Moskowitz, De Blasio Duke It Out Over Pre-K Funding For CBOs

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Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of Success Academy charter schools, accused Mayor Bill de Blasio in an open letter on Monday of underfunding preschool programs at community-based organizations while showing preferential treatment to district schools.

Eva Moskowitz
Mayor Bill de Blasio

“Success Academy regularly visits pre-K programs run by community-based organizations, who advise us that the funding they receive is completely inadequate: a measly $9,846 per child, just a third of the whopping $30,130 per child that the City spends on its own programs,” said Moskowitz in the letter, which was released on Feb. 5.

She believes the underfunding comes at the cost of the children, the faculty and the community organizations that provide the space for the preschool programs, according to Moskowitz.

In the letter, she listed eight of some of the schools that she claimed to be severely underfunded, including the Little Sunshine Preschool, 1815 85th Street in Bensonhurst.

“My biggest worry now is attracting and retaining quality teachers, and it’s so hard because, compared to what public schools can offer them, there’s absolutely nothing we can do,” said Little Sunshine Preschool Founder Brian Wong.

Wong says that funding is so scarce for Little Sunshine he had to turn to Craigslist and Indeed.com to hire teachers.

“We are just a first stop for teachers on their way to careers at more established public schools,” said Keisha Flores, the Little Sunshine educational director. “So even if we find someone who is really qualified, you just can’t feel secure that they’ll stay beyond a year. Their main focus is getting to a public school with all the benefits and supports.”

De Blasio’s camp fired back that the funding for district school students are being inflated while the operational costs for CBOs were not reflected in the analysis.

“This is a flawed and disingenuous analysis of Pre-K for All, which has been nationally recognized for its high quality and relies on our community-based providers,” said Department of Education Spokesperson Doug Cohen. “It attributes programs like College Access for All and busing as ‘per-pupil pre-K spending’ — even though these programs don’t impact pre-K. It doesn’t count special education, instructional coaching, and social workers that we provide to community-based pre-K programs, and ignores details like how meals are funded separately at private pre-K providers.”

Left out of the analysis was that CBOs receive federal funding for meals, and have a separate contract for special education services, according to Cohen. District schoolteachers also have collectively bargained contracts, which is something that CBO staff lacks.

Also, district school funding goes towards facility costs, while CBOs are making use of multi-space building within churches or community centers, therefore having lower costs, according to Cohen.

“Pre-K funding is based on a detailed analysis of the specific needs of each program, and we’ll keep working with all our providers so they have the appropriate funding to provide high-quality programs,” he said.

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