Following the budget agreement reached by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature last week, it was decided that New York City would receive $1.5 billion over the next five years, or $340 million a year, to fund free full-day prekindergarten classes for four-year-olds.
After touring Police Officer Ramon Suarez School, located at 1715 Weirfield St. in Ridgewood, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Department of Education would now be able to provide full-day prekindergarten to 20,387 students in September 2014, as thousands more would be made available through numerous community based organizations totaling 53,000 students.
“Today, the rubber hits the road, and families will have more options for their children,” de Blasio said, adding that the plan is intended to provide prekindergarten to 73,250 eligible students by the 2015-16 school year.
Prekindergarten will open next fall in 140 schools across all five boroughs and convert 4,268 half-day classes to full-day programs.
“Today, we are more than 4,000 seats closer to ensuring that every four-year-old has access to high quality, full-day pre-k,” de Blasio said. “For months, we have been planning every facet of these programs to ensure we were ready to launch the moment funding was secured.”
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña toured the prekindergarten classes already implemented at the school in Ridgewood last week, and said she was astonished at the complex language the students are already using in these classes.
“This is not babysitting, I want to be clear,” Farina said. “They are having a great day here but what they’re learning is unbelievable. Not only what they’re learning, but the self-esteem they’re getting, their need to teach each other…but many of our middle school kids are struggling to use some of the words these students are using here today.”
Sophia Pappas, executive director of the DOE, explained that parents can apply for up to 12 public school options in any part of the city, however the priority would be given to their local community.
“With more full-day options, a lot of parents, who in the past may have put an option down and not gotten it because there was too limited seats, now have a greater opportunity,” Pappas said.
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito thanked the community groups and advocacy groups who helped push for the addition of pre-k seats that she said can help combat income inequality.
“This is a game-changer in the lives of individuals, the lives of the communities and this is going to make a difference in the lives of the children,” Mark-Viverito said.