Why UPK?

Why develop Universal Pre-K and not target programs (and spending) towards children who need it most?

When resources are limited and many children need pre-k services, it is tempting to consider providing services only for the children who are defined to be most at-risk of facing subsequent school and life challenges - often defined by targeting children from families earning below a particular income level. But there are good reasons to make preschool programs universal - available to all children of eligible age living in the city. Here are some:

  1.  UPK avoids segregating at-risk children in low-income-only programs.
  2. "Universal programs are likely to be more effective at identifying and reaching all targeted children."
  3. High quality early childhood programs provide social and cognitive benefits to children from all kinds of backgrounds, although initial benefits appear to be higher for the children most at risk. 
  4. Programs serving children from diverse economic backgrounds enhance social and cognitive outcomes for all children, especially those who are most at risk.
  5. Providing a universal program broadens the base of political and public support across all income levels.
  6. Even families at or near the cutoff level for subsidized care sometimes cannot afford the cost of quality care.
  7. Families move in and out of eligibility, but it is detrimental to children to be moved in and out of programs based on changing eligibility.
  8. Varying eligibility guidelines also add unnecessary administrative challenges for families and programs.
  9. "Going beyond targeted pre-k to universal pre-k pays off modestly in producing net [economic] benefits."
  10. "Making pre-K universal like K-12 education also leads parents to think of pre-K (regardless of setting) as education, raising expectations for their children's learning experiences in pre-K."
  11. "Universal preschool can drive changes in kindergarten and elementary practice...accelerating children's elementary learning"
  12. UPK is both an educational concept and an investment program for the city.

a. Providing education to all children benefits children and families of all incomes, and the communities they live in.

b. Investing in early childhood education can provide long-term economic benefits to communities in terms of reduced need for special education, reduced retention in grade, and higher high school graduation rates for low-income and middle-class children. It may lead to higher salaries later in life for students, and more tax payments to support communities (the city) as a result.