Make Preschool Universal for Three-Year-Olds
by John C. Liu
Jul 17, 2013 | 10489 views | 0 0 comments | 573 573 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Our kids need to start school prepared, which makes preschool and pre-kindergarten more vital than ever. Yet, a new study by our office shows that New York City faces a gaping $4 billion deficit in early childhood investments. It’s time to do right by our kids and prioritize early education and make it truly universal – starting at age three.

While many three year olds already attend preschool, our research shows that more than 200,000 children – including many from low-income families – are not participating in early-learn programs. Not only do all three year olds deserve the chance to hit the ground running as soon as they start kindergarten, but investments in early childhood education can reap outsized returns.

Investing early saves money down the road, by cutting down on the need for remedial tutoring later and making kids less likely to fall behind and drop out. It helps ensure that our kids are on the right track to go to college, and New York City needs more college graduates if we want to stay competitive. Indeed, disparities in early childhood education could ultimately threaten the long-term health and stability of the city’s economy.

Our study, “The $4 Billion Deficit: Ratcheting Up Investment in Early Childhood Education,” offers a blueprint for closing the gap and making sure that all students get the support they need to reach their potential.

An initial $1 billion investment would create universal pre-school for three-year-olds. The programs would be paid for by closing corporate loopholes, such as charging insurance companies the general corporate tax, having private-equity firms pay the unincorporated business tax for carried interest, and raising the commercial real-estate tax.

These and other revenue generating ideas are outlined in our “People’s Budget NYC,” which seeks to reframe how the city assembles its budget in order to put people and their needs before those of corporations.

Other steps include fully funding pre-kindergarten so that every New York City four-year-old can attend; expanding the Nurse-Family Partnership program to all low-income, first-time mothers; and creating an Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning that would improve interagency cooperation and better align resources and efforts.

Right now, parents and students aren’t at the center of City Hall’s thinking about education – and they should be. Instead of forcing parents and preschool providers to fight over limited slots, the city must better prioritize early childhood education and make it truly universal.

John C. Liu is the comptroller of the City of New York.

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