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New York City Plans to Expand Preschool to 3-Year-Olds

34245950295_dc5da482b5_z.jpgNew York City, which in three years expanded its prekindergarten program to serve all the city's 4-year-olds, now plans to offer a universal program for 3-year-olds—and it expects that the state and the federal government will contribute money to make that happen. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said that the program plans to start by serving 3-year-olds in the South Bronx and in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville, two of the city's lowest-income areas. The program will continue expanding based on neighborhood districts until universal access is achieved by 2021.

"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," de Blasio said an an event rolling out the plan. "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." 

New York City was able to ramp up its universal prekindergarten program at lightning speed: Starting in 2013-14, the city converted half-day seats to full-day, created new prekindergarten centers around the city, and partnered with community-based organizations to offer more seats. Currently, nearly 70,000 full-day prekindergarten slots exist. 

That effort came with a lot of support from the state, which allotted $1.5 billion over five years for prekindergarten expansion, most of which went to New York City. For this latest program, the New York Times said de Blasio plans to put $36 million in next year's budget and would spend $177 million annually on the program when it's fully enrolled. But the program will cost much more than that. "We will build a coalition to put together whatever state and federal resources we need to bring this to full fruition," the mayor told the Times. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York School Chancellor Carmen Fariña, announce a new program which will bring preschool to 3 year-old children in the city, starting with children in two low-income neighborhoods.—Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

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