InsideSchools Director Clara Hemphill has co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times in which she outlines the achievements and shortfalls of New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio’s program “Pre-K for All” which promises universal Pre-K to over 70,000 4-year-olds in NYC.
While overall access to Pre-K is improving under this program for children of different socioeconomic backgrounds, there is a lack of integration. Even in neighborhoods that are economically mixed, children from different economic backgrounds are separated. This is certainly not the intention of the program, rather, it is a result of the “cobbling together [of[ different funding sources and different types of preschools” and thus, reinforcing barriers that keep rich and poor children apart.
Clara sites research which indicates that poor children do better academically when they study alongside children with higher economic status. This positive effect comes without compromising the academic experience of any of the children, poor or rich. The op-ed points out that there are instances of “blended classrooms” that integrate poor and rich children, such as Park Slope North-Helen Owen Carey Child Development Center in Brooklyn. However, in order to achieve this, the school received less funding from the Department of Education who demanded that ” subsidized children had to be in separate Pre-K classrooms in the 2014-15 school year”.
Hemphill calls the city to enable blended funding, to offer more Pre-K classes in public schools in economically mixed neighborhoods, both of which will capitalize on the rapid increase in Pre-K enrollment is, surely a huge achievement.