New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that the city intended to expand its free, city-wide preschool program to all three year olds.
Kate Taylor in The New York Times explains that New York would be one of the few cities in the country to expand pre-K access to 3-year-olds, and that the city would expect to enroll upwards of 60,000 kids per year in the program. As a point of comparison, Taylor notes that Washington, DC has universal pre-k for 3-year-olds, but that it enrolls only 5,700 kids.
One of the challenges to implementing what de Blasio is calling 3-K for All is financial in nature. The mayor noted that the plan is expected to cost more than $1 billion, though he claimed that this was only an early estimate of its total cost.
According to Christine Veiga in Chalkbeat, “the city plans to contribute $177 million, on top of $200 million already being spent by the Administration for Children’s Services. The remaining $700 million would come from state and federal sources.”
One other significant challenge is scaling up the infrastructure of the program. Kate Taylor notes that “while close to 70,000 children are enrolled in the city’s program for 4-year-olds, there are currently just 11,000 publicly financed seats for 3-year-olds in early childhood centers, and they are available only to families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $49,200 for a family of four.”
The mayor expects the program to be rolled out over four years, unlike the program for 4-year-olds, which was implemented over the course of two years.
Taylor also explains that “the program would start in two of the city’s lowest-income school districts, District 7 in the Bronx and District 23 in Brooklyn, and offer a seat to every 3-year-old in those districts by the fall of 2018. The city would expand the program to an additional six districts, still to be chosen, by the fall of 2020 and to all districts by 2021.”
The city’s prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds was recently cited by The Ash Center For Democratic Governance at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as one of the “Top 25 Innovations in American Government” in the past year. The program is one of the center’s seven finalists for the $100,000 grand prize which will be announced on May 17.
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