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Competition for pre-K seats promises to be fierce

Competition for pre-K seats promises to be fierce
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

Queens public schools will have 216 more free, pre-kindergarten seats available next year, and if the demand for this year’s seats is any indication, there will still be more than four applications for every open slot across the borough.

Monday marked the beginning of the city Department of Education’s application period for one of 5,900 pre-K seats at 131 public schools for the 2013-14 school year.

Only about 38 percent of the city’s pre-K seats are at public schools, with the rest at community-based organizations, which each have their own application processes.

Universal pre-K is free and parents can apply to send their 4-year-old to any program in the city, although the DOE does not provide transportation.

Parents can choose and rank several programs they are interested in, but the process is not first come, first serve.

The DOE gives preference first to students who already have siblings in a school building and then to students in the school’s zone. If there are more applications than available seats, the department will hold a lottery.

During last year’s application period, there were an average of 4.6 applications for every available school-based seat across the borough — second only to Manhattan — and competition should remain stiff at some of the most sought-after programs.

No new seats will be added next year at the top four most-competitive pre-K schools: PS 101 in Forest Hills, PS 28 in Corona, PS 242 in Flushing and PS 97 in Woodhaven. There were 384 applications last year for just 18 seats at PS 101, good for a 4.7 percent chance of getting in.

If the demand for pre-K spots remains the same as last year, the borough’s 216 new seats will make for 4.4 applications for every open slot.

District 24 as a whole had the tightest competition last year, with an average of about seven applications for every seat, and it will receive about 80 percent of the new seats next year.

PS 88 in Ridgewood, where last year there were close to 13 applicants for every open seat, will receive the most new seats. None of the 72 new seats at the program, however, are full-day. The seats are split between 2 1/2-hour sessions in the morning and afternoon.

In fact, about half of the borough’s seats are half-days, and city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio released a report calling for higher taxes on the rich to fund more full-time seats.

“The shortage of high-quality, full-time pre-K seats is hurting thousands of families in every borough,” said de Blasio, who is running for mayor. “We can’t continue to be a city where only a fraction of our kids has access to early education and where working parents have to roll the dice every year and hope they’re lucky enough to secure a seat. It’s 2013, and it’s time for truly universal pre-K in New York City.”

De Blasio said a tax increase of 3.86 percent to 4.3 percent on those earning more than $500,000 would yield $532 million in new revenue, enough to close the gap of nearly 50,000 children who receive either part-time pre-K or no pre-K at all.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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