New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Letter to New York City Department of Education Requesting Additional 3k to Manhattan

3K Letter from Council Member Ben Kallos


Bill de Blasio, Mayor, City Hall, New York, NY 10007
Meisha Porter, Chancellor Department of Education Tweed, 52 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007
Nina Kubota, President School Construction Authority 30-30 Thomson Avenue Queens, NY 11101 

Dear Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Porter, and President Kubota, 

We are now less than 3 weeks away from the May 28 deadline for parents to apply for 3-K, and  there are too few 3-K options for School District 2, which covers much of Manhattan. In order to  take on this immediate crisis, please (1) direct public schools to make space available, (2) lease  and build out new pre-kindergarten centers to accommodate 3 and 4-year-olds, and (3) open  contracts for expansions by existing providers and applications from new providers. 

We have a long history of working together to find and secure providers and spaces to  accommodate the need for pre-kindergarten on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. After  seven years of fighting for universal free pre-kindergarten to serve three and four-year-olds on  the Upper East Side, I am grateful for the expansion to every neighborhood in the city for the  2021–22 school year. At the announcement, I noted our partnership, and the need to work  together to find new seats. However, since then, despite work on the part of my office, we have  not received any information as to your progress, or any sign of the same level of cooperation  we’ve had in the past that successfully secured more seats for our children. 


3K Map

We are less than three weeks away from the May 28 deadline for parents to apply for 3-K, and there are only  36 providers in School District 2, which runs from the  southern tip of Manhattan to East 100th Street. There  are no providers below 23rd street or on Roosevelt Island, and only one on the Upper East Side. There are  2,966 four-year-olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten in   District 2 as of the 2019 – 2020 school year, which should provide a reasonable expectation for the seat need we will have for three-year-olds.

Direct Public Schools to Make Space Available for 3-K 

Declining enrollment in our public schools during the pandemic offers an opportunity to fill  these seats with three-year-olds.  

This school year saw a 4% decline in enrollment, a loss of 43,000 students, with pre-kindergarten  down 13% and kindergarten down 9%, across the city. Neighborhoods in Manhattan were among  the hardest hit by families leaving the city during the pandemic, leading to elementary schools in  

District 2 losing students at a higher-than-average number, according to Chalkbeat. Two  elementary schools in District 2 lost more than 20% of their enrollment: P.S. 234 lost 171  students (-26.76%) and P.S. 89 lost 104 students (-23.11%). On the Upper East Side, P.S. 158  Bayard Taylor lost 130 students (-16.19%) and P.S. 290 Manhattan New School lost 101  students (-17.50%). Upper East Side elementary schools and K–8 lost a combined total of 543  students. Although we might expect some of these students to return, a portion of these 543 seats  could accommodate 3-K and could meet half the neighborhood’s need for this September. 

Many of these schools have shared concerns that existing pre-kindergarten seats were  underfunded, and that public health guidance during the pandemic has been inconsistent and changed from day to day with little warning from the Department of Education, including  changes relating to the 6-foot rule, 3-foot rule, meals, and indoor spaces. These concerns have left public schools reticent to welcome a new 3-K program. 

To address these concerns, the Mayor and Chancellor must increase funding for 3 and 4-year-old  students in public schools, expand funding to cover overhead, and provide immediate clear and  consistent guidance on reopening this coming school year. Furthermore, the Mayor and  Chancellor must mandate that public schools that have seen declines in enrollment accept new 3- K classes on at least a temporary basis until enrollment is stabilizes. 

Lease and Build Out New Pre-Kindergarten Centers to Accommodate 3 and 4-year-olds 

The Department of Education and the School Construction Authority can and must fill large  empty storefronts with pre-kindergarten centers. 

New York City faced a blight of empty storefronts even before the pandemic. Ever-rising rents  have even begun forcing out national chains and big box stores, leading the Center for Urban  Future to begin studying the phenomenon more than a decade ago. While many chains have a  small footprint, some have very large footprints that can accommodate pre-kindergarten centers  including Duane Reade which closed 64 locations, Rite Aid which closed 10 locations, and many  others. 

On the Upper East Side, we’ve built out three new pre-kindergarten centers. One was built as  part of new construction, another was added to a building that already contained a public school,  and the last involved the conversion of a former garage to a new school. We’ve proven the model  works here and all over the city.

Our office has submitted multiple large vacant storefronts, from all over the neighborhood, but  we have not received updates from the Department of Education and the School Construction  Authority. Please provide an immediate response for the locations provided and a list of other  sites in consideration. 

The time is now to fill our vacant storefronts and build out the infrastructure our city’s working  families need in order to care for their children. 

Open Contracts for Expansions by Existing Providers and Applications from New Providers 

Our community-based organizations that are both non-profit and for-profit can help us address  immediate and long term need for 3-K. The Department of Education must immediately open  contracts for existing providers to expand, and new providers to join the free pre-kindergarten  program. 

Many community-based providers who already offer free pre-kindergarten in partnership with  the Department of Education have multiple locations. Often, each location is structured as its  own corporation to limit liability, despite common ownership and operations. The Department of  Education has taken the position that these providers cannot add seats from additional locations.  This must be immediately corrected. Existing providers should be able to add additional seats at  any locations under common ownership or operations. We need the seats now. 

There are many community-based providers who never participated in universal pre kindergarten, in part because of a low reimbursement rate per student and a failure by the  Department of Education to account for overhead costs, such as the high cost of rent in  Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio recently announced full funding for indirect rates for city contracted non-profits. In a similar vein, community-based providers should be able to submit  CPA-certified financials to demonstrate overhead costs, such as Manhattan rent. The Department  of Education should provide additional funding to cover the share of rent devoted to these  programs and increase per-student funding. 

Without enough seats in our public schools and our existing community-based providers, the  Department of Education must immediately open the contracting process for new providers with  an expedited timeline to open by September. 

Between filling seats in existing public schools, leasing vacant storefronts, expanding seats with  existing providers and adding new providers, we have a shot at getting the 3-K seats we need for  this September, but we must act now. 


Ben Kallos 

Council Member 
District 5


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