The Catch-22 of De Blasio's PreK
Thanks to Mayor De Blasio, NYC now guarantees free Universal Pre-Kindergarten to four-year-olds. Seats are available in many elementary schools where the child can seamlessly graduate to Kindergarten and remain until middle school; and UPK typically follows the same schedule as the rest of the school.
Until 2:30. If you’re a parent in need of After-School, you most likely have some tough choices. Apparently, NY State thinks the school building is safe enough for PreK students from 8:30 - 2:30 but not after that. And the State doesn’t trust the same After-school staff who care for Kindergarten children to care for PreK children.
If you’re a working family who can afford to hire a nanny, that’s one solution. Or you can cobble together school pick ups of your four year old with friends and family for a year. But if you are one of the 74% of DOE students who are economically disadvantaged, and you need reliable child care every day, your PreK child may have to leave their school to commute to a day-care center for the last 2-3 hours of each day. Or you may prefer to keep your child in a Head Start program where free (working person’s) 8-10 hour day is offered rather than enroll them in a nearby public school.
Because the State oversees the licensing of child care programs, including After-School. While the City Department of Education manages education programs at District schools. Despite expanding the availability of UPK in NYC, the City and State have created a gap in educational opportunities for children not yet in Kindergarten. And these archaic regulations limit what the City will offer in terms of After-school options.
Another program expanded under De Blasio, provides free After-School for many more students. Yet it excludes PreK students. So the Mayor oversees district schools, including UPK, the State oversees After-school regulations and the Mayor decides who gets funding. And the parents don’t have much say in any of this. Or do they?