Op-ed | Prepare your young learner with 3-K and Pre-K for All

Meisha porter
Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter
NYC Mayoral Photography Unit

As educators, our job is to prepare our students for a successful, productive life, empowered with the skills they need to chase their dreams—and early childhood programs are where it all begins.

That’s why Mayor de Blasio and I are so excited to announce the expansion of 3-K for All to every school district by September, providing 40,000 three-year-olds with free, full-day, high-quality, early childhood education citywide.

These programs are a child’s first step to success throughout the rest of their education and beyond, and I encourage families to explore the 3-K and Pre-K for All options available in their communities and apply. Applications for the 2021–22 school year are open!

As parents and guardians, you know just how quickly our youngest children learn—from birth to age five is a critical period of growth and 90 percent of brain development happens during this time. Our 3-K and Pre-K for All classrooms are full of joy and discovery, and they offer the perfect environment for children to learn to problem-solve, ask questions, and explore the world around them as they grow. In addition, our programs are free or low cost, saving families an average of $10,000 a year on childcare costs.

I remember when the South Bronx’s District 7 was one of the first few districts to offer 3-K for All in 2018 and what it meant for so many families in need to have access to free, full-day, high-quality early childhood education for their children.

I want every family to have that kind of support, and we’ve made so much progress expanding early childhood education in every borough over the last three years. Today, all NYC school districts offer pre-K programs, and there is a free, full-day pre-K seat for every four-year-old child citywide. That means any New York City family with a child born in 2017 can apply to pre-K for the upcoming school year by the new April 19 deadline.

In addition, we are excited to now offer 3-K programs in every school district citywide. All New York City families with children born in 2018 can apply to 3-K for the upcoming school year by the May 28 deadline.

There is a 3-K seat for every three-year-old in school districts 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 19, 23, 27, 31, and 32; and we will offer 3-K seats to as many families as possible in the new districts. Families across the city can still apply to programs in any district, and your child has priority to attend 3-K for All programs in your home district. You can find out your school district by calling 311 or visiting schools.nyc.gov/Find-a-School. Programs in the new districts will be added to the application throughout April and May.

In all school districts, in addition to the free 3-K and Pre-K programs in their communities, families who qualify based on their income and needs also have the opportunity to apply to free or low-cost extended school day and year programs, including Head Start.

Families can apply to 3-K or Pre-K for All for the 2021–22 school year online at MySchools.nyc or over the phone at 718-935-2009. The online application is available in ten languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Korean, Haitian Creole, Bengali, Urdu, and French), and families can submit an application over the phone in over 200 languages. Visit nyc.gov/3k and nyc.gov/prek for more information.

If you are seeking care for your child right now, we encourage you to reach out so we can connect you with a program in your community. Families seeking an open 3-K or pre-K seat for this current school year can call 718-935-2009 or email [email protected] to learn more.

Children who attend 3-K and Pre-K for All programs get a strong start in school and life, and as incoming Schools Chancellor these are the kinds of opportunities I want to build on and create for our students so they can dare to dream and learn. No matter the circumstances, we are here to provide children across New York City with a safe, nurturing learning community each and every day.

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