Transcript: In First Wave of UPK Implementation, Mayor de Blasio Announces More Than 4,200 New Full-Day Pre-K Seats Added to Public Schools

April 2, 2014

Video available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OkVUz86vYQ



Mayor Bill de Blasio: Let's give our folks a moment to get assembled. I'll just – let me acknowledge everyone who's here while the media is getting set up. I want to thank, of course, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for joining us; and our Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña; and our Deputy Mayor Richard Buery. I want to also thank Juana Carino Where is Juana? Juana? Hold on – we need Juana Carino. Rachel? Juana Carino from Make the Road New York. Donde esta Juana? Presente! Bien.

I'd also like to acknowledge and thank our executive director for early childhood education at the Department of Education, Sophia Pappas, who is doing a great job as we prepare for the great expansion of full-day pre-K ahead. Also, we have some great supporters of the effort to create full-day pre-K for every child in this city and the after-school programs for every middle school child, including two of the people who actually got to make this happen in Albany. I want to thank them both – State Senator Mike Gianaris and Assemblyman Mike Miller. Thank you for your support. And then I can safely say, two of the strongest, most passionate supporters of this effort in the city council – the education chair Danny Dromm, thank you,  and the man who represents this school and this district, Antonio Reynoso. Thank you so much. And I want to thank everyone at PS 239 for hosting us – especially the principal, Robin Connolly. Thank you for your great work at this great school. 

Carmen Fariña and I are now reassessing all of our views on education. We have now realized children can do a lot more than we understood because of the young man who put up his hand as I was reading to this pre-K class and he said he wanted to tell me a word he learned. And I'm like, 'What's the word you learned?' And he says metamorphosis. So I was taken aback at the level of progress made here at PS 239 – you're in a whole other level here. It was a fourth – what? Metamorphosis? What level is that? Right? So, no, the kids were fantastic. I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is a classic – one that I read with great joy to Chiara and Dante when they were kids. These kids were extraordinary. They were so into it, they were so focused, but their vocabulary was amazing, their poise was amazing. They were really comfortable putting up their hands and offering their answers even before I asked the question. This is everything we hope for for the children of New York City and you got to see a great glimpse of it here. And it really points out the power of early childhood education.

So, over the last 18 months, I've been talking about how important pre-K is, how important early childhood education is, and I'll tell you – today just convinces me even further of what a crucial part of our educational efforts this is. When you see kids on the right path, when you see them thriving, when you see them loving the educational process – that love of learning that was so evident in the room just a few minutes ago – you know that they're going to make it. You know that they're going to do well in school. And that's what pre-K is all about – setting that foundation. I said earlier – when I said to the Association for a Better New York – think of it in terms of how you build a house. Everything depends on the foundation that you lay down first – and that's what pre-K is. And, it's something that now tens of thousands more families will get to experience and benefit from because of the progress we've made. And the important reality is that we know for us to create these programs, to get them ready, and make sure they're the highest quality, there's a huge amount of work to do, including the work of reaching out to our parents and getting them involved.

The first step, of course, was to win the funding. The $300 million that we'll get each year for the next five years will be pivotal to making this possible. And, again, I want to thank all the members of the senate, the assembly, and thank Governor Cuomo – everyone who supported us in this effort. And, again, there's going to be two phases – the first phase, this September, when we work to get this number up to 53,000 kids in full-day pre-K. Right now only about 20,000 kids in full-day pre-K in all of New York City. Our plan takes up to 53,000 this September. And then the following school year, we get up to 73,000 – literally every child who can be served in this city will be served by that second year. And so this is a very aggressive build-out plan. It's something we believe is necessary for the future of our school system, for the future of our children and families, for the future of our entire city – for its economic future – to get kids this kind of foundation to allow them to learn.

And it starts today, literally today. Now that the money is secure, we started this very day sending out notices to parents all over New York City, letting them know the good news – that they have a lot more pre-K seats that they can apply for and that there are going to be full-day seats now for so many more kids than have been in the past.

