NYC Pre-K in Yeshivos Up Sharply From Last Year

NEW YORK -

Participation in New York City’s pre-kindergarten program among yeshivos rose sharply from last year, according to figures made available exclusively to Hamodia on Tuesday.

According to an official in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, yeshivos throughout the five boroughs, but mainly in Brooklyn and Queens, have seen a more than 50 percent jump in full-day slots for free schooling for four-year-olds.

The numbers were released a couple of months into the second year of the program, which was de Blasio’s signature campaign issue during his 2013 election. The Democrat has committed to supplying 53,000 slots for last year, an amount which was supposed to increase by 20,000 in the present school year.

De Blasio has been counting on the Orthodox community’s approximately 9,000 eligible four-year-olds to get him over the 73,000 number. According to the administration official, full-day slots have increased by 54 percent since last year — or from 2,061 children to 3,137 this year.

The numbers are significant since it means that more than a third of eligible Orthodox children are enrolled in the full-day program. This was made possible by the mayor accommodating yeshivos, such as allowing make-up periods for Fridays and Yamim Tovim.

The mayor’s office also embarked on an intense outreach effort to get yeshivos and parents to sign up for the program. De Blasio said in an emailed statement to Hamodia that the rise shows the program “works.”

“Our vision for high-quality, universal full day pre-K includes every community,” de Blasio said. “We reached out and worked hard to build a program that works for diverse providers and diverse families, while maintaining our high standards. These enrollment increases show this program works, and we will keep working with providers to go even farther in the years ahead.”

Every slot is worth between $8,500 and $10,000, funded by a $300 million contribution from the state.

Sites specific to the Orthodox community which were approved went up from 51 last year to 78 this year. These include yeshivos, Jewish day schools and Orthodox early childhood education providers.

Yeshivos had been hesitant to latch onto the pre-K program, both because of its strict separation of religion and state and because of the difficulty complying with the six hours and 20 minutes required.

The numbers released Tuesday indicate that most yeshivos are agreeable to the regulatory changes made. The city’s half-day program — which is only two and a half hours a day — went down in Orthodox areas by 12 percent since last year, from 2,210 to 1,945. Sites approved also went down, from 50 to 40, mostly because they switched from half day to full day.

The official said that the vast majority of Orthodox sites that applied were approved. Two were denied after failing quality control testing.