City Adds More Than 10,000 Pre-K Seats, Streamlining Application Process
QUEENS VILLAGE — More than 10,000 new free full-day pre-K seats are coming to early childhood centers this fall, and it will be even easier than ever before for families to apply, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.
Instead of having to fill out separate forms when visiting each community-based organization (CBO) pre-K program, families will be able to fill out a single application online starting June 3. Families will also still be able to apply directly to individual CBOs.
“The CBO process was never unified in past. So, we had to jump in,” de Blasio said at the A to Z Center, a CBO in Queens Village, which will add 54 full-day UPK seats to the 20 seats it already offers. Now, there’s “a single application that can be used for any site," de Blasio said.
With the addition of the 10,400 seats de Blasio announced Friday, the city is on track to offer a total of 53,000 universal pre-K seats this fall, officials said.
Jasmin Farrier, a mother of three, whose youngest daughter, London, is 3 years old, said she initially planned to enroll her daughter at her local public school’s pre-K program, which was only offering a half-day — or 2.5-hour — program. When she learned this week that the A to Z Center had openings for its full-day program — for 6 hours and 20 minutes a day — she signed London up there instead.
“As soon as I heard there were available seats for full-day, I rushed over, and the process was seamless: One, two, three and I was done,” said Farrier, of St. Albans, who toured the school and observed the teachers.
Some parents have been concerned about the quality of the education offered at CBOs, which paid their teachers less than public school teachers. That’s a main reason the de Blasio administration upped the salary of UPK teachers at community-based organizations.
City officials said they set a high bar for centers applying to become part of the expanded UPK program, accepting roughly 60 percent of them.
“We had to have some hard conversations with some [organizations],” de Blasio said.
The city targeted the new seats to high-need areas, placing more than 5,400 of them in low-income communities. Areas like Flushing and Jamaica will get more than 500 new seats apiece, officials said.
While thousands of spots are still available at CBO pre-K programs, the deadline for applying to public school pre-K programs has already passed, and families will find out on June 5 if they have been accepted.
Parent coordinators at public schools will help families that do not win a spot to explore their other options, including applying to CBO pre-K programs, de Blasio said.
The list of new pre-K programs is available at nyc.gov/prek. Parents are encouraged to apply for seats in CBOs before June 26.
Additional seats will continue to be made available in public schools and CBOs throughout the summer.