While the mayor successfully has enrolled just as many pre-kindergartners as he said he would, his staff is not open to discussing how much more the program might cost the city than originally planned. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed this report.
Months ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to enroll 53,000 four-year-olds in full-day pre-kindergarten classes this year.
"We said from the beginning, our goal was to get passed 53,000," de Blasio said.
Now, he says he's met that goal, plus some.
"53,230 in seats as we speak," he said.
It's a major victory, by any count, but when it comes to the details of how they reached that number, City Hall officials are not answering some basic questions.
For instance, the state deadline for enrollment was October 1, but at the last minute, the city decided to keep enrolling students until November.
What's not clear is whether the state will pay for any of the students enrolled after September—up to $10,000 per student.
State officials say they are working with the city—but the city says it will pay, if need be.
That number could be as high as $17 million.
"Our commitment though is whatever seats the state is not able to reimburse, the city is prepared," said Deputy Mayor Richard Buery.
So how many students are we talking about? City officials refuse to say. We've asked, repeatedly, for weeks. When asked during the mayor's press conference last week, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery even said he would provide that information.
"We can get you the final breakdown," Buery said.
Afterwards, though, staff at the Department of Education and at City Hall still refused to say how many students had enrolled after October 1. Instead, we got a series of statements dancing around the actual question.
At one point, a City Hall spokesman wrote: "As the state reworks its reimbursement system, we’ll determine the extent to which the city contributes to any October enrollments.”
Another unanswered question concerns the number of pre-k classes with unfilled seats. In previous years, the city would close classes that were dramatically under-enrolled, but officials told us they would not be doing that this year. Since the state pays the city back on a per-student basis, classes with just a few students could cost the city considerably more.
The city's Independent Budget Office says these are the type of questions it will look into over the next few month, once the mayor's office is required to release data in January as part of the budget process.