Op-Ed | The DOE must stop blocking opportunities for pre-K children

Pre-k shoot at P.S. 188 on Monday November 30, 2016. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

It’s not easy living in the Bronx, and these past two years have made it even harder. Our community is under-resourced, overburdened, and still reeling from the damage that the pandemic has caused to our health and our children. 

As a mother of two young kids in the South Bronx, I’m not just aware of these challenges—I live with them every single day. 

So when I heard the news that my son, Sharieff, had gotten a Kindergarten seat at our dream school, I was overcome with joy. But it wasn’t long before that joy turned into devastation, when I found out that the Department of Education denied my daughter Savanna the opportunity to attend pre-K at the same school as my son. 

Instead of celebrating my son’s admission, I was forced to answer a question that any parent would dread: “Mommy, am I going to the new school with Sharieff too?”

It didn’t just happen to me. Right now, the City is denying pre-K seats to dozens of other siblings at Zeta South Bronx Elementary School. Together, we’re standing up to say enough is enough. Pre-K for all isn’t really for all if it means forcing families like ours to split our kids apart in order to find them the best education possible. Mayor Adams was elected on a promise of fixing the broken bureaucracy that has failed students for decades, and he has a chance to live up to that promise today by reversing the DOE’s disastrous decision. 

Like most moms, I want my kids to have the opportunities that I never had, starting with a good education. As a case manager for people struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, I know all too well how important education is to opportunity and success. From the onset, I made an effort to enroll my two children into schools as soon as possible so they could get on the right path and begin learning and developing skills at an early age. 

My kids—5-year-old Sharieff and 3-year-old Savanna—are joined at the hip. They start new adventures together, go to their grandparents’ house together, and do everything together. That’s why when it was time to enroll my kids for the 2022-23 school year, I intentionally chose an elementary school in my neighborhood that offers pre-kindergarten so both of my kids could learn together. 

I chose to enroll my kids at Zeta South Bronx for another reason. In my neighborhood, nearly 94% of students are living in poverty, and students’ performance on state assessments are consistently scored near the bottom of all other state counties. There simply aren’t enough good education options for our kids. So when the lottery for charter schools opened up, I immediately applied to give my kids access to a high-quality, state-of-the-art school that they deserve. A school that offers strong academics, social-emotional learning, and innovative extracurriculars like Taekwondo to help them grow.

It is infuriating that the DOE is denying my daughter the opportunity to learn and thrive at the same school as my son. It is completely arbitrary and unfair that the DOE is splitting up my kids and doing the same to dozens of other brothers and sisters in the Bronx. All we want is the chance to send our kids to the excellent schools our children deserve. Why does the City have to make things so hard for parents? 

It is time for Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks to step in and help dozens of kids in the Bronx get a seat at their siblings’ school. Our children’s future is in their hands.