Greenfield: Don’t Miss Out on UPK, Enroll Your Child Today


david-greenfieldBrooklyn, NY – Councilman David G. Greenfield urges all parents with children turning age four in 2014 to take advantage of the expanded free Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) programs being offered by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in local yeshivas and other community organizations this upcoming school year. Parents must apply for a spot before the June 26th enrollment deadline.

UPK is a free early education program available to all children in New York City who turn four years old in 2014. The program is offered either as a half-day (two hours and 30 minutes) or full-day (six hours and 20 minutes). Half-day programs may take place in the morning or afternoon. UPK is offered at public schools but also at community based early childhood centers, such as yeshivas. Yeshivas across Borough Park and Flatbush have been offering limited UPK programs for years. This upcoming school year will bring more available seats to these neighborhoods than ever before.

Expanding New York City’s UPK programs was a key goal for Mayor de Blasio upon taking office this January. Before the program’s roll out, Councilman Greenfield worked closely with the mayor to ensure that the unique needs of the yeshiva community were met. The DOE is working to put the 300 million dollars the state government allocated to expanding UPK into action, creating programs for children at both public schools and other educational institutions such as yeshivas. Now is the time for parents to take advantage of this expanded opportunity for childcare and education.

“The benefits children receive when enrolled in early education programs are immeasurable. Universal Pre-Kindergarten provides the opportunity for children to develop and strengthen the educational foundations needed to succeed in upcoming school years,” said Councilman David G. Greenfield, “I strongly urge every parent to take advantage of this program for their children’s future and apply today.”

The open enrollment period for UPK will end on Thursday, June 26th. Parents can continue to enroll their children until programs are full, but those who enroll by this date will be more likely to receive their first choice placement. Most UPK providers admit students on a first-come, first-served basis, and some programs do reserve seats for children already enrolled at the centers as three-year-olds. Local organizations with open enrollment include Yeled V’Yalda located at 1257 38th Street.

Parents may find a full and current list of centers that offer UPK by calling 311 and providing their zip codes or street address or online at Once parents have chosen a UPK provider they can apply for placement online at For more information or questions on how to enroll parents may call 311 or contact an Early Childhood Education Field Office. The Brooklyn/Staten Island office contact is: Chris McKay at 718-643-1173 x 82239, or Carol Berg at 718-643-1173,

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  1. I think that yeshivas and day schools should sue the City, arguing that recent Supreme Court cases clarify that government simply cannot impose the sorts of rules on religious organizations that it can on non-religious speakers, at least not when they conduct core internal affairs like conducting worship services or teaching children. In general, when government spends money on speech it makes the speech it’s own and has the right to control it’s content. But The very recent Town of Greece case makes clear that this just isn’t true when religious speakers are involved doing core religious activities. The core lesson of Town of Greece is that Government can’t control religious speech or even to have any say in its content. Just because the government pays the speaker doesn’t make the speech the government’s. Rules regarding government speech just don’t apt.

    The second piece in the chain is the recent Hosannah-Tabor case, which holds that operating a parochial school is, just like prayer, a core religious activity.

    Put together the two and the Supreme Court has moved much closer to the rule articulated by the 7th Circuit that government cannot control the internal affairs of a church. It can’t appropriate a church or it’s message and make it it’s own.

    The City’s rules were put in place before Hosanna-Tabor and Town of Greece were decided. They based on an assumption that when government subsidizes religious speech the speech is the government’s – exactly the position Town of Greece overruled.

    As Hosannah-Tabor held, The speech that teachers in a parochial school make to its children is inherently religious in character and is inherently infused with the religion’s doctrines and character.

    Government may, if it wishes, subsidize the speech if not inconsistent with government interests. But the speech remains the church’s. It does not become the government’s. And government’s degree of involvment is limited to ensuring its own money is spent on secular purposes. It can have no say in how the organization spends it’s.

    Many aspects of the City’s rules go way beyond controlling the expenditure of City funds and go to limit the way a religious organization can spend its own funds or the kind of speech it’s own speakers can make.

    The City misunderstands the fundamental role of the Establishment Clause after Town of Greece. It’s primary purpose is not to keep religion and religious speakers out of government. It is to keep government and government speech out of religion. The rules do the exact opposite of what legitimate rules should do. Legitimate rules would ensure that the government program does not does not spend government money on religion, but does so in a way does not unconstitutionally interfere with the religious organization’s running its own program or teaching religion as it sees fit, and does not require a religious organization to establish the government’s religious message as it’s own.

  2. As but one example of many, the City’s rules purport to prohibit a parachial school that uses City funds from conducting instruction in a room with religious symbols. This goes far beyond the constitutionally-appropriate task of ensuring that City funds are not spent on religious symbols, and appropriately separating the City and its funds from the religion and its message. Rather, it purports to use city funds as leverage to control what the parochial school does with its own funds and symbols, commandeering its religious message and requiring that it match the City-established one as a condition of using its funds. This leveraging of City funds for control purposes is what the Establishment Clause prohibits.

    Government can leverage all it wants with a secular organization, requiring such an organization to toe its own line and give its own message as a condition for receiving funds. But the Establishment Clause makes religion different. It sharply limits the kind of strings government is permitted to attach when it spends it’s money. Government appropriately requires a religious organization to use its own funds to convey its religious methods. But it cannot do so in a way that interferes with how the religious organization, spending its own funds, conducts it’s own internal affairs like operating its worship services and parochial schools. The parochial schools and their messages are at all times the religions, not the government’s. Government can assist, and it can require that funds used for different purposes be segregated and accounted for. But it cannot leverage its fund to commandeer or control what happens on the religious organization’s side of the segregation line.