Boston is set to invest $20 million in early education via the universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) program, the city mayor announced Wednesday.
According to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, the budget will provide additional support for community-based classrooms by adding nearly 1,000 seats for 3 and 4-year-olds at child care facilities as well as integrating family child care providers into the UPK system.
With the funding, the program will now offer as many as 992 seats (627 seats for 4-year-olds and 365 seats for 3-year-olds) at community-based providers. Upon implementation, it will be the second year in a row that the city has increased the number of seats for the students in the age range.
In a statement, Wu said the initiative marks the next step in providing free child care in the city.
“The greatest investment we can make in our future is to support and center our young people,” said Wu. “With this historic investment in early childhood education, we can kickstart an increase in high-quality Pre-K seats, bring family child care providers into the UPK network, and ensure all of our families have access to free and accessible early child care and education.”
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In February, Wu unveiled the Office of Early Childhood, which includes the improvements to universal pre-kindergarten as one of its priorities.
In addition to granting more access to the city’s UPK program, the funding will also increase developmental and behavioral health screenings, student support interventions and coaching in the city. It will also help cover the cost of training and technical help in childcare centers and open up opportunities for classroom staff.
The allotted budget will be sourced from the Boston Public Schools budget and the city’s Quality Pre-K Fund.
Allowing family child care providers to join the UPK system is expected to provide more flexible hours to families in the program.
Details of Boston’s family child care UPK program will be reviewed and prepared by city officials in partnership with 20 family child care providers.
Wu stated that funding will now be distributed per classroom instead of the previous per-student formula.
Boston residents with students aged 3 or 4 can now apply for Boston UPK at community-based providers for the upcoming school year on or before Sept. 1 on a rolling basis.