The overall score for this Request for Proposals is 66 percent, which makes this RFP a moderate to high risk for applicants.
This request for proposals (“RFP”) is for the implementation of Head Start/Early Head Start Services, which provide programs to children six weeks to five years old for eight or ten hours per day and either 225 or 260 days per year. The birth-to-five system of early care and education is being redesigned to be administered through one system by the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”). This includes EarlyLearn NYC at the Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”) and Pre-K for All and 3-K for All at the DOE.
It is important to note that this rating cannot be considered in isolation given the interdependence of the birth to five programs being put forward by the DOE. It is particularly challenging for potential bidders to fully assess the risk level when not all of the RFPs are yet public.
The goal of this RFP is to provide Head Start and/or Early Head Start services in accordance with the regulations of the Federal Office of Head Start. “Head Start is a federally funded program designed to promote the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community.” Head Start and Early Head Start programs focus on the comprehensive development of children ages birth to five through early care and education, health and family well-being services. This RFP is not meant to be a supplement for services to children who are already served through a direct Head Start grant.
Head Start/Early Head Start Services are complimentary to the Birth-to-Five Services and Family Child Care Networks. The DOE is the contracting agency, and the anticipated contract start date is July 1, 2020.
There are many different risks in applying for this RFP resulting from the transfer of early childhood education programs to the DOE and the uncertainty in overall funding. The five key issues are listed below, but for a more extensive list, please click this link.
Although it is laudable that the City is expanding free pre-K and 3-K programs and the City is striving to establish a comprehensive birth to five early education system, a significant portion of these programs are provided by community-based organizations (CBOs) and this RFP exacerbates a substantial pay gap between teachers at CBOs and the DOE. According to the Citizens’ Committee for Children, teachers at CBOs earn $15,000 less in the first year of employment and this disparity grows as teachers gain more experience, even though many have the same training as their DOE counterparts.
Pay for Enrollment
The DOE is also moving towards an enrollment-based payment model in which monthly payments are calculated based on monthly enrollment for each service model and age group. If a provider has a monthly enrollment rate of less than 58%, they are only awarded 65% of the monthly contracted funding received. This is a risk because providers staff and build up their programs and allocate space according to the number of seats that could be filled and not depending on the number of children enrolled. The RFP also contains a disclaimer that “All payments are subject to contract registration timelines. Any delay in the contracting process may delay or prevent contract registration and disbursement of payments.” If the DOE is not committed to prompt payment and is only paying for a portion of the contract value, providers will not be able to maintain their programs. The DOE should reimburse nonprofits at a rate that addresses the full costs of a program.
Core v. Additional Hours
The RFP divides the Extended Day programs into “core hours,” which is for 6 hours and 20 minutes of each program day and “additional hours,” which is for hours outside of the core 6 hours and 20 minutes. However, early childhood education programs should be designed to ensure that participants receive the same high quality program throughout the day instead of splitting the time between core and additional hours, which defeats the purpose of equity and socioeconomic integration.
Limited Indirect Costs
Closely related to the overall underfunding of this program is the restriction of indirect costs. This RFP allows a maximum indirect cost reimbursement rate of 15 percent of the total program costs, but it places large reporting, compliance, and administrative burdens on the service provider that increase indirect expenses. The lack of alignment between actual and fundable costs put the organizations’ sustainability at risk.
Lack of Cost Escalators
This RFP is a four year contract with up to five one-year extensions. This implies that there is the risk that providers could potentially receive the same rate for nine years. Nonprofits struggle to meet rising costs as rates on contracts are not increased from year to year to address an increase in the costs of delivering services. With the current underfunding of early education programs, it is crucial that the DOE include cost escalators in their contracts.
Private Match Requirement
This RFP states “The DOE reserves the right to require Head Start programs to contribute a non-federal Share up to 20%, per the Head Start Program Performance Standards.” Since the funding for the Head Start/Early Head Start program is unclear, it is difficult for nonprofits to determine how much additional funds they need to secure. Also, this match requirement makes it infeasible for many nonprofit organizations to apply given the administrative or financial resources needed to come up with the additional funds.
The HSC RFP Rater assesses the feasibility, opportunities, and risk in City and State human services procurements. Rater scores are based on the RFP and related documents available to the public via New York City’s HHS Accelerator or New York State’s Grants Gateway. The rater consists of 60 questions developed and tested by a team of procurement professionals. The questions are based on information that is necessary to help prospective proposers assess risk.
Each answer is weighted based on the degree of risk inherent in the subject of the question. Answers that imply low to moderate risk are allotted points on a lower scale range compared to higher risk questions. For compound questions, the answer to both parts must be “yes” or “not applicable” to be considered low risk. Scores are calculated by adding all the question scores together. The higher the score, the greater the risk. The scoring range is from 60 to 230, with 0 percent risk equal to a score of 60 and the maximum risk score or 100 percent equal to 230 points. Users can view the answer to each question by clicking the down arrow next to each section to expand the section.
The HSC RFP Rater is not a substitute for the due diligence necessary to inform individual organization decisions.