Qualifying for UPK: Will de Blasio Accomodate Orthodox Jewish Schools

by Sarina Trangle

February 19, 2015

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration on Wednesday outlined how it is seeking to make universal pre-kindergarten more inclusive, but one Orthodox Jewish group called the plan “cosmetic” and contends that it does not accommodate Jewish schools.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, who is charged with overseeing the city’s universal pre-K expansion, wrote in a memo published on JPUpdates.com that the city Department of Education has made a number of changes it believes will make the program a more viable option for more families and providers. Next fall, pre-K providers would be able to count secular instruction on any day of the week and federal holidays toward the mandatory weekly total of 31 hours and 40 minutes, Buery wrote. Providers would also be permitted to take short breaks for prayer or other purposes, which would be excluded from the secular education hour-count.

But Orthodox Union Advocacy-Teach NYS, which represents an estimated 8,000 students in New York City Yeshiva and Jewish day school pre-K programs, maintains that most of its communities’ early education centers would not be able to participate in the mayor’s signature program, according to its director of state political affairs, Maury Litwack.

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