KID REPORTERS’ NOTEBOOK

New York City Expands Early Education

Christina prepares to talk with a local news anchor in New York City  about the upcoming mayoral election.
Christina prepares to talk with a local news anchor in New York City  about the upcoming mayoral election.

Christina prepares to talk with a local news anchor in New York City about the upcoming mayoral election.

On November 7, New York City will hold a mayoral election. The current mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, is running for his second four-year term. He is facing off against Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who represents Staten Island, and Bo Dietl, a former detective who is running as an independent. According to recent polls, de Blasio is a heavy favorite in the race.

In recent weeks, I’ve talked with voters in the Bronx, where I live, about the issues. Many have expressed concerns about the lack of affordable housing, unequal opportunities in education, and a rise in homelessness.

Several voters also said that they support Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to expand educational opportunities for children between the ages of 4 and 5. Earlier this year, de Blasio further expanded the program to include 3-year-olds.

According to recent brain research, young children benefit from reading aloud, socializing with others, and being exposed to art and music programs. Children who attend quality preschool programs, studies show, are likely to have better outcomes later in life.

Because the city’s public schools have limited space, community centers, Catholic schools, and other private programs have worked with the mayor to provide additional educational settings for children.

Preschool children learn about healthy eating. Studies show that a quality education early in life offers lasting benefits.

Preschool children learn about healthy eating. Studies show that a quality education early in life offers lasting benefits.

IMPROVING BASIC SKILLS

Recently, I spoke with Marc Silva about preschool expansion. Silva is the principal of my school, St. Francis of Assisi in the Bronx. Our Catholic school is providing preschool opportunities as part of the city’s initiative.

Silva applauded the mayor’s efforts to partner with religious and community groups to help serve as many children as possible. Preschoolers at St. Francis are now “learning math, science, social studies, language, and literacy,”  Silva said. Kids are also reaching such developmental milestones as creating structures with building blocks and drawing letters and shapes.

Chris Burford, whose daughter attended preschool, said that she benefited from an early enrichment program. “She became a better reader, speller, and counter,” Burford said.

Despite the progress in expanding educational opportunities, much work remains to be done. In New York City, more than 30 percent of four-year-olds are not yet enrolled in a publicly funded preschool. Critics say that the quality in many programs needs to be improved, especially for children in low-income areas.

Will Mayor de Blasio get more time to bring improvements to the city’s educational system, or will one of his opponents get a chance? Voters will decide on November 7. 

Top photo: Suzanne McCabe; bottom photo: Seattle Parks