“With the clock ticking down, about half of the allotted seats available in New York City for pre-kindergarten classes have been filled up,” CBS News reported yesterday. “More than 37,000 families have signed up for pre-K since enrollment began last week.”
“Families have until April 24 to enroll for fall classes.”
This impressive enrollment is the result of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to vastly expand pre-K in his city.
As we blogged last year, de Blasio “put preschool in the news by calling for a universal program for all 4-year-olds funded by tax increases. What New York City got was a political compromise: state funding to launch the mayor’s plans.”
But this was enough for de Blasio to turn his plans into action. And last September, a New York Times editorial praised the mayor’s efforts, saying:
“The start of public school on Thursday in New York City should be the usual merry scramble of chattering children and stressed (or relieved) parents. There will also be something new: a fresh crop of 4-year-olds, more than 50,000, embarking on the first day of free, full-day, citywide, city-run prekindergarten.
“It’s worth pausing to note what an accomplishment this is. Fifty thousand is a small city’s worth of children, each getting a head start on a lifetime of learning. It is so many families saving the cost of day care or private prekindergarten. It is a milestone of education reform.”
Now, New York is working to ensure that as its pre-K programs grow, their quality remains high.
Earlier this month, Capital New York reported, “The administration rejected 45 percent of the pre-K programs that applied to offer instruction this fall, a large percentage considering the well-documented space crunch for pre-K seats.
“De Blasio and deputy mayor Richard Buery said the large number of rejected programs was a testament to the high quality standards for pre-K programs.”
“‘The goal is not just to open up seats but to open up high-quality seats,’” Buery said.
“Buery said slightly less than half the pre-K offerings for this fall will be located in public school buildings, and a bit more than half will be housed in community-based organizations (C.B.O.s). That’s a small but significant change from last year, when over 60 percent of the programs were housed in C.B.O.s, which tend to be clustered in low-income neighborhoods and have been considered by some to be less rigorous than public school pre-K programs.”
“Still, de Blasio acknowledged the city has not yet secured all of its pre-K space for the fall.
“‘We’re still looking, we have a lot of space, but we are continuing to look for space, especially in some of the districts that have had overcrowding problems in their schools to begin with,’ he said.”
New York’s efforts have also won national attention and praise.
Capital New York reports that Hillary Clinton is among New York pre-K’s supporters. Clinton was speaking at “a panel discussion in Washington hosted by the Center for American Progress and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,” when she raised New York’s work.
“The United States needs to invest more in ‘the human infrastructure,’ too, she said, and that’s where she brought up de Blasio.
“‘We need to do more to fit the human needs with both the potential that people have, starting early with pre-K,’ said Clinton. ‘I’m very much a supporter of what Mayor de Blasio did in New York, trying to create pre-K access for every young child in New York, regardless of who that child is and who its parents are.’”
Meanwhile, de Blasio is pushing ahead, seeking more state funding and more success for children. In a speech he made last week he said:
“We did last year’s improvement – or expansion – in record time. We basically had about five months from the time the funding was approved to go from 20,000 full-day seats to 53,000. This time – thank God – we have a lot more time and expertise, but it’s still a big jump that we have to achieve. We need the state to help us, and when I gave my budget testimony in Albany, I agreed with the recommendation of the regents – the state regents who said this program should be funded with $370 million dollars of state resources. I agree with that and we are pushing for that in Albany so can keep this progress going.
“We know that we’re going to benefit every child we reach. Every child who is reached will change. It will change the course of that child’s future. It will change the course of the whole family’s future. So we’re going to leave no stone unturned.”
“I’ve said many times, education determines economic destiny more today than at any time in human history. Education determines economic destiny. That’s why this matters so much. We want to have the American dream fulfilled – that the next generation will do better than the current generation. That can only happen if all of our children experience full-day pre-k and the strengths it will give them.”