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Allocation of NYC Pre-K Seats by Ethnicity
Source: U.S. Department of Education civil rights data 2011

These pie charts show that whites make up fewer than 15 percent of the student population in New York City’s public schools, but they took nearly 18 percent of the city’s limited and coveted pre-kindergarten slots in the 2011-12 school year, the most recent year that data was available. That’s according to an interactive civil rights database released by the U.S. Department of Education on March 21, 2014.

Asians also took a larger share of pre-k seats than their school population would suggest. Meanwhile, both blacks and Hispanics seem to be on the short end of the stick. Blacks account for more than 28 percent of the public school population, but secured fewer than one quarter of the roughly 23,000 public school seats for four-year-olds. Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of the school system, but received fewer than 38 percent of the pre-k slots.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to expand the school system to offer public pre-k slots to every child in the city. To win a seat in the current allocation system, parents must register online or in person. A lottery then allocates the limited seats available, but the lottery is not random. Younger siblings of current students are slotted first. Geography matters too. Families who live within the school zone of a particular pre-k program are prioritized.

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Could New York’s Pre-k plan pit politics and posturing above kids?

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