You're Only Four Years Old Once
By Speaker Christine C. Quinn and the City Council Brooklyn DelegationImagine dropping your child off for pre-school at 8 am. You head to work, and your child gets a quality early education that will mean better performance later on in life. Exactly how our education tax dollars should be working.But for thousands of working families in New York, this ideal is interrupted by a harsh reality - many pre-Kindergarten programs in New York City last only 2 1/2 hours. Not long enough for parents to get in even a partial day at work, or for our kids to learn much of anything.In 1997, New York State started the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program across the State. While the State should be lauded for launching this high-quality education program for four-year-olds, the reality is that State funding covers only 2 1/2 hours of pre-school. Simply put, UPK doesn't adequately meet the needs of working families or young students. We can do better.Nearly 40,000 children are enrolled in the City's UPK program, the vast majority of them in 2 1/2 hour sessions. We have proposed extending the hours to offer a full-day program for all four-year-olds in UPK over the next three years. It's not cheap, but it's an investment worth making.Expanding this pre-Kindergarten program from 2 1/2 hours to a full day will allow more parents to take advantage of the program and will better prepare our kids for school. Right now, many families don't use UPK because having to pick up their child 2 1/2 hours after they dropped them off is impossible. Instead, they send their kids to day care, which is often costly and not as academically beneficial as UPK, which requires a licensed teacher in every classroom.Those families who do use the current 2 1/2 hour program either juggle work demands or manage to cobble together funding, either out of their own pocket or through other public funds, to make the program a little longer. In either case, families are inconvenienced and kids aren't learning fully.The economic and academic benefits of full-day UPK for our children and our society are undeniable. Access to an early childhood education is one of the most effective means of ensuring a successful future.A recent study of students in a low-income, urban public school district found that those who had attended full-day pre-K outperformed those who had only half-day pre-K. The research showed, in fact, that students who were far behind at entry to preschool could develop vocabulary, math and literacy skills that approach national norms when provided with extended-duration preschool. This means that a full-day of pre-k can bring less advantaged children up to speed with their peers.And it's a good investment of taxpayer dollars. Children who attend pre-Kindergarten are also less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, and require special education services. Reducing the need for remedial services and grade repetition will actually save taxpayers money in the long run.Our children are only four-years old once. The opportunity to lay the educational groundwork they will need for a lifetime can't wait another year. It's time for New York to expand UPK to a full day.
The Brooklyn Delegation includes Charles Barron, Yvette D. Clarke, Bill de Blasio, Erik Martin Dilan, Simcha Felder, Lewis A. Fidler, Vincent J. Gentile, Sara M. Gonzalez, Letitia James, Darlene Mealy, Michael Nelson, Domenic Recchia, Diana Reyna, Kendall Stewart, Albert Vann, and David Yassky.