Parents, last Thursday, October 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that next Fall, ’3-K for All’, a prekindergarten program for three-year-olds that was recently launched this past September in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn, is expanding to two Queens districts, one of which includes District 27 that encompasses all public NYC Department of Education (DOE) schools and community-based education centers in Rockaway and Broad Channel.
The expansion builds on the city's previous efforts to bolster early childhood education by offering free pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old, which officials said has more than tripled the number of kids in such classes. Now, with ‘3-K for All, your three-year-old is guaranteed a seat. However, according to the Mayor’s press spokesperson, Will Mantell, the rollout for District 27 will take two years. The added South Queens districts will have a two-year expansion plan, with classes launching in some schools Fall 2018, then finally offered in all schools by the following Fall 2019.
At last week’s press conference in Ozone Park, the Mayor said, “If it weren’t for free Pre-K for All, many parents would not have the choice of sending their 4-year-old child to school. Yes, their child could be home but they wouldn’t have the chance to learn in the same way, or if a parent wanted to find a preschool that would give their child that ability to start learning and growing, they have to pay a lot of money for it.
“A typical preschool in this city is $10,000 to $15,000 and a vast majority of families can’t afford that. The whole idea was to help reach our kids at the moment when they are able to grow intellectually the most, and give them that strong foundation, but also lift a burden on parents. To get pre-K for free, and now 3-K, it’s going to be a game changer for so many families.”
However, note that to reach all school districts, the city will need $700 million in either state or federal funding, or a combination of both.
State Senator James Sanders Jr. is all for it. In a statement, he said, “Universal Pre-K has so many benefits including ensuring equal access to education for children of all backgrounds and creating potentially diverse classrooms. This (3-K for All) expansion is also a positive step forward in spreading the notion that early education is important for the public good.”
However, there are many questions that abound regarding the 3-K program such as — Have local DOE schools been notified about the timeline when 3-K will be introduced at their institution, staffing requirements and of course, funding? The Rockaway Times did some sleuthing, but most local school administrators did not want to comment. However, they confirmed that they weren’t notified as of yet. The Mayor’s office press spokesperson, Will Mantell, said that the specific Fall 2018 rollout for District 27 schools has not been confirmed. However, registration for parents looking to enroll their three-year-olds kicks off from February 2018.
Another question is how will ‘3-K for All’ affect enrollment at current community-based centers offering EarlyLearn pre-K programs? Will this affect these centers’ staff benefits such as salary and vacation, now that their pre-K government-funded programs will now be under the jurisdiction of the DOE, instead of the Administration for Children's Services (ACS)? Mantell answered, “ACS EarlyLearn sites are part of the ‘3-K for All’ initiative. All EarlyLearn programs are transitioning to management by DOE by early 2019. The planning process for this transition is being led by ACS and DOE, and includes engagement with other city agencies, such as the Human Resources Administration, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as well as providers, early childhood care and education experts, and state and federal regulators. Early education teachers received salary increases as part of a 2016 contract agreement; we’ll continue to discuss salary and benefits as the program moves forward in collaboration with the Office of Labor Relations and unions. All details of current EarlyLearn contracts remain in place.”
As to how to this will affect special education students, Mantell stated, “DOE is committed to creating inclusive 3-K and Pre-K classrooms that enable all children to enter Kindergarten with a solid foundation for future success. The Division of Early Childhood Education also works closely with the DOE’s Office of Special Education to support every ‘3-K for All’ program, and develop professional learning opportunities for all programs that meet the needs of all learners.”
For further information about ‘3-K for All’, visit: http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/6704/3-k-for-all
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