Key Coverage

New York Mayor Fights for Universally Free Pre-K

There was Pre-K For All, arguably first among Mayor Bill de Blasio’s accomplishments. When he came into office in 2014, there were 20,000 free, full-day pre-k seats in New York City. Today, that number is 70,000. At a time of gridlock in Washington, de Blasio has quickly created a new entitlement in the nation’s largest city: an extension of the K-12 school system into an additional year of free, academically rigorous public education and childcare. It is available to every New York 4-year-old, whether their parents are living in a homeless shelter or working at a hedge fund. The program is so popular that suburban legislators have demanded state funding to provide their constituents with the same benefit.

Hillary Clinton has made the needs of families with young children central to her presidential campaign, citing de Blasio’s Pre-K For All as a model initiative. Nationally, somewhere between a third and half of American 4-year-olds are not enrolled in preschool, and polls show 70 percent of Americans would support the federal government making a large investment in early education. De Blasio’s Pre-K For All is the biggest and boldest recent model for how to do that. And yet, some policy experts believe it isn’t the right one.