2003-08-13 / Political Page

Avella Hopes Private Pre-K Programs Will Be Reinstated

Avella Hopes Private Pre-K Programs Will Be Reinstated

Avella Hopes Private Pre-K Programs Will Be Reinstated

City Councilmember Tony Avella, who held a rally last Tuesday to try to save private pre-kindergarten programs in Flushing, is scheduled to meet this week with Department of Education (DOE) officials to press his campaign with them.

Recently, the Education Department cancelled nine private pre-K programs, all in Flushing. Avella wondered why only these programs were cut. "As far as I can figure out," he said, "these contract cancellations are happening only in School District 25. Why are we being penalized?"

The rally to rescind the Education Department action was held last Wednesday jointly with Assemblymember Barry Grodenchik (D–Flushing) and a group called Community Based Organizations (CBO), made up of private pre-K program operators.

Some sources say that if the DOE does not relent on the contract withdrawals and must assign children from the cancelled pre-K programs to public school facilities, they may have to bus some of the children to some of the schools.

Avella said this would be unacceptable. He also expressed concern about working parents of pre-K students, who depend on the full-day schedule offered by the private programs.

Grodenchik said, "Any plan that proposes anything less than a full day of pre-K is unacceptable." Children who reside in District 25, he added, "are entitled to know that they will receive the same Universal pe-K that everyone in the state receives."

Lenore Rappaport, director of the Bayside Kindergarten and Nursery, emphasized that working parents would be hurt the most by the Universal pre-K programs in city schools. Now parents receive two and a half hours of free day care in the private programs. If the city takes over the programs, parents would have to find other means of day care, Rappaport said.

Another private program operator, Meryl Kalensky, director of the International Nursery School, stated, "The Department of Education’s disregard of a contract signed in good faith will cause a hardship to the families and nursery schools in this community."

Avella concluded, "We have an ongoing dialogue with the Department of Education. I am hopeful that we can resolve these issues before the school year starts so our children can benefit from Universal pre-K programs."—John Toscano

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