Mayor de Blasio announced a series of cuts to his budget proposal last month that include some reductions to education line items that will directly impact the parents of young children in one district in Southeast Queens.
De Blasio decided to delay one of his education priorities, the expansion of his universal pre-K program for 3-year-olds, which was slated to spread to four new school districts at the start of the next school year, including Queens District 29, which spreads over Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.
The mayor’s Universal Pre-K program, considered his signature achievement by many, is available for all 4-year-olds in the city. The 3-K for All program has been growing each year since 2017 and is available in 14 of the city’s 32 education districts, including one in Queens — District 27, extending over Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and the Rockaways.
In addition to District 29, the other districts where 3-K for All was slated to open for the coming school year include Manhattan’s District 1, the Bronx’s District 12 and Brooklyn’s District 14. The postponement will reportedly save the city $43 million.
DOE officials clarified that while the program’s rollout may be temporarily suspended, it will continue to be available for all families that want to participate in the districts where it already exists, including District 27, for the 2020-21 school year.
“Whatever classes were set prior to the pandemic is what is staying in the school in the pre-K centers. We’re not gaining any centers but we’re not losing any centers,” said Susan Settanni, director of Early Childhood Development for District 27, in a Community Education Council meeting on Monday.
The DOE’s plan for District 29 is to expand the 3-K program in the fall of 2021.
The mayor and City Council must agree on a budget plan by July 1.