Now, as we've said previously, this program involves both our public schools and community-based organizations. We're going to involve a number of other educational institutions, including charter schools and religious schools. All of them together in a common cause to make sure that we have pre-K available for 53,000 kids full-day. The first wave of this effort we're putting into place today and it will be the piece of the first part of what we do in the public school buildings themselves, where there will be 4,270 new high-quality, full-day pre-K seats. And that will be, again, beginning this September across a number of schools. And this is, again, the beginning. And PS 239 is an example of what this difference will be. Right now, this extraordinary school – I've seen with my own eyes – this extraordinary school only is able to offer half-day seats to the children here. These extraordinary kids that we saw thriving have only had the advantage of a few hours a day in a pre-K setting. Now, every one of the seats will become full-day seats and that's going to allow so much more for the children of this school.

And, by the way, let's talk about parents. For the parents of this community, a schedule that finally starts to align with their needs and their reality, so that they can go to work and they can work a full work day knowing that their kids have this support. When we go through all the phases of this plan, there's going to be a variety of pieces to it. Again, starting with the public schools but going beyond. There will be half-day seats, like here at PS 239, that are converted to full-day seats. There will be new full-day seats at schools that have full-day but don't have enough – we'll be adding additional full-day seats. And there will be full-day seats added at schools that had no pre-K at all before. So a lot of different pieces will be brought together in our plan.

At the end of this first phase, as we go into September, of the almost 800 elementary schools in New York City, nearly 60 percent will be offering full-day pre-K seats by this first phase in September. Again, it will be all across the city.

And we know that behind it there will be a lot of additional space. We'll be making further announcements in all of the other pieces of this equation. We've had an outpouring of support from community-based organizations and all other types of schools offering space. We know we've had tremendous progress with teachers coming forward with early childhood certification who are excited to be a part of this effort. The bottom line is now that we need to get the word out to parents that it's time to sign up.

Parents, over the years, I can say this from my own experience, looked at the process of signing up for pre-K with a certain hesitation, because they knew that there were so few seats available. And they knew that of the seats that existed, the vast majority were half-day. Again, just to give you the frame on the current reality in New York City – only about 20,000 full-day as I mentioned, about 40,000 half-day. So a typical parent knew, if they got anything, it was going to be half-day – it was going to be something like 8:30 to 11:30, 11:30 to 2:30 – really a limited slice of the day and then, for right now about 10,000 parents, the answer was they got nothing. And they had to go try and find some other alternative for their children. Now, for the first time, when parents sign up, they're going to know the likelihood is a full-day seat. And we need to get that word out to parents and we need them to apply for the public school seats – for the seats that are available in our public school buildings – the deadline is April 23.

Now, let me hasten to add, for the community-based organizations and a lot of the other pieces that will make up this pre-K network, there will be opportunities to apply later. It's going to be a rolling admissions process. There will be many opportunities for people to find good options in their neighborhood. But for the public schools that will now be providing full-day pre-K, the deadline to apply is April 23. And we're going to do everything in our power to get that word out. For those parents ready to apply for full-day pre-K for their children, there's two ways to do it. One is online. Schools.nyc.gov/prek – that's no hyphen, just P-R-E-K. And schools.nyc.gov/prek. Also, parents can apply in person at the nearest enrollment office. To find out where a local office is, they can go online – again, schools.nyc.gov or call 718-935-2009, 718-935-2009. And, if you want to get information and updates via text, just text the word prek – again no hyphen, P-R-E-K – to 877877. Again, text the word prek to 877877. Yes, you being very high-tech, I'm sure you will do that.

So, all of these tools will allow us to get information out to parents right away so they can apply for the options available in the schools in their neighborhoods up through April 23. Again, after that, there'll be additional opportunities to apply for seats available in community-based organizations and other options in their neighborhood. As we now go into full-gear, implementing this plan, I've said many times it will be a central focus of City Hall. Obviously, a central focus at the Department of Education. We're bringing together a number of different agencies, both to get the pre-K ready and the afterschool component of our work ready. And our secret weapon pulling all of these strands together is our new Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, who's doing a great job already. And Richard, let's hear from you as we now start down this road to make our city work better for our children.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Strategic Policy Initiatives: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you for the introduction. I could not be more pleased here today to be part of this incredible announcement. So the basic message is this, just to reinforce what the mayor just said. The message for New York City parents is, you can start enrolling your kids now and to find high quality, full-day educational, universal pre-kindergarten options. And it really was amazing to sit in that classroom with those four-year-olds. And I have to say, I feel a little deficient as a parent right now, because I'm pretty sure – I'm not sure if my ten-year-old can say metamorphosi,s but I'll test him when I get home.

