers were involved in this process. 

We are discouraged by the lack of transparency and shared governance throughout this process. Given UAB’s shared values of integrity, respect, and collaboration, we expected better communication about the process and an opportunity to voice our questions and concerns before any substantive decisions were made. Live Zoom meetings, although not perfect, would have served everyone better than unidirectional emails.

Sharing parents’ concerns

Since we were not previously afforded such opportunities, we now respectfully submit our concerns regarding the transition from a UAB-managed CDC to a KCW-managed center. Our concerns are twofold. First, we are worried about the well being of our families and the potential negative consequences of the transition. Second, we are concerned on behalf of our fellow UAB employees—the teachers and staff at the center—and we are alarmed by the fact that they will lose many employee benefits that so many of us enjoy.

Our apprehension is underscored by the current pandemic. We live in times of increased anxiety and uncertainty, and such a transition exacerbates those feelings of unrest. Many of our families are Workgroup C (clinical) employees who’s ability to provide healthcare at UAB during this crisis depends on the selflessness of the CDC teachers and staff. When the center re-opened in May, our children’s teachers never questioned whether or not to return to work; they did so because of their dedication to our children and to UAB. 

In closing, we should also convey that we acknowledge and understand the need to expand child care opportunities for UAB families, especially for employees with fewer resources. The quality of UAB’s CDC is a major reason for its oversubscription, and a poor transition—including staff turnover—could irreparably harm the center’s status and quality of child care it provides. Many of us will graduate from the center soon, so we voice these concerns for future parents in our UAB family.

Sincerely,
UAB CDC Parents

 

Concerns from the families at UAB’s CDC

For current and future families

  • Teacher and staff turnover has already begun and is likely to increase to alarming levels
    • High teacher turnover negatively impacts our children’s current relationships and hinders trust in new relationships
  •  A transition to new management and staff will erode parent and child trust within the center
    • Developing trust will be difficult, given state-mandated restrictions on child care centers, and no transition plan has outlined how parents will be able to engage with new management and teaching staff
    • Parents trust CURRENT teachers/staff due to personal relationships we have developed in pre-COVID era
  • Transparency during the transition has been very poor; parents need greater involvement and communication

For current and future teachers and staff

  • Teachers and staff will lose UAB benefits, and it is unclear if salary they will receive from KCW will be competitive to retain a quality workforce
    • Our teachers cannot be allowed lose their retirement, access to affordable healthcare, and discounted tuition
  • Withdrawal of UAB retirement and affordable healthcare will force our highly qualified and experienced teachers to seek employment elsewhere during this worsening pandemic
  • Teachers and staff have not been given adequate time to evaluate their employment options, especially given the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • KCW has already posted a job with minimalist qualifications that further threatens our current teachers' job security, children’s well being, and center accreditation

For the University, its reputation, and its shared values of equity and collaboration

  • This decision is exploitative in that UAB will operate a two-tiered system where some employees enjoy UAB’s benefits and others have inferior wage and benefit options
  • These negative impacts will be borne by more marginalized and lower-income employees, who are often people of color
  • The transition creates additional anxieties for front line workers who are now facing a second spike in COVID-19 cases (and a likely difficult winter); it:
    • Robs UAB employees of their crucial support system during the worsening COVID pandemic.
    • Unjustly demeans the teachers and staff who bravely returned to work to care for children of the Workgroup C employees

Below are our top requests of the child care task force:

We strongly request that you to cancel or postpone this transition; if the transition proceeds, 

  • Our teachers cannot be allowed lose their current UAB benefits (retirement, access to affordable healthcare, discounted tuition)
  • Teachers need to be given more time (current deadline Nov 20) to decide whether they stay
  • For teachers who remain at CDC, their new salaries must be comparable to existing ones
    • For teachers who choose to leave, they must be offered employment elsewhere at UAB or a  generous severance
    • Please ensure Theresa Wright is offered a comparable job in the new organization because her role is critically important