NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced that the city's universal pre-kindergarten plan will be expanding to include all 3-year-old children regardless of family income.
Dubbed "3-K for All," city officials call the plan the most ambitious effort in U.S. history to provide free, full-day, high-quality early childhood education for 3-year-olds.
Building on the success of Pre-K for All, through which the city has more than tripled the number of enrolled 4-year-olds, 3-K for All is part of a broader effort to create a continuum of high-quality early care and education programs for New York City children from birth to 5 years old.
"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. "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."
De Blasio points out that research has found every dollar invested in high-quality early education saves taxpayers as much as $13 long term.
"The research is clear," de Blasio said. "Investment in early childhood education reaps benefits for students, families and communities for years to come."
New York City is starting the path to 3-K for All for fall of 2017, aiming to serve over 11,000 3-year-olds in new and enhanced free, full-day, high-quality seats.
It includes the first year of a two-year expansion to create hundreds of new, free, full-day, high-quality seats in District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville.
By fall of 2018, officials expect to have a seat for every 3-year-old living in those districts who wants one, and they project 1,800 children in those two districts -- triple the number enrolled currently -- will be served.
The plan will also help families enroll in existing seats for 3-year-olds in New York City and provide additional support and enhance quality for more than 11,000 3-year-olds currently enrolled.
By fall of 2020, the city hopes to expand 3-K to at least six additional school districts, for a total of eight districts. Each pair of districts will have a two-year expansion, with the last pair starting in fall of 2020 and having universal access in the fall of 2021.