You know, clearly the talent is here. The seats are here. And now, with the state budget agreement, the dollars are there. For Ready to Launch, your child can be a part of it. The mayor just described the process for applications.

Here today, we are announcing the first milestone – the first wave of new seats in public schools. And so, there's now a new option available for parents. The application deadline for those is April 23. So we need parents to get out there and apply. Of course, that's just the first wave. We'll continue to announce additional seats, including at our community-based organizations, as that application process will go through the summer.

Right now, I just want you to know that folks in the city are working day and night. The mayor pointed out Sophia Pappas and her team at the Department of Education. They're literally working day and night and weekends, as are the dozen other city agencies around the city that are working on those initiatives to make it happen. So, I just want parents to know that we are working hard to build a fantastic, strong system for your children, which we know will lay the ground work for a more equitable and a more just and a more effective educational system.

And what we need right now is for parents to go out there and sign up your kids to make sure that they can take advantage of these incredible services. So, thank you. I now have the pleasure of introducing the woman who leads the Department of Education – a respected and legendary educator –

Mayor: It's all true.

Deputy Mayor Buery: I like her a lot so I'm happy to say nice things about her. I'm really honored to introduce Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

Mayor: Now, can you do the step or do you need me to do that?

Deputy Mayor Buery: I've watched you do it a few times.

Mayor: Look at that. Very good

Deputy Mayor Buery: I watch, I pay attention.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña: I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be here today. I've been to this school before when I was wearing my deputy chancellor hat. And it's always been a good school. But I can't imagine what's going to happen next year, when these kids who were so fabulous today double the number of time they have in school. This was not babysitting. I want to be clear to a lot of people who think that pre-K is where you bring your children in the morning so you can go to work and come back and pick them up and they've had a great day. They are having a great day here, but what they're learning is unbelievable. Not only what they're learning, but the self-esteem they're getting, their need to teach each other. This little boy in the front row, until he could get the word expired out, and he kept saying -  he had a MetroCard that expired – they're using vocabulary. Many of our middle school kids are still struggling with some of the vocabulary that I heard these kids use today.

So we're going to have an opportunity in the city of New York, to really up – not only what kids can do, but the expectations that teachers, like the ones in this school, have for those kids. When I asked a teacher how do you do this? She said, very simply – I don't talk to them like they're little kids, I have real conversations with them – I talk to them about real things. That's what pre-K in New York City – especially under. Sophia Pappas and her team, who is going to bring in the best people to train our pre-K teachers, –  is going to be. Once again, I want to say to parents, if there's any doubt in your mind that this is an initiative that you're not sure about, take my word for it. As a grandmother, as an abuela, I pay a lot of money for my grandchildren to have this experience. And for you, it's free of charge. So join the pre-K rallies. Come and join because, really, you're in for a very special ride.

Mayor: En español.

Chancellor Fariña: En español.

Mayor: Especially the sign-up dates.

Chancellor Fariña: Ok.

[speaks Spanish]

The one thing I said in Spanish that I didn't say in English – I want to say. What these kids are going to do – they're going to go home and teach their parents about things that their parents may not know.

Mayor: You explained it already.

Chancellor Fariña: Okay. So, thank you.

Mayor: Thank you, very much. That was excellent. The fact that we're at this point is because we had extraordinary support. And I met with a group of parents this morning – parent-activists and leaders from all over the city – who really fueled this effort, whose voices were heard in Albany. And this is why we're now able to make this great progress for our city.

But I also think it's crucial to recognize that the city council was a partner every step of the way. A lot of people in Albany asked me early on – would the city council believe in and support this initiative? I said, I had faith the city council would be among our strongest and most enthusiastic supporters – and that's been true. I want to thank the council members and I especially want to thank our speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, for her leadership. And let's bring her forward – and you may speak in two languages if you'd like. Here we go.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And it's great to be here with two of my great colleagues – our chair of our education committee, Danny Dromm, and Antonio Reynoso, who traveled up to Albany the two times that we went to talk about the importance of this funding. And I want to thank the state reps for their support. Obviously, we got a lot of money and we're going to make this a reality. So, you know, now that the funding has been approved for full-day universal pre-K, thanks to the mayor's advocacy and Governor Cuomo and the state legislature, the real work is now beginning, as we have heard. So it's a great day. Very exciting for so many families across the city, some of whom are here today. And that's why I'm proud to stand here today with my colleagues as the mayor is rolling out and talking about this first wave, right, of the 4,300 pre-K slots at 130 new sites across the city. Many said that a day like today would never happen, that this effort was bound to fail. But because of the mayor's advocacy and the hard work of many people here today, it's coming to fruition. And so, I had said earlier this week that this is a very, very big deal. This is a game-changer in the lives of individuals, in the lives of communities. This is going to make a difference in the lives of the children that will benefit from universal pre-K.

