After nearly five months since New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to release a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the City’s half-day Universal Pre-K (UPK) program, OU Advocacy-Teach NYS, the nonpartisan public policy arm of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, has expressed its disappointment in the continued delay from City Hall regarding this key program for the City’s Jewish day school and yeshiva community.
The half-day UPK program has historically been a viable option for New York City’s Jewish day schools and yeshivas. Many schools have contracts that are expiring at the end of this school year, however, and will not be able to continue to participate in the half-day program without the RFP.
Mayor de Blasio promised in early December 2014 and again in February that an RFP for the half-day program would be released. Despite the end of the school year looming, no information has been presented by the mayor’s office, leaving those schools reliant on this program-and the parents-with nothing.
“We are disappointed that the Mayor would treat this program, as well as the students and parents, in such a cavalier manner. We call on the administration to release the long-promised RFP for the half-day UPK program so that schools that rely on this program can begin to prepare for next year,” said Maury Litwack, Director of State Political Affairs for the Orthodox Union.
“Our Jewish day schools and yeshivas that participate in the City’s half-day UPK program are now in a very precarious position. With no information as to whether or not they’ll have funding for the half-day UPK program next year, these schools are ‘out in the cold’ and cannot plan nor budget appropriately for the upcoming school year,” said Jake Adler, New York Director of Policy for the Orthodox Union.
“The Mayor’s silence also has negative academic implications for our children, since schools cannot set class sizes, rehire teachers or approve curriculum until they know whether or not the half-day UPK program will exist,” Adler added.
Together with its coalition of New York City Jewish day schools and yeshivas, OU Advocacy-Teach NYS has asked the Mayor repeatedly to make the requirements of the full-day UPK program more flexible and to expand the slots available for the half-day UPK program, in order for the Mayor to realize his vision of universal pre-K education for every child in New York City.
“We urge all of New York City’s Jewish day schools and yeshivas to voice their frustration about the half-day UPK program directly with the Mayor’s office,” said Litwack.