On April 24, 2017, as East Side parents were planning a march to protest their children being sent to Universal pre-Kindergarten classrooms multiple blocks away, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio trumpeted the following:
New York City is starting the path to 3-K for All for fall of 2017, aiming to serve over 11,000 three-year-olds in new and enhanced free, full-day, high-quality seats. This includes the first year of a two-year expansion to create hundreds of new, free, full-day, high-quality seats in District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville. By fall of 2018, we will have a seat for every three-year-old living in those districts that wants one, and project we will serve 1,800 children in those two districts…. By fall of 2020, the City will expand free, full-day, high-quality 3-K to at least six additional school districts, for a total of eight districts. Each pair of districts will have a two-year expansion, with the last pair starting in fall of 2020 and having universal access in the fall of 2021.
- Using public money to fund religious schools
- Beginning public school segregation at an earlier age
- Cutting the hours of child-care available to low-income parents from full-day to 8:00 AM at 2:20 PM
- Cutting the months of child-care available to low-income parents from year-round to September-June
- Serving less children from the lowest-income group than any other
- Opening more centers even as existing ones fail to attract a full cohort of students
- Closing centers for a variety of failures even as the Department of Education swears that all are exactly the same “high-quality”
Now Mayor de Blasio is doubling down on all of the above by proposing to extend those “benefits” to city three-year-olds.
He admits he doesn’t have the money to pay for it, writing, “[i]n order to achieve the vision of 3-K for All citywide, the City will need additional support from partners in the State and federal government.”
Have any of those signed on yet? No. But why should that stop a victory lap press release?
What de Blasio doesn’t mention is that he also has neither the space (see the protesting Upper East Side parents above) nor the teachers to fulfill his objectives.
NYC public schools are desperately overcrowded as it is. Art and science rooms are being closed and turned into classrooms. Many elementary schools are forced to cut gym, despite research showing that movement is vital to successful learning. At the most popular schools, Pre-K is being dropped in order to accommodate more incoming kindergarteners. (One lawyer mom actually sued her Queens school – and won – by arguing that although kindergarten is mandatory, Pre-K is not, and so kindergarten should have allocation priority.)
And then there is the teacher issue. When touting Universal Pre-Kindergarten, de Blasio promised that each classroom would have a Lead Teacher who held a Masters in Early Childhood Education. But even pulling them out of programs that served the needy didn’t provide enough qualified candidates, and so eligibility was expanded to those who were in a Master’s program – or planned to be in one, and had a Bachelor’s Degree – in any subject. An aspiring Assistant Teacher will now need merely a high-school diploma/GED, and a certificate.
So if there aren’t enough qualified teachers to serve all the four-year-olds, how in the world does the mayor plan to scrounge up enough to the teach the three-year-olds, an arguably even more delicate demographic?
Finally, over half of NYC teens continue to graduate non-college ready, some elementary schools report a horrifying 5% state test passing rate, and qualification for G&T programs remains flat for Black and Hispanic students despite the magic bullet that UPK was intended to be. The question remains: How are thirteen years of an inferior education supposed to be fixed by fourteen years of the same?
Or now, a proposed fifteen?