We know that universal pre-K gives children a head start that will benefit them for the rest of their lives – and these are concrete steps towards making that happen. We talk about – it's very real – that there is an achievement gap in this city. And when we talk about the critical need to really lay a solid foundation, universal pre-K is such a foundation that will help lessen that achievement gap, which is too real in this city. And we know that it also can help in combating the persistent income inequality in the earliest of times. And this is something we can all be incredibly proud of. So, again, thank you Mr. Mayor. Thank you, Chancellor, Deputy Mayor, all the parents that are here. This was a collective effort. And so it is a true victory for the lives of many individuals in this city.

[speaks Spanish]

Mayor: And I want to tell you, again, thank you to the speaker, thank you to the council, and thank you to all the parents. And I want to just give a special appreciation and recognition to the parents that are so active here at PS 239. This is a great PTA and these parents make a big difference in the school. And I want to thank you, because you're standing up for our schools, you're standing up for our kids, and you're helping to make things better. We really, really appreciate your efforts. Let's give them a round of applause.

Now, parents played such an extraordinary role. One of them in this victory – one of the people who stood up and did a lot to help – was Juana Carino. And her organization Make the Road New York was deeply involved in achieving this victory – both here and in Albany. Let's have Juana come forward. I think hablas español, si?

Español, with English translation – we do it all.

Juana Carino, Parent: [speaks Spanish]

 

[remarks in Spanish]

 

Mayor: Do you want to? All right. Special guest translator

Speaker Mark-Viverito: She's a parent. Her name is Juana, she's from Make the Road New York. She has five children, all of whom are in the public school system. But she talks about that – she's been engaged, actively, as part of the campaign on the ground collecting signatures, traveling to Albany to make sure that the message is heard. And she says personally from experience that obviously the level of engagement that pre-K provides to really expand the knowledge of children. Really – making inquiries. And so she's really, really sold on this and believes and understands the importance of it personally. And she became very happy and thankful that we are – we've arrived at this moment.

Mayor: Thank you so much. Mucho Gracias. I think Juana had an all-star team here. You had Carmen – the schools chancellor coaching you, and the city council speaker translating for you. That's a good thing. I'm going to do a moment in Spanish and then we will go to Q and A. And I have three sentences here.

Por meses hemos venido hablando sobre planes para implementar prekinder gratis y a tiempo completo para todos los ninos de cuatro anos.  Hoy estamos anunciando que hemos aprobado mas de cuatro mil doscientas (4,200) solicitudes de cupos de prekinder en 140 escuelas de la ciudad para comenzar este septiembre.  Le pedimos a todos los padres de ninos que van a cumplir cuatro anos que soliciten cupo antes de 23 de abril.

One more fact I want to provide about our earlier visit to the classroom. Carmen was right, there was one young man who really wanted to share the word "expired" with us. There was a young woman – a young girl who put up her hand. Her word was chrysalis. Again, four-year-old level, chrysalis. And then that was taken up another notch all the way to the young man who said metamorphosis. So, big things happening at PS 239. On topic first, on topic. Grace?

Question: I have a question about the application process. So when parents apply, are they applying to attend – have their child attend a pre-K program in a specific school, so they apply to the public school option? Does it – do they – and can you only go – if your neighborhood school [inaudible] does that mean you have to wait until there's [inaudible] to apply to the CBO or –

Mayor: So we're going to bring up New York City pre-K wizard, Sophia Pappas, who will explain to you the mechanics.

Sophia Pappas, Executive Director, Office of Early Childhood Education:  So parents –

Mayor: That's going to be the title on your business card.

Pappas: Sure, thank you. So parents, when they apply, can put up to 12 options, public school options. And you can put options in any part of the city. And it's not first-come, first-serve, so at the end of the application deadline we collect all the applications that came in and then parents are matched based on a set of priorities that start with your neighborhood. But you have an opportunity, potentially, to attend other schools outside of that area.

