NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a major expansion of free early childhood education in the city, expanding pre-k schooling to three-year-olds.

As WCBS-880’s Rich Lamb reported, pre-k for three-year-olds will start in September in the South Bronx and eastern Brooklyn, and will be citywide by 2021, with a price tag of $1-billion.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, money and space are major concerns as city hall attempts to roll out the program.

“A three-year-old is a sponge. They pick up everything, so why not have them in the best place where the stuff that they’re picking up is the right stuff,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said.

The ‘3-K For All’ program will begin with over 11,000 students — the program will open to two new districts every year, until being installed citywide in 2021.

Farina said the ability to share, cooperate, collaborate, and critical thinking will be fostered.

“It’s an essential step in building Equity and Excellence for All across the five boroughs, and we are hitting the ground running with the lessons that we’ve learned from the Pre-K for All expansion,” Farina said.

Carla Torres said the program made a big difference for her daughter Bella.

“Before pre-k Bella was shy, before pre-k it was hard teaching her things. Now that she’s in pre-k she’s confident. Now that she’s in pre-k Bella knows the alphabet,” she said.

The mayor admitted that space limitations and cost could make the program difficult to bring together.

The city will spend $177-million to expand it to eight of the thirty-two districts by 2012, but will need another $700-million in state and federal funds to offer it to an estimated 62,000 three-year-old citywide.

The mayor learned his lesson about how to get money from Albany. Last time lawmakers slapped him down for demanding a tax on millionaires to pay for pre-k.

“If the folks in Albany say, ‘we’re ready to fund this,’ that’s a great option. If they want to talk about a taxation scheme, we’re open to that,” he said.

The mayor did have another Albany headache to deal with on Monday — the approval of an extension of mayoral control of schools.

The state senate wants the mayor to agree to building more charter schools in exchange for the extension. He said mayoral control should be considered separately.

The program is part of the mayor’s ‘equity and excellence for all’ agenda. The de Blasio administration’s goal is to have a high school graduation rate of 80 percent by 2026 with two-thirds of graduates college ready.

 

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