By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
On April 2nd, we made a promise: in five years, Boston will achieve high-quality Universal Pre-Kindergarten for every four-year-old in the city. In the last five years, we’ve added 750 pre-K seats that are high-quality, and proven to close the achievement gap. Now, we’re going to be investing $15 million in our new Quality Pre-K Fund, which will close the high-quality gap by adding an additional 750 high-quality seats in Boston Public Schools, and community-based organizations.
Through this commitment, we’ll be able to achieve our goal: a high-quality Pre-Kindergarten seat for every 4-year-old in the City in the next five years.
To make Boston a place where everyone can succeed, we need to start at the very beginning. The moment a child is born, they need high-quality resources and a safe place to call home. And when they set foot into the classroom, they need a strong foundation to set them onto the path to success. We must make sure that every single child, from every background and neighborhood, can get a strong start in life.
Access to high quality pre-K should be a guarantee, for every single family in Boston, regardless of income or background.
Boston’s approach to pre-K is a national model in early childhood education, and we have proven success in closing achievement gaps. It’s because we offer some of the most comprehensive and high-quality programs in the country.Our teachers are trained to support students of all cultural backgrounds, they encourage critical and creative thinking, and they put the needs of our students first.
And the lessons children learn don’t just stay in the classroom — they have lasting impacts, all the way from kindergarten to college and beyond.
Every year, we’ve been working to expand this successful approach with the goal of reaching every single four-year-old in the City.
When I took office, we were facing a gap of 1,500 high-quality seats. Ensuring equal access to high-quality pre-kindergarten became one of our top priorities. We couldn’t have done it without the partnership and dedication of educators, partners, organizations, and many more.
One of the first steps we took was creating a UPK Advisory Committee. The Committee gathered input from families, educators, and stakeholders. Their recommendations have been our guiding light in how we’ve taken steps to expand access to high-quality pre-K.
We’ve invested in new pre-K seats every single year since 2014, despite constraints on our budget and available classroom space. In our most recent budget for FY19, we designated $850,000 to develop 80 pre-K seats, together with community partners.
We learned that community-based organizations are central to our UPK strategy. We wanted to make sure we were building something to last and truly serve our communities. And today, we’re providing more options for working families, right in their own neighborhoods. Because of our work, over the last six years, our initial gap of 1,500 seats has been cut in half. And now, this new fund will help us close the remaining gap, and achieve Universal high-quality Pre-Kindergarten in the City of Boston.
This isn’t just about making enough seats available — because if that were the case, we could have already achieved Universal Pre-K. This is about ensuring that every single pre-K seat we offer is a high-quality one that closes opportunity and outcome gaps — and gives all of our children an equal chance at a strong start in life.
Our work isn’t done. We’re going to continue to develop our programs and pay attention to the needs of our students. We’re going to continue to seek partnerships to help us make our programs even better.
Any time we can make an investment in a young person, it’s a step forward for our entire city.
And it’s an investment worth making.
Learn more about universal pre-k on bostonpublicschools.org/upk.
Martin J. Walsh is the Mayor of Boston.