Our district is home to some of the best teachers and public schools in the city, but we must do more to prepare all our children for the 21st century economy. The benefits of Pre-Kindergarten are well-documented, and I am a strong supporter of preserving and expanding New York’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program. However, available data reveals that our District only hosts approximately 152 UPK seats, which is simply inadequate for a population of more than 150,000 residents. While I support the recently proposed idea of extending Pre-K to 3-year olds, as your Council Member, I will push the Department of Education to first make sure that every neighbiorhood is getting its fair share and that Universal Pre-K for 4-years olds is truly universal.
Keeping children healthy is vitally important for successful futures, and with 20 percent of NYC Kindergarteners facing obesity we need to engage our schools in encouraging healthy lifestyle choices at a young age. I will fight to ban processed junk food in school vending machines, as well as deep-fried foods on campus. We also must engage students in hands-on nutritional education, which is why I support expanded funding of school programs such as the Citywide School Gardens Initiative and after-school cooking programs. Healthy habits start young and can have a lasting effect on our students.
By 2020, 123 million jobs will require a specialized science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) education—but only 50 million Americans will be sufficiently qualified. Two New York City programs offer a solution: STEM Summer in the City and STEM Matters NYC. As with UPK seats, space is limited and enrollment is based on lottery with priority given to students from Title X schools. As Council Member, I will expand access for local students into these programs, helping them become more familiar with STEM career paths and programs and giving them the tools to succeed.
Access to the Internet has now become a necessity for students, but too many families still do not have reliable Internet access at home. The New York Public Library pioneered the Library Hot Spot program which loans broadband hot spots that low-income families can take home but currently every single hot spot is out on loan and will not unavailable until the fall. With demand so clearly outpacing supply, as your Council Member I will work to increase funding and facilitate strategic public-private partnerships to expand this critical program.
Our efforts to reform education should be based on a respect for our schools and our teachers, and driven by a shared commitment to educate every child. Today, most jobs require some form of higher education. To that end, we must explore how to increase the affordability of the City University of New York and the possibility of returning to its original tuition-free model. To prepare our students for higher education, they must get more out of the classroom, from Pre-K to high school. I am fighting to expand access to and guarantee equity of education at all levels – in District 4 and citywide. Because when children have equal opportunities in primary and secondary school, real potential is unleashed.