Mayor Bill de Blasio may not know how much money the city is going to get for universal pre-K, but he is trying to show New Yorkers, as well as state lawmakers, that he is ready to rapidly expand the program. Meanwhile, the charter school group bankrolling attack ads against the mayor is disclosing some of its spending. Grace Rauh filed the following report.
As Albany lawmakers negotiate the state budget – and the fate of Mayor de Blasio's pre-K expansion plan – city officials are moving ahead with efforts to staff the program so that 54,000 students can be enrolled in full-day pre-K in September.
“We are putting each and every piece of our plan in place now so that we’re ready when the funding is approved in Albany. As we have made clear, the classroom space is there, it’s ready, the teachers are ready. New York City is ready to make history,” de Blasio said Tuesday.
The exact level of funding the city is going to get, though, remains to be seen.
“We are getting closer to a number, but it is just a number, Bill, in that it will depend on what the actual need is,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The city intends to hire 1,000 new pre-K teachers for this fall and another 1,000 for the following year. They say applications are already up by more than 50 percent.
Despite the interest the city says it is already getting from prospective pre-kindergarten teachers, they plan to launch an aggressive recruitment campaign as well. There will be ads in the subway this spring trying to encourage people to apply to teach pre-K in the five boroughs. And the mayor says the city is planning to recruit potential teachers from across the country as well.
The mayor appears eager to talk about pre-K after focusing for two days on improving his relationship with some charter school advocates who have been fighting with his administration.
“I was pleased to see a change in tone and rhetoric. I think that’s very, very encouraging,” said Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools.
A prominent pro-charter school group, Families for Excellent Schools, has spent $3.6 million on pro-charter ads this year, many of them attacking de Blasio directly.
The group says it spent $115,000 on lobbying in January and February, according to a state lobbying filing it provided NY1.