July 13, 2015
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – Thousands of young children in low-income neighborhoods are not benefiting from Mayor Bill de Blasio's “universal” pre-K program according to a recent study by the University of California, Berkeley. After reviewing current data, almost 19,000 young children in the poorest communities still remained outside the system.
“The mayor’s second year of expansion will cut pre-K costs for well-heeled parents, but it’s not designed to close the access gap that continues to disadvantage low-income families,” said Bruce Fuller, lead author and professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.
Mayor de Blasio’s pre-K program is one of three city initiatives providing child care and preschool to families and their 4-year-olds. Pre-existing programs, including Head Start, currently serve about 9,400 4-year-olds residing in the poorest two-fifths of zip codes. Median household income falls below $37,872 in these zip codes, according to Census Bureau data analyzed by the UC Berkeley team.
Researchers report that rapid expansion of the mayor’s own program pulled children out of already existing centers operated by his Administration for Children’s Services. Enrollments in these programs fell by almost 3,000 children following first-year expansion of de Blasio’s favored initiative (2014-15). The Berkeley team estimated that between 10,350 and 14,950 children switching into the mayor’s growing program had been pulled from existing community-based preschools.
At the same time that enrollment is expanding in more affluent neighborhoods, the city is closing community based programs in poorer communities that have provided early education to young children for many years. The City's Administration for Children's Services planned to close fourteen community based early childhood centers this August in low income communities before the New York City Council confronted the Mayor on this issue.
While the Mayor is closing city community based early educational programs in the poorest neighborhoods, the school year ended last month with almost 19,000 children – residing in the city’s lowest-income areas – with no access to any pre-K program, according to city data released last month to researchers at Berkeley University. Of the city’s approximately 103,000 4-year-olds who are eligible for pre-K, the city is expected to provide 70,000 classroom seats this August.