Last week Mayor Michelle Wu announced an expansion of Boston’s Universal Pre-K program to 992 total seats, which will greatly benefit working families in the Back Bay, Fenway, South End, Chinatown and beyond.
The $20 million investment in early education through Boston’s Universal Pre-K (UPK) program was done in partnership between BPS and the Office of Early Childhood.
Wu said this investment builds her Administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all infants, toddlers, and children under five.
According to Wu, through this new investment, Boston will expand support for community-based classrooms, increase the number of seats available to 3 and 4-year-olds for the upcoming school year, and begin integrating family child care providers into the UPK system.
Local partner sites in the area include Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion, Inc. (IBA) on Tremont Street in the South End, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center on Ash Street in Chinatown, the Ellis Early Learning Center on Berkeley Street in the South End, the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard YMCA on Fenwood Road in Fenway and the Wang YMCA on Oak Street in Chinatown.
“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 childcare and education.”
Boston UPK is now accepting applications for Pre-K seats at community-based providers for the 2022-2023 school year on a rolling basis. Eligible students must be Boston residents and must turn three or four years old on or before September 1, 2022. More information on the Boston UPK program and the application can be found at www.bostonpublicschools.org/upk. A list of the current community providers can be found at https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/upk-sites. Additional providers may be added in the coming weeks for the 2022-23 school year.
In addition to expanding access, Boston UPK will increase developmental and behavioral health screenings, student support interventions, culturally relevant and challenging curriculum, and coaching to improve quality in classrooms.
“UPK makes it possible to pay excellent teachers a competitive salary, have regular, supportive coaching, and invest in our classrooms continually,” said Chief Executive Officer at Ellis Early Learning Lauren Cook. “Our teachers appreciate the high-quality curriculum and are proud to be part of the UPK community. Our students are thriving, and parents are thrilled with our partnership with BPS. Our UPK classrooms set the bar internally and elevate our organization. We couldn’t be happier or more grateful to partner with BPS in this vital work.”
This upcoming school year, Boston UPK will also launch a new per-classroom funding formula, replacing a per-student formula, to ensure high quality learning environments for students. The new funding formula and rate will provide financial and operational stability to child care providers, empower them to implement high quality programming, and ensure teachers at community sites receive pay commensurate with staff in district-run schools.
“Providing per-classroom instead of per-child funding will provide stability for child care providers who have been greatly impacted by COVID,” said Director of the Office of Early Childhood Kristin McSwain. “It will also allow many of them to extend their service hours beyond the required 6.5 to better meet the needs of working families.”
Boston UPK will also expand to include family child care providers, increasing the options available to prospective families. Family child care providers offer families more flexible hours, multilingual or mixed-age settings, and sometimes more affordable services. Over the course of the next school year, BPS and the Office of Early Childhood will partner with 20 family child care providers, members of the UPK Advisory Board, and other experts to design Boston’s family child care UPK program.
“We are grateful for the continued investment in Universal Pre-K from the City of Boston and Mayor Michelle Wu in collaboration with Boston Public Schools,” said Boston Universal Pre-K Director TeeAra Dias. “Our mixed-delivery model ensures family choice and that there is no wrong door for families looking for a high-quality pre-K experience.”