Question: Priority is given to children in that neighborhood, around that neighborhood? So if they all apply, then you're – it's harder –

Pappas: It really depends on what other parents put on their preferences. I think the exciting part now is with even more full-day options, a lot of parents who in the past may have put an option down and not gotten it because there were too-limited a number of full-day seats, now will have a greater opportunity.

Mayor: Let me give a couple of framing points here. That – so, 20,000 full-day seats now, going up to 50,000-plus in September, a 150 percent increase in the availability of full-day pre-K in New York City. Then another jump beyond that to over 70,000. So look at the escalation here that we're putting together. It's going to really change things for so many parents and families. To do that, we started with the resources we had. The seats in the public school buildings, we talked about that weeks ago, about how we solicited from principals information about which schools had seats available. And then we went to community-based organizations, the religious schools, now we're going to work with the charter schools as well. So this is going to be constantly a growth of the available options.

[Buzzer]

Mayor: You cannot leave, even though school is out.

[Laughter]

Mayor: Then we also talked about for the second year, when we go up above 70,000, we're going to take advantage of all of those type of options we talked about already, and in some areas we may be adding additional space, for example a pre-K center, which is when you take kids from a neighborhood that might go to three, four, five different local elementary schools and you have the pre-K for all those schools in one central location. That's something obviously it would take some time to do. But the point is, we're going to keep building this out and building this as we go along. For the first year, of course, we needed space that was readily available right now.

Question: [inaudible] for applying to community-based organizations [inaudible]

Pappas: Families go to each individual one. We really encourage them to visit area CBOs. I think what's so positive about our city is we have so – we have a diverse range of options in community-based organization and public schools. There's a lot that we do  at the department to make sure families know about all of their options – through calls, through mailings, through outreach events. The mayor was at one in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. And so the key here is, parents need to know all the options available. And then for the CBOs, they would go directly to the CBO.

Mayor: And I am emphasizing since we're in the presence of the leader of the city council, we're going to need our friends in the city council to use their outreach capacity – all their district office, their staff and all the events they go to to also let parents know about these opportunities.

Question: [inaudible] website way that parents can find [inaudible] texting mechanism?

Mayor: Info on the telephone, old school. The telephone.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: I don't know what you're talking about.

Question: When there are technological glitches [inaudible] programs that sometimes frustrate the family. [inaudible] website, hearing about 12 ranking choices sounds like a recipe for [inaudible]

Mayor: Well, I'm going to – I'll turn to Sophia and Richard if they – if he wants to jump in too. I think we can safely say this is a much simpler application than the one to which you are referring. And a much simpler process and one that's been in place in previous years, just with a lot fewer options available to parents. But anything you want to add on the efficacy of your website.

Pappas: Sure. So it has been in place. And I don't have the exact number of years for the pre-K, but it has been a tested system, and we learned today – I mean, we uploaded the new options for families, and everything turned out well and now families can go online and they will have their new options available in that same system. And same with the texting. We have used it before, we have been able to reach families, but now we're going to have a lot more families interested because we have so many more options available.

Question: I'm just curious how you will decide which kids can actually get these new seats in the public schools. Like, will it be based on household, like whether or not they are able to afford –

Pappas: So for the public schools, there are a set of priorities starting with kids in their zoned school, the school closest to them, and if they have a sibling in that area. There are no income requirements. This is free universal pre-K. It's really important that we're talking about high-quality pre-K for all children, across all neighborhoods in the city. And you'll see that reflected in the list as well. You've got schools spread across all five boroughs. And so we're really excited to be able to offer that.

Question: [inaudible] what are the priorities? Like, because it's [inaudible] Are you guys targeting? What's the priority? Are they going to be with [inaudible]

Mayor: Let's be clear – and that's a very important question, I appreciate it. We modeled this program on the concept of universality. Because it is about serving every child. It is about providing the highest quality level of education to every child at a point when they're best able to learn. That is the power of early childhood education. Kids at the age of four have a special ability to learn. That is something we need to happen on a society-wide basis. So this is truly universal. This is for everyone. And the underlying theory also is, it is not just something that in that moment helps a given child or family, or makes that individual child's educational trajectory better. It will affect the whole school system. Every child that gets full-day pre-K is going to go into kindergarten and go into first grade in a better position to learn. That is going to up the level in the classroom for everyone. This is a really, really important point. The best thing that can happen for our schools is to help everyone rise up because the – the conversation in the classroom, just like we saw earlier today, every child is helping in effect to teach every other child. Every child is answering a question. Every child is energetic about learning. It's affecting the overall dynamic. So that's why we want this to be truly universal. In the first year – again about a 150 percent increase in capacity. By the second year, literally every child of pre-K age in all of New York City, of every background, will get a seat. Any family that wants a seat will get a full-day seat. That's how the plan works.

