During a stop at the Riverdale Neighborhood House (RNH) on Monday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he asked a student to describe what she and her preschool class were doing.
“I’m doing the observation of my plant,” he quoted a student named Mackenzie as earnestly saying while she measured the height of plants including onions and potatoes.
“This is the most unscripted group of people in the world, our 4-year-olds,” Mr. de Blasio continued with a smile at a press conference in RNH’s courtyard after his classroom visit.
The mayor, state Sen. Jeff Klein and several other officials came to Riverdale to urge parents to sign up for universal preschool ahead of a Wednesday deadline for public preschool programs. (See analysis: de Blasio all but endorses Klein.) After that, parents will be able to apply to preschool at community-based organizations (CBO) such as RNH, with cut-offs to be set by the organizations themselves, according to Department of Education (DOE) spokesman Harry Hartfield.
Mr. de Blasio also took the opportunity to revel in an apparent victory in his fight for early childhood education, thanking state Sen. Jeff Klein for his role in getting the state to allocate $300 million for universal pre-k in the city alone.
By September, the city expects to provide approximately 53,000 seats to 4-year-olds throughout the city; that number will increase to 73,000 the following year, more than doubling the number of students who currently participate in full-day universal pre-k programs.
“If you’re building a house, you start with a strong foundation,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Pre-k is that strong foundation.”
During his visit, Mr. de Blasio lauded RNH’s pre-k program, thanking director Dan Eudene for hosting his visit.
“A lot of people look to this program to see how to do it right,” Mr. de Blasio said of RNH’s universal pre-k program, which currently offers 72 half-day seats.