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Biden Address Preview: Mayor de Blasio Applauds President's Plan to Make NYC's Pre-K for all National

April 28, 2021

NEW YORK— Ahead of President Biden’s first address to a Joint Session of Congress tonight, Mayor Bill de Blasio today applauded the President’s American Families Plan, which includes a national universal early education plan based on New York City’s Pre-K and 3-K for All programs.  

“New York City led the way in establishing free Pre-K for All, and just this week announced universal free 3-K for All. Access to free, high-quality early education  transformed the lives of working families across the five boroughs, providing countless children with an invaluable head start in school and life. I am thrilled to see President Biden take what we’ve accomplished in New York City and build on it with a nationwide approach. Communities across the country will feel the invaluable impact of universal early education,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

As Mayor, Bill de Blasio has fought for and prioritized early childhood education for every child:

Leading the Nation

New York City is leading the nation in making early childhood education accessible for all. In January 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his commitment to implement universal pre-kindergarten, which would provide access to free, full-day, high-quality pre-kindergarten to every four-year-old, regardless of family income. At that time, approximately 19,000 students were enrolled in full-day pre-K in the city. Within two years, 68,000 children, more than triple the number of four-year-olds, were enrolled in the program thanks to this historic initiative.

By fall 2015, there was a free, full-day pre-K seat for every four-year-old citywide, and parents with children enrolled in the program save an average of $10,000 annually on childcare costs. In addition, the expansion focused not only on increasing access, but also on investing in quality instruction and family engagement.

Pre-K for All utilizes a mixed-delivery model in which families can choose from programs in district schools, DOE-run Pre-K Centers, and community-based centers, all held to and supported to achieve the same quality standards. Programs receive: 

  • On-site support provided by a dedicated staff of Instructional Coordinators and Social Workers, with differentiated supports based on community and program needs
  • Professional learning sessions for leaders and teachers
  • Interdisciplinary Instructional Units grounded in the New York State Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core
  • Family Engagement supports, including resources on social-emotional development, extending learning into the home, and successful transitions into and out of pre-K
  • Operations analysts focused on administrative supports, like budgeting and contracts.

The City’s historic commitment to achieve pay parity for certified early childhood education teachers will become reality by October 2021. Achieving a pathway to pay parity between early childhood educators in community-based organizations and those working in district schools completes the promise made by the Mayor and City Council to the provider community during summer 2019, as part of agreements with District Council 37, the Day Care Council of New York, and the Head Start Sponsoring Board Council, as well as a commitment to non-represented teachers. Certified teachers saw phased-in wage increases beginning in October 2019. Non-certified teachers and support staff have also seen increases in compensation.

Positive Outcomes

State tests show we are closing the achievement gap. The 2019 NYS 3rd Grade Test reflects the first year that test takers attended Pre-K for All, and the White-Black and White-Hispanic achievement gaps were narrower for students who attended pre-K compared to peers. In 2019 State test scores, the White-Black Gap was 5.3 percentage points narrower in ELA and 6.8 percentage points narrower in math for Pre-K for All students compared to the gap among students who did not attend Pre-K for All. The White Hispanic Gap was 6.0 percentage points narrower in ELA and 6.5 percentage points narrower in math for Pre-K for All students compared to the gap among students who did not attend Pre-K for All.

Pre-K for All succeeds on national evaluations. We have seen growth in program quality across our system over time, especially where we have concentrated our supports. Certain site quality assessment scores in districts with high populations of students with high economic need have been increasing over time, and at greater rates than citywide increases. 

  • Citywide increases: The City celebrated the results of two different national program assessment tools in 2020 that showed the vast majority of pre-K programs are demonstrating predictors of positive outcomes, meaning children are more likely to demonstrate reading, math, language, and social skills, such as being independent, understanding shapes, and using expanded vocabulary. On the ECERS-R, 95 percent of evaluated City programs met or exceeded the threshold that predicts positive outcomes, a 7 percentage point increase from when programs were evaluated in 2016-17. On CLASS, 99.8 percent of sites with scores met at least one of three thresholds for positive student outcomes, representing a 0.8 percentage point increase from 2016-17. 

Families across all demographics believe in the program. Our annual family survey reflects strong enthusiasm for Pre-K and 3-K for All citywide. In 2019, 98 percent of families felt good about the way their child’s teacher helped their child adjust to pre-K or 3-K; 95 percent of families felt their child’s teacher gave them helpful ideas on how to support their child’s learning; and 95 percent of families felt their child’s teacher let them know that they can make a difference in their child’s learning. 

Families receive direct outreach and are matched to programs of their choice. From its inception, a core feature of Pre-K for All has been a dedicated team of Outreach Specialists who canvas the city and contact families directly to spread awareness of the program and help families enroll. Families can easily apply to pre-K programs through a single application as part of the DOE’s centralized enrollment system, online in 10 languages and over the phone in 200+ languages. DOE also utilizes citywide marketing campaigns to encourage families to apply and share messages about the value of early childhood education. In 2020, a record 77 percent of families received an offer to their top choice free, full-day, high-quality pre-K program, up from 75 percent in 2019. A record 90 percent of families received an offer to one of their top three choices, up from 88 percent in 2019.

3-K for All and the Birth to Five System

Building on the success of Pre-K for All, Mayor de Blasio announced the 3-K for All initiative in 2017, with the goal of providing all families with two years of free, full-day, high-quality preschool. Currently offered in 12 community school districts, the City recently announced the expansion of 3-K for All to every school district this fall, providing 40,000 three-year-olds with free, full-day, high-quality, early childhood education citywide and achieving universal access by September 2023.

When launching 3-K for All, the Mayor also announced that the DOE would oversee a stronger, more unified birth-to-five system of early care and education. In 2019, the EarlyLearn system of contracted care for children from six weeks through four years old in income-eligible families transitioned from the City’s child welfare agency, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), to management by the DOE. On July 1, 2021, DOE will begin new contracts with all contracted early childhood providers that offer more seamless access for families, higher pay and an enhanced funding model for programs, and greater opportunities for socioeconomic and racial integration in classrooms.  

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