Question:  How were these schools chosen? Were they the ones that had seats? Or was there [inaudible] Because every year there's hundreds of full-day pre-K seats in public schools that actually go unfilled, right?

Pappas: So first and foremost, we were looking at quality, right? We wanted to find programs where they could offer high-quality full-day pre-K to children across the city. But as we looked at the evaluation, we also of course had to look at the suitability of space and also community need. So we looked at – you know, when we talk about where the seats are needed. We looked at places where there are big gaps between kids who are enrolled in kindergarten and the existing full-day option. I think the thing about it is because we have such a small number of full-day pre-K seats right now, in most cases across the city, there was a need for hundreds of more seats. So as we were looking at it, of course we looked at making sure that we weren't over-saturating, but we also have a situation where, in most cases, we need more and more full-day.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Yeah, no. I want to make sure we're not doing apples and oranges here, so I'm looking at the chancellor and Sophia in terms of DOE. No, we're talking about in the case of pre-K. We're, you know, again, in some cases using existing school space. That's not a co-location or anything like that. And then the external options that we're taking into account, again, don't go through that kind of process. So this is a very different kind of approach. It's something we're able to do now as is.

Question: [inaudible] within a public school building won't require –

Mayor: This is just adding capacity along the exact same model that we're working with now.

Question: With the change in state law, I'm just wandering how big of a role you think charter schools will play in pre-K? Do you expect most programs that applied to host pre-K will be allowed to do so?

Mayor: Well, you know, I think, given that we're moving right now for September, the reality for a lot of organizations is what they have available now is what they'll put into play, and then there'll be another bite at the apple for the following September. As we know right now, there are charter-affiliated organizations that work with the DOE to provide pre-K. Harlem Children's Zone is an example of that. So the affiliated organizations are in the game right now. They have the opportunity to expand. The charters that are ready to put forward applications right now and have the space, that's a live option now. Again, I think you'll see that play out more in the second year. Oh wait, you got one already? New, on topic. We'll come to you if no one else has on topic. On topic?

Question: [inaudible] because right now the program ends like at 2:30 [inaudible]

Mayor: Right, I think there's – there's a variety of existing programs that do match up, so those obviously will still be available. I think the central reality – well yeah, we understand that's not perfect right now, I agree. But that does exist on a wide scale. But I think what we heard of from parents all over this city is that the worst of all options was just having three hours because they understood that their children weren't getting enough opportunity to learn, and very few parents have the flexibility to match around a three hour system. Now if you have a system that goes a full school day, then there are some options, at least, you can turn to to cover the rest of the time until a parent might come home, or parents may have enough flexibility in their schedule. But, you know, the current reality is – really hasn't been acceptable, both because it's such a bad match for parent schedules, and because it doesn't provide enough of an educational foundation. Okay, last chance on, anyone who is not Grace? Now Grace, okay.

[Laughter]

Mayor: Two categories for reporters – anyone who's not Grace, and Grace.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Well on topic

Question: So right now

Mayor: I saw some mission drift there, okay.

Question: [inaudible] an after school program at the elementary school. Can those pre-K students enroll in that [inaudible] full day.

Chancellor Fariña: It really depends on the individual schools, because some schools have facilities for younger kids, and some don't start until second or third grade. So that's a school by school decision, but I expect in some schools that there are – there'll be a wide program [inaudible] available.

Question: [inaudible] list CBOs that are going to be offering full-day pre-K

Mayor: Survey the room first, [inaudible] you don't need that, though.

Deputy Mayor Buery: So for the community-based organizations, by the end of May we expect to have those decisions out, and so families will be able to begin applying at the end of May and June. And I do want to reiterate something before that I think Sophia talked about briefly. It's important to understand the process – it's a very rigorous process of evaluating these proposals. They involve not only reading the written proposals, doing site visits for those organizations that have had pre-K in the past, evaluating their programs. The DOE is very, very much focused on ensuring that we are – have high-quality programs. So not every application that comes in is going to be funded. We're really looking at organizations that are ready, willing and able to go.

