Pre-K Hits Snags on Charter Schools, State Oversight

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visiting a pre-K class at P.S. 239 (Photo by rob Bennett via Chalkbeat)

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visiting a pre-K class at P.S. 239 (Photo by Rob Bennett via Chalkbeat)

New laws in the state budget make charter schools eligible to offer pre-K for the first time, but charter school administrators are uncertain about how funding for the program and other questions will be addressed, Geoff Decker of Chalkbeat reports.

At issue are how charter schools will get money to pay for pre-K facilities, whether pre-K students will be allowed to skip the admissions lottery to return for kindergarten, and how those pre-K programs will be approved. Those questions were the subject of a meeting last Thursday [April 24] between city officials and charter school leaders at the Department of Education headquarters.

Charter leaders said they need to have some answers soon, because applications to their pre-K program are due back to the city in two weeks or so, as early as May 12.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions, so there was trepidation,” said Kathleen Mone, a member of the board member at Ethical Community Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “But on the other hand, we all want to help these kids as early as we can.”

While the majority of the 53,600 pre-K seats planned for the fall are expected to be offered by community board organizations, charter schools are eager to participate in the process. Mone said that her school, which is co-located in a public school building, would need to get funding for space and for facilities upgrades for pre-K seats, but city officials have not clarified whether or not charter schools would be eligible to receive such assistance.

Another open question is whether students who completed pre-K in a charter school would be entitled to a seat in the school’s kindergarten, which by law is determined through a lottery. If students weren’t allowed to stay with the school automatically, Mone said it would disrupt the school.

In a related article, also by Geoff Decker, Chalkbeat reports that state education officials say they haven’t been given the funds to provide administrative oversight of the new pre-K programs.

As a result, New York City might have to handle much of its own oversight, raising new questions about whether the de Blasio administration can smoothly implement plans to add 30,000 full-day pre-K seats before the start of the next school year.

“New York City has ramped up capacity in order to do that, but this is a very large undertaking in a very complicated sector,” said State Education Commissioner John King.

Click here to read more about concerns about the state’s oversight of the program. To find out more about charter schools and the pre-K program, go to the original Chalkbeat article.

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