A shortage of classrooms has forced the Board of Education (BOE) to slow the growth in prekindergarten enrollment for 2000/01. Even the current enrollment target will be difficult to achieve, however, because BOE is still thousands of seats short. As a result, the city may lose a portion of the prekindergarten aid available from New York State for the upcoming school year.
BOE offers two major programs for four-year-olds: state-funded universal prekindergarten which is still being phased in, and the longer-standing SuperStart/SuperStart Plus which is funded with a mix of federal, state, and local sources. To maximize next year's state grant for universal prekindergarten the Board must add 19,000 seats to the program by the fall. Lacking classrooms for the growing program, BOE is shifting 3,400 SuperStart seats to universal prekindergarten and counting them towards the needed increase.
During the 1999/00 school year, BOE enrolled 25,000 four-year-olds in universal prekindergarten including roughly 10,000 housed in BOE facilities and 15,000 in Community-Based Organizations (CBOs). BOE also served 9,000 four-year-olds in SuperStart/SuperStart Plus last year, at a cost of $66.8 million. BOE now plans to serve fewer than 6,000 SuperStart/SuperStart Plus pupils at a cost of $54.3 million in 2000/01. Twelve million dollars in federal Title I funds will be shifted from these prekindergarten programs to services for students in low-performing schools.
The state grant to BOE for universal prekindergarten is increasing from $66.8 million in 1999/00 to as much as $146.5 million in 2000/01. In order to receive the full $146.5 million, BOE must enroll 44,000 students in universal prekindergarten, nearly 19,000 more than last year.
The Board appears likely to fall short of this goal. As of June 15th, BOE had added just over 10,000 seats-7,000 in CBOs and 3,400 from SuperStart. The additional CBO seats bring the total under contract with private and nonprofit providers to 22,000. BOE expects to fill a portion of the remaining gap by approving contracts for additional seats before school opens.
The space crunch will be exacerbated in 2001/02 when the universal prekindergarten is scheduled to expand further. A November 1999 IBO report, Implementing Universal Prekindergarten in New York City, discussed the challenge facing BOE of finding sufficient classroom space for prekindergarten while simultaneously trying to ease overcrowding and reduce class size in grades K-3.
For more information, contact Robert Weiner, Senior Budget and Policy Analyst, at (212) 442-0332.