New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking a victory lap, touting the success of his signature legislation, universal Pre-Kindergarten for all 4 year olds. His singular measure of said success is that 68,500 children (out of the 70,000 eligible) have been formally enrolled. This seems a rather dubious metric, equivalent to proclaiming the entire NYC public school-system an unabashed success based solely on the fact that 1.1 million children are in it. Actual results, or even attendance rates, are irrelevant.
There is no mention in the self-congratulatory back-patting of the fact that, in his drive to enshrine his pet project, de Blasio actually closed year-round, full day Community Based Organizations that gave priority to the poor in favor of nine-months a year, half-day, open-to-all Pre-Ks. This proved a hardship for working parents who didn’t have anyone to pick their children up at 2:20 every day, and might explain why a program ostensibly designed specifically to help them is currently serving many fewer children from families in the bottom fifth of income-earners than expected.
There is also the unmentioned fact that a mayor who has made fighting charter schools (then promptly backing down) a lifestyle choice, and one who certainly would never endorse a blasphemy like school vouchers, has no problem with subsidizing private schools, even religious ones, in the interest of his own agenda. Further, there is nary a word about a truth anyone perusing the NYC Pre-K Directory can easily zero in on: Despite what voters were told is a crushing demand, many schools failed to fill their quota of students.
Finally, the under-subscribed program is also over-budget.
This is where matters become precarious for the future, especially for middle-class families.
It is unfathomable that the next mayor of NYC will be as obsessed with Universal Pre-K as the current one is. He/She will have their own priorities. UPK will inevitably begin to shrink, due to both finances and attendance, until it is, most likely, back to Head Start and other, similar ventures that serve the poor, or at least include some sort of income requirements.
The rich will be fine. They’ll still have the preschools at Episcopal, Brick Church, Park Avenue Christian, and Temple Emanu-El, just to keep things ecumenical. Those schools will continue feeding their children into the city’s top private elementary schools without so much as a hiccough.
But what of the middle-class? You would think they’d just go back to the same preschools they’ve always attended.
Except for one thing: Thanks to UPK, those schools are in danger of disappearing.
Find out why and what that will mean to you in Part #2!