Mayor Bill de Blasio’s major initiative in education was implementation of universal pre-K for four-year-olds. Now he has announced his plan to provide universal pre-K for three-year-olds. The earlier initiative was popular, so what could go wrong?
The Mayor needs the state to fund it with $700 million, which is far from certain.
Leonie Haimson, founder of Class Size Matters, says there are too many overcrowded classrooms, and the Mayor should attend to them before launching a new initiative.
Susan Ochshorn of ECE Policyworks fears that the cost of the new grade will be other than financial. She worries that the addition will banish play from the lives of three-year-olds.
“I was over the moon when de Blasio pioneered free preschool for four-year-olds. New York’s children and families had been waiting since 1997, when Republican Governor George Pataki first enacted legislation. The state’s movement toward universal access and adequate financing has been erratic, at best, and the mayor’s initiative was bold. But with kindergarten as the new first or second grade, expectations for preschoolers have increased. The pressure is on.
“The tradeoff for early education’s legitimacy and funding has been painful—a Faustian pact. The kind of playfulness that we see in the smartest mammals has lost its pride of place. Our littlest children have been abandoned, left to wander in the desert. We need to bring them to the oasis, before it’s too late.”
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