Victory

Get Chancellor Farina and the NYC DOE to renew half-day UPK at the YM and YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood

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June 11, 2015

Fe Florimon, Chair

Youth and Education Committee

Manhattan Community Board 12

Ms. Florimon,

The YM and YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood (the Y) has been providing high-quality, city-sponsored UPK to Washington Heights and Inwood families for over a decade. The Y has run two types of UPK programs: an afternoon-only program that is fully supported by the city and free for families, and a hybrid, full-day program in which morning instruction is funded by tuition and afternoon instruction is funded by the city. The program is proven, successful, and employs highly qualified early childhood education teachers; it is ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse, and has served 70 families in Northern Manhattan every year for the past 10-plus years. Right now, the Y’s UPK contract is expiring and the Y is attempting to renew their half-day contract.

Mayor DeBlasio’s initiative to make free, full-day UPK available to every child who wants it is laudable and visionary. It is, however, having unforeseen negative consequences for the program at the Y and the families that rely upon it. First and foremost, eliminating the half-day city sponsored component will take this proven program with a creative curriculum and excellent facilities and place it beyond the means of lower- and middle-income families, which violates the Mayor’s vision for equity in early childhood education – this excellent Pre-K will only be available to people who can pay full tuition for it. This will also reduce the diversity of the program. As it stands now, children at the Y and their parents from different cultural and economic backgrounds are becoming friends – this progressive ideal will be lost when the only people who attend the program are people from higher income brackets.

Eliminating this program and others like it also kills parent choice on several levels. The curriculum at the Y is progressive and very successful: children regularly place in to district and city-wide G&T schools and other exam schools like Hunter from the program at the Y. The Y wants to maintain its successful, creative, progressive curriculum and does not want to be mandated to teach the entire day strictly to the DOE curriculum as it would be with a full-day program. This progressive educational stance is echoed in many other fully-funded NYC DOE schools at primary and secondary levels. In the same way that parents are empowered to choose schools with different educational philosophies beginning in Kindergarten, so should they be given the opportunity to choose such a school at the Pre-K level without having to pay a financial penalty.

Parent choice is also being eliminated by the DOE mandated 8AM-2:20 PM schedule, and by the focus on a full day of instruction in general. Testimony from neighborhood parents indicates that they want to be given the choice to send their children to fully-funded, half-day UPK so that, if they choose, they can spend time with their children before they begin to attend school all day in Kindergarten. Some parents work at night, and would not see their children at all if they attended full-day Pre-K. Some parents don’t think their 4-year-old is ready for a full day of school. These parents do not want to be forced to send their children to full-day Pre-K so that they can receive the benefit the city is promising to every child. Educational choice has been a mainstay of NYC education for many years, and eliminating half-day Pre-K violates that principle.

This is a service the city has provided for many years that is proven, successful, and needed by parents in this neighborhood. Eliminating this service, especially when many parents are unhappy with the results of the Pre-K lottery that were issued on June 10th, does not meet the needs of this community. Full-day UPK for all is a wonderful program, but it is a one-size-fits-all solution for the complex problem of early childhood education that needs support from the city in more ways than the monolithic one the Mayor has created.

I urge you to bring this matter to the attention of NYC DOE officials, in particular Chancellor Fariña, and demand that they recognize the complexity of the issue and support the renewal of the half-day UPK contract at the Y and other programs like it.

Respectfully,

Jeff Morrison and Concerned Parents of Washington Heights and Inwood



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