In the push to extend mayoral control of schools, de Blasio highlights new pre-K dual language programs

New York City will open 47 new dual-language programs for pre-K students, an announcement that Mayor Bill de Blasio used as an opportunity to push for another extension of his control over the school system.

Included in the expansion are the city’s first dual-language pre-K programs in French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, and Hebrew. They build on classes already available in languages including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Bengali. Applications for the city’s free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds opened Monday.

In dual language programs, children are taught in both English and another language, and enrollment is typically split between native speakers of each language. The approach can boost learning for non-native speakers and is often seen as a potent integration tool since many white, middle class families seek out such programs.  

“This is how we embrace diversity, we reflect our communities, and we prepare our future global citizens,” said Chancellor Richard Carranza. 

The additions are just the latest in a rapid expansion of dual language programs under the de Blasio administration. Officials have pointed to the growing number of offerings to highlight the city’s support of immigrants — even as the national rhetoric to the contrary grows. But the new classes also spring, at least partially, from state pressure to improve academic outcomes for students who are learning English as a new language.  

This year, the expansion served yet another purpose: for de Blasio and his supporters to call for another extension of mayoral control over the country’s largest school system. State legislators have only granted de Blasio short-term renewals of his sway over the school system — but with a new Democratic majority now in the state Senate, a longer-term extension could be on the table. That’s not guaranteed, however, since some new lawmakers have been critical of the current system.

De Blasio used the rapid rollout of the city’s pre-K program as evidence of mayoral control’s success, saying, “it’s so important that we continue mayoral control of education so we can keep making this kind of progress.”

On Wednesday, the Hispanic Federation used the expansion of dual language programs to call for support of mayoral control, as the New York Daily News first reported.

In an emailed statement, federation President José Calderón called the new programs “a testament to the importance of mayoral control. It is an incredible gift of education and multi-language acquisition for our children and their families that will strengthen communities across our city for generations to come.”