Mayor: On topic? Sure, go ahead.

Question: I was wondering if you're applying to the public schools, do you – should you not apply to the CBO –

Deputy Mayor Buery: Apply, apply, apply, apply, apply

Mayor: Apply a lot.

Deputy Mayor Buery: Apply. That's the answer. Please don't – yes. Please apply. April 23 initially for the public school seats, and then after the CBO seats are announced you'll be able to apply directly to the community-based organizations. We're going to really work hard to make sure we have a system in place that gives parents good information so they know where to go. But no, you should not wait, you should apply.

Mayor: Parents, I can say as a New York City public school parent myself, it is typical, for example, at the high school level, you might apply on multiple tracks – general school options, specialized schools, performing art schools, whatever. It's not unusual in this town that you put in various applications for various things. We want to strongly emphasize, if there's one thing we want to come out of this press conference it's yes, apply for multiple options. And the first wave is the public school buildings themselves, and then apply for the community-based organizations and the other options as they become available. And then parents will start to get responses. And they'll choose based on the responses they get what's the best option for them. I want to thank – we have a representative of – Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. Where is  her – I'm sorry, I knew that. I'm like looking around. Okay, thank you very, very much for being here. We appreciate it and thank you for Nydia's support for this initiative. Off topic?

Question: [inaudible] around at the NYPD, and [inaudible] blame for the Stop and Frisk policy [inaudible] I just want your reaction.

Mayor: Well the Stop and Frisk policy was broken, and it created, in many neighborhoods, a rift between police and community, and it also made the job of the average police officer more difficult. That's an absolutely factual statement. And by the way, I heard that very powerfully from a number of police officers over the last few years who told me off-record. And even some precinct commanders admitted that the fact that there was a tension in many neighborhoods between police and community made it harder for the average officer to do their job, to go out and get the information they need and have the kind of partnership that they wanted to have with the community. By the way, the PBA said this for years. They were very clear publically that they thought the policy was undermining the ability of the average officer to do their job on the grounds. So I just think that's a factually true statement. And now that we have moved away from that broken policy and we've settled the lawsuits and we are changing the dynamics on the ground between police and community, I think the average officer is having a much better experience. I think morale is starting to come back, and I certainly think – Commissioner Bratton has sent a very positive message from the very beginning, both of his respect for the men and women of the NYPD, and for the notion that we have to have a real bond between police and community. As you said, policing has to be respectful, compassionate, and constitutional. And I think that was a very well-received message by New Yorkers and communities all over the city, and by the rank and file officers.

Question: [inaudible] mayor and the chancellor. Did you agree or disagree with the parents who are choosing to opt their children out of the Common Core test. Do you have any [inaudible]

Mayor: I understand their frustration. When my children were participating in high-stakes testing, I saw the same dynamics I think a lot of other parents have seen. The kids feel very nervous, they feel very overwhelmed by the process. We are clear that we're going to do everything in our power to move away from high-stakes testing. We're going to be using multiple measures in every way we can to make evaluations and make decisions. You know, we're moving away from a lot of the sacred cows of the previous administration, like the use of the high-stakes testing to determine a "grade" for a school, which is a process I thought was broken from the beginning. So I think parents are keying into something that's very real in terms of wanting to see a more balanced system. Do you want to add to that?

Chancellor Fariña: I received lots of emails on both sides, and the one thing that I did put out in a letter to the field last week is that we have to respect everyone's opinion, both the parents who chose to send their kids to school because they thought they were ready for the challenge. And I think one of the things we as parents have to do sometimes is acknowledge that there are problems, but at the same time, that if you're ready for those challenges, meeting them, it really makes you feel very good. So I do think that whatever the parents decided to do, as long as everybody was respectful of everyone's opinion, I think was the right way to go.

Question: What is the policy of Madame Chancellor and Mr. Mayor for parents who opted their kids out of that test? And so this may [inaudible] What does that paperwork look like? For kids [inaudible]

Chancellor Fariña: I would say there were two different forks in the road to take. Some parents chose to keep their kids home, and we don't know if everyone who was absent actually was absent because of that. We're getting those statistics today. And then the other fork in the road is to go to school and actually bubble in that they're not taking the test. We won't know that until the end of the month in terms of all the [inaudible] because this test is a more – it's a multiple day test, so we're waiting for that to play out. I called several schools that actually had no opt-outs whatsoever. And there were a handful of schools where there was obviously more of a parent effort to do that. But I – like I said, I think the one thing that parents need to know that a lot of our middle schools still, for example, have admissions procedures. And those admissions procedures sometimes are based on fourth grade tests. And that's still going to be in place. So, you know, parents do have choices to make, but they should be aware that all choices have consequences.

