BY JON CRONIN
Mayor Bill de Blasio and city Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced plans on Thursday to expand the city’s 3-K For All program to six school districts—including one that covers Southeast Queens—over the next four years.
The mayor said that the program will expand in the fall of 2018 in School District 27—which encompasses Broad Channel, Ozone Park and Howard Beach. In 2020 to 2021, the program will debut in District 29, which covers Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans. By the fall of 2021 the program will be offered city-wide.
On Thursday morning at Ozone Park’s Queens Explorers Elementary School, Fariña and de Blasio touted the importance of early childhood education in preparing children for school.
“Educational opportunities shouldn’t be based on zip code,” de Blasio, adding that in the past it was only the wealthy who had such opportunities.
Fariña called the program “a game changer” and noted that the 2- and 3-year-olds in the Mommy and Me class they observed on Thursday ignored the press and politicians in the room while playing with Legos and interacting with the teachers. She said that this showed, at an early age, the children’s superior socialization skills.
De Blasio said that, for many years, the nation’s educators “had it backwards.” He added that the most significant amount of brain development occurs in the first five years of life.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that borough leaders have spent “an enormous amount of time” looking for public and private spaces that could be utilized for the program. She added that the roll out over the next few years would aid the borough in preparing spaces for the influx of young students.
“This is a tough city to be a parent in,” said de Blasio and added that he believed the program would save parents who send their children to daycare up to $15,000 per year.
Fariña added that the program would also provide parents a break during their day to talk to other adults and allow their children to build socialization and team building skills—which, she said, “they cannot do isolated at home in front of a TV.”
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said that he has constituents whose children are born below the poverty line and that the 3-K For All program will aid in the correcting the inequities in the education system.
“This could change the trajectory of their lives,” he said.
Richards echoed the sentiments of the importance of early development and said that he often marvels at his 1-year-old son’s ability to articulate his desire to stay up later and recite his “ABCs” at such a young age.
De Blasio said that the program will take longer to roll out than pre-K since it never existed before.
“I am pleased that the universal pre-K program is expanding in my district and that more children will be able to benefit from this early boost to their education,” state Sen. James Sanders (D-Ozone Park) said. “Universal pre-K has so many benefits, including ensuring equal access to education for children of all backgrounds and creating potentially diverse classrooms.”
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, email@example.com or @JonathanSCronin.