Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to fire up prekindergarten teachers Tuesday in Brooklyn before the launch of his signature universal pre-K initiative, saying they have the responsibility to lead the state and nation in inspiring 4-year-olds.
"On Sept. 4, you're gonna see the start of some profound changes in this city," he said. "And you are going to be a part of it. You're going to be history-makers. You're going to be change-makers."
De Blasio delivered a keynote speech to about 1,000 teachers at a three-day summer pre-K training institute at Brooklyn College before the school year. About 4,000 teachers are undergoing 18 hours of training, including workshops, in Queens and Brooklyn.
Last year, children in pre-K numbered 20,000, but on Sept. 4 about 50,000 students will be in pre-K, de Blasio said. Space was found in public schools, parochial schools and community-based organizations.
De Blasio secured $300 million in pre-K funding from the state after locking horns with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who did not approve of de Blasio's initial proposal to tax the city's highest earners.
"The pressure's on us to perform and get it right," de Blasio told the auditorium full of teachers.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, a former teacher and principal, also spoke about the high stakes and expectations.
"This is not baby-sitting," she said. "If they come home happy over time, you will have started them on the career path to loving school. And it's really, really important."
Fariña said of young students' first exposure to formal schooling, "I think one of the joys of being in pre-K is the sense that the world is opening to them."