Preschool classroom (197992)
Preschool classroom Credit: Wikipedia

Building on universal pre-K, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced 3-K for All: an effort to provide universal pre-K for every 3-year-old regardless of family income.

“The research is clear—investment in early childhood education reaps benefits for students, families and communities for years to come,” said de Blasio in a statement. “Using the successful model we developed for Pre-K for All, we are doubling down with free, full-day, high-quality 3-K for All for our 3-year-olds. This extra year of education will provide our children with a level of academic and social development that they cannot get later on, while at the same time, alleviating some of the strain New York City’s working families face today.”

During a speech Monday, the mayor said 3-K for All would start in September at District 23 in Brooklyn and District 7 in the Bronx. De Blasio said in those districts all 3-year-old children whose parents want them to have seats in pre-K would have placement by September 2018. Expansion would continue up until 2021, when the city projects that the entire city would have 3-K available. By that time, city officials believe the cost of this expansion would total $177 million.

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the mayor’s expansion for pre-K to 3-year-old children is a must to get a head start on learning.

“In free, full-day, high-quality 3-K, our students will build their vocabulary, a love of learning and start to develop the social and behavioral habits they need to succeed in pre-K and kindergarten,” stated Fariña. “It’s an essential step in building Equity and Excellence for All across the five boroughs, and we are hitting the ground running with the lessons that we’ve learned from the Pre-K for All expansion.”

According to the city, as with Pre-K for All, the Department of Education will use data to provide differentiated support to 3-K for All programs using instructional coaches and social workers as support. The same outreach team the city used to reach out to families and help them enroll their children in pre-K will work on the outreach for 3-K for All.

“All of the research shows that the early years of a child’s life are the most formative when it comes to education,” said New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams in a statement. “This program will make it simpler, especially for low-income parents, to get a head start in introducing education to their children and preparing them for their academic career. This type of universal approach is essential to all of our programs for those who need it the most, particularly in the era of Trump.”

Other local elected officials praised de Blasio for this announcement.

“The UPK program has been a runaway success, making the city’s schools stronger and child care easier for countless families,” said New York Council Member Mark Levine in a statement. “Expanding UPK to include 3-year-olds means more kids will be on a path to success at a younger age, while saving their families up to $10,000 annually in child care costs. I look forward to working with the mayor’s administration to bring ‘3-K for All’ in to the Upper Manhattan Community.”

“The Independent Democratic Conference was the driving force behind funding Universal pre-K for every 4-year-old in New York City, and we’ve seen the tremendous success of this program,” said Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in a statement. “In New York State we have already begun the efforts to expand UPK to 3-year-olds and I look forward to being a partner with New York City to achieve 3-K for All, so that learning can begin at an even a younger age, ensuring greater success during a child’s academic career.”

De Blasio’s expansion of pre-K received praise from national figures as well.

“Mayor de Blasio’s decision to expand early childhood education for young New Yorkers is a game-changer in the fight to close the achievement gap,” political commentator and activist Van Jones said in a statement. “I applaud him for his commitment to this issue. This initiative will help build a better future for our children—I hope other communities will take note.”

“Today’s announcement proves that working moms in New York have found a champion in Mayor de Blasio,” stated actress and Brooklyn native Alyssa Milano. “Most importantly, this expansion gives all children a chance to succeed.”