Doctors Council SEIU Testimony in Support of Resolution on Universal Pre-K and After-School Plan

For Immediate Release
February 11, 2014

I would like to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, members of the New York City Council’s Education and Women’s Issues Committees and all of the other City Council members for convening this joint hearing to move this important resolution forward before the full City Council.

We also applaud Mayor de Blasio’s plan to provide every four-year-old with high-quality full-day prekindergarten (pre-k) and every middle school student with high-quality after-school programs.

I am Dr. Frank Proscia, President of Doctors Council SEIU. We are a union for doctors and voice for patients. We represent doctors throughout the country, including in New York City hospitals and importantly here to this issue, in the Department of Education and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Our members work in the Office of School Health and everyday see children in the schools of our City.

Doctors Council SEIU fully supports the City’s plan to implement a universal pre-K program and after school program for all middle schoolers, for a number of reasons.

The first five years of a child’s life are the most critical time of growth and learning. In fact, 85% of a child’s brain develops by age five.

The positive, compounding effects of a quality pre-K education cannot be understated. Interventions in early childhood lead to a lifetime of gains and break the cycle of inequality that prevails in the lives of so many children and their families.

Numerous studies have found that strong preschool education programs can meaningfully enhance early learning and development and thereby produce long-term improvements in school success and social behavior that generate benefits to individuals and the broader society far exceeding costs.

Often the school setting is the first environment where the medical, dental or special needs of a child is observed or learned. This creates an opportunity to not only identify these issues but for early intervention. This can lead to a healthier child who can have a better experience learning as well as socially.

When children receive good care, a nutritious diet, and learning opportunities during the child’s earliest years, children have a better chance to grow up healthy, to do well in school, and to reach their highest potential.

This is especially important in New York, where our public schools educate thousands of economically disadvantaged students from diverse, working families in which parents are often not afforded the luxury of time to provide in home early learning for their children.

A recently released study from Stanford University suggests achievement gaps begin as early as 18 months. Then at 2 years old, there‚Äôs a six-month achievement gap. By age 5, it can be a two-year gap. That’s why universal pre-k, while not a catch-all solution, is a critical investment in ensuring that all of our City’s children have the opportunity to succeed academically.

Similarly, research shows that students who participate in after-school programs are less likely to become involved in crime or experiment with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or sex.

In addition, students who participate in extracurricular activities tend to have higher academic achievement, a greater attachment to school, and lower truancy and dropout rates.

Doctors Council SEIU urges these Committees to move the Resolution forward to the full City Council for speedy passage, and ultimately for the State Legislature to fund these worthy programs.


About Doctors Council SEIU

Doctors Council SEIU, a professional organization for doctors, is the nation’s oldest and largest union of attending physicians and dentists in the United States, with members in New York City, and in states across the country. Formed in 1973, Doctors Council SEIU is a union for doctors and a voice for patients, and represents attending physicians and dentists at Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) facilities and hospitals, including doctors employed by the affiliates New York University School of Medicine, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Physician Affiliate Group of New York (PAGNY). HHC is the largest public hospital system in the nation. Doctors Council SEIU also represents doctors in the New York City Mayoral agencies including the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) as well as doctors working at Rikers Island, the largest correctional facility in the nation. Affiliated with SEIU, Doctors Council SEIU is a national union representing doctors employed in the public and private sectors.

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