Mayor Bill de Blasio joined a phone drive at the Brooklyn Public Library on Sunday to recruit families to sign their children up for new pre-kindergarten programs.
The mayor and his wife, Chirlane McCray, first hobnobbed with families signing up their children in person in the library’s lobby, then joined a group of phone-bankers who were reaching out to families of young children who had not yet signed up.
Here’s de Blasio’s half of the call he made, via a report prepared for reporters by the New York Times, which was selected by the de Blasio administration to cover the event:
“Hi, is Natasha there?”
“Natasha, it’s Bill de Blasio. How are you?”
“I’m doing great, I’m doing great.”
“Oh, thank you very, very much. Thank you for giving me a job.”
“You’re a sweetheart, thank you. Hey, calling you about enrolling your child in pre-K.”
“Well, we’re really excited. We are working hard to get a full day pre-K plan approved by Albany, and I’m here at the Brooklyn Public Library today, and we’ve got a bunch of volunteers here signing people up.”
He explained that he was working on expanding full-day pre-kindergarten this fall for 30,000 more children than get it now and that the deadline for applying had been extended until April 23. He told her she could sign up online or visit one of the Department of Education offices, or come to the library before 4:30 on Sunday.
He paused as she asked a question.
“It depends on availability, but if we get the funding that we are working for we’re going to be more than doubling the amount of available slots and so there’s going to be a lot more full day pre-K available,” he said. “So people who are interested should apply because there’s going to be a much, much greater supply.”
He listened again.
“Excellent, that’s why we are expanding the program, because so many parents were frustrated that they wanted pre-K and they couldn’t get it,” he said. “So we’re building out, first, this year, if we get the funding from Albany we’re going to go to about 53,000 seats this year by September. Then it’s going to be 73,000 by the following year. That means literally every child of pre-K age, by the following year, every pre-K child gets full day pre-K. That’s how our plan works. But because there’s going to so much more available this September, it’s important that you apply. And I want to give you a phone number, too, where you can get more information if you need it. Do you have a pen there? 718-935-2009.”
“Alright, so sign up soon, and what’s your child’s name?”
“Jeremiah. Excellent. Well, I know he’s going to do great in pre-K.”
There was a pause, as apparently Natasha put Jeremiah on the phone, too.
“Hello, can you hear me, guys?” Mr. de Blasio said. “Hi, how’re you doing over there?”
“I love it. Well, tell Jeremiah we’re going to get pre-K ready for him. Hello, there! Well, thank you, really appreciate that. Alright, I’ll talk to you soon. You be well. Take care.”
The rapid expansion of pre-K availability, which de Blasio has made his signature issue, requires tens of thousands of families who might otherwise not have chosen or been accepted to public pre-K to enroll.