This from DNAinfo.com by Leslie Albrecht and Julie Shapiro:
The race is on for public pre-K seats.
Parents whose children turn 4 this year can begin applying to Manhattan's dozens of free pre-K programs March 7. But they will likely face big competition for the seats, as in past years several schools have received hundreds more applications than they can accommodate.
"The demand is definitely higher than the supply," said Shino Tanikawa, a SoHo parent and education activist. "We've had to eliminate pre-K programs in so many schools because of overcrowding."
The Department of Education uses a complex system of priorities to allot the coveted slots, which include half-day and full-day programs. First priority goes to younger siblings of current students in the school, then to children who live in the school's zone, then to those who live in the school's district and finally to those who live in its borough.
Many of the most popular schools often nearly fill up just with siblings of current students. While parents can list up to 12 choices on their application, they are not guaranteed to receive a seat in any of them.
For parents who live in areas with especially crowded schools, it might be worth looking at programs in Harlem, where at least 10 programs boast a 50 percent acceptance rate or better. And some programs, like the pre-K at P.S. 200 in Hamilton Heights, even had extra spaces available last year.
For the 2010-2011 year, the Manhattan school that received the most applications was P.S. 9 on the Upper West Side, which got 538 requests for just 36 seats. P.S. 87, also on the Upper West Side, boasted the lowest admissions rate — just 4 percent of the children who applied won a spot, making it harder to get into than Harvard.
Other pre-K options include free programs at community-based organizations, which each have their own admissions process, and paid programs at private schools, which often cost tens of thousands of dollars per year.
Parents sometimes apply to a pre-K program thinking it will better their child's chances at getting a seat in the school's kindergarten, but that is a misconception, said Terri Decker, an educational adviser at Smart City Kids, a service for parents going through the schools admission process.
"Parents should know that even if you lottery into the pre-K, it doesn't guarantee you a seat at the kindergarten," Decker said.
Click here to read more and to look at the Pre-K situation by neighborhood.