Question: So I'm sorry, did they [inaudible]

Mayor: Functionally, how does it work?

Chancellor Fariña: You know it's like if you were absent over time and you didn't take a make-up test, it's just that you didn't take the test. We will have multiple in schools where students do not take the test, there will be portfolio assessments, which are coming out now, which would be the same way we're going to do multiple measures for promotion, there are multiple assessments.

Mayor: I think, look, we're trying to respect those parents. The fact is we have to – as much as we can in this city, fix what's broken in this area. Meaning I think parents are going to feel different about this when they see us move away from high-stakes testing in all the areas we can. Now you know well, some of this is, of course, federally mandated. Some of this is state mandated. But a certain number of actions were taken by the previous administration that were optional, if you will. That were the choice of New York City to put more weight on high-stakes tests and use them in a lot of other ways more than that which was just mandated by the federal or state government. We're going to roll back a number of those actions. And I think parents who have a concern about high-stakes testing are going to be reassured by that. But I think the chancellor is making an important point. Whatever a parent chooses, it is their right. But they need to understand the consequences of the choice, they need to understand some of the practical reality and make a decision with their eyes wide open about whatever advantages or disadvantages exist. They retain the right, but we do hope that they'll be well-informed as they make the choice.

Question: [inaudible] specialized high schools [inaudible] no black students [inaudible] exam results. What are your thoughts on that and your thoughts in general on specialized high school exam and diversity and in what way – I know you said you were going to look [inaudible]

Mayor: I don't believe in a single test determining admission to a specialized high school. And it's something the chancellor and I have talked about, and we're going to take the actions that we can take as the City of New York to move away from that. And we're going to appeal to Albany for some changes as well. It will take some time. We obviously knew coming in the door that this year's process was already well underway, and it would not be possible to change at this late a date. But the fact is, going forward we're looking to reform that process because it doesn't – you know, the admissions don't represent New York City. And I often say, these schools – and I have a particular vantage point because of Dante's experience at Brooklyn Tech – I can tell you, you know, these kids – I've met so many of the kids at Tech. They are unquestionably the leaders of New York City in the future in every field – in government and business and the arts. These are the people who will make New York City what it's destined to be in the future. And that has to include children from all backgrounds. That's what this city has always been about. We cannot have a dynamic where some of our greatest educational options are only available to people from certain backgrounds. It goes against everything we believe in as New Yorkers. So we're going to work to fix that.

Chancellor Fariña: One of the things we did yesterday is we invited all of the principals of the specialized high schools to a meeting to discuss their opinions on some of the things. And one of the things – And I think Bill should be particularly proud because it's Dante's former school. We're looking to see what we can do to better prepare our middle school kids who might be the right candidates for these schools. And there's a funding – the dream specialized high schools, which actually starts training the middle school kids starting in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade I some subject areas that will help them do better in terms of specialized tests. Last year 48 percent of the kids who were in that program got into a specialized high school. So our goal is to work on this from two points of view also. To better prepare kids – Brooklyn Tech, for example, has started a program affiliated with six middle schools that might be feeder schools for them, where the kids are getting advanced courses after school and during the weekend. So we have a lot of optional ideas for how to make this better without diluting the experience with specialized high schools.

Question: [inaudible] what did you actively do lately [inaudible]

Mayor: Look, it's something we believe in fundamentally. I think the minimum wage needs to be increased. I think it needs to be indexed for inflation going forward. And I think New York City should have a right to make this decision on our own. I think it was clear in the last few weeks that this was not going to be something that would move right away, so we turned our attention to a number of other things – pre-K, after school, homelessness prevention, HIV/AIDS rent cap, and of course the speed cameras, which we're very hopeful of action on in the coming days. But we are going to, on a number of items, continue the agenda right away, and this is going to be one of them. You good? Got any more? All right, thanks everyone.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

(212) 788-2958
In First Wave of UPK Implementation, Mayor de Blasio Announces More Than 4,200 New Full-Day Pre-K Seats Added to Public Schools

More