Boston’s pre-K program will expand to include all 4 year olds in the City of Boston within the next five years, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, announced in a press conference in Dorchester, Mass., Tuesday morning.
The expansion is being made possible by a $15 million investment, which will come out of the 2020 budget to establish the “Quality Pre-K Fund.” Over the next five years, Walsh hopes to bridge the current 750-seat gap in Boston’s pre-K program, which was originally 1,500 when he first took office in 2014, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
“We need to make sure access to pre-kindergarten is a guarantee for every single family in Boston—regardless of income or background,” Walsh said outside the ABCD Walnut Grove Head Start school.
Walsh first emphasised the need for universal pre-K during his campaign for mayor in 2013. Boston Public Schools plans to work with community organizations, like the Boys and Girls Clubs, to reach their goal.
Chaokee Calderon, a local mother, shared her experience with Boston pre-K during the press conference. As a protective mother, she was initially hesitant to send her daughter, Khailee, to pre-school, but when she decided to apply, all the seats had been taken. Calderon was later able to secure Khailee a spot in a pre-K program at ABCD Walnut Grove School in Dorchester.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I tried teaching my daughter her colors, numbers, etc. But being a full-time working mom, it was hard for us to do these little things.”
“The Boston Public Schools early childhood educators are pioneering what pre-kindergarten can and should look like nationwide,” said Laura Perille, Boston Public Schools’ interim superintendent. “Through the Quality Pre-K Fund, we are providing more access and flexibility for families of 4 year olds that will help to close opportunity and achievement gaps, and set up our youngest learners for long-term educational success.”
Most of the $15 million budget will be focused on hiring teachers to staff classrooms throughout the city, Walsh said. Boston is set apart because of its focus on hiring “high quality” people, meaning that they have degrees in early childhood education, are prepared to work with a diverse group of students, and will be paid the same starting salary as a BPS teacher, according to the release.
“There is no better investment we can make than providing our children with high-quality learning opportunities from an early age,” Walsh said. “I am incredibly proud that the Quality Pre-K Fund will fulfill our commitment of ensuring that every 4 year old in Boston has access to high-quality pre-kindergarten in a setting that works best for their individual needs.”
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor