NYC Kids Deserve Afterschool Programming

Zellnor Y. Myrie

Originally published in Empire Report on .
Photo of ZM meeting students

In 2014, with support from the state, New York City established a universal pre-Kindergarten program, offering free full-day classes for 4-year-olds. In a city where private preschools can cost upwards of $15,000 per year, setting up a free childcare network suddenly made things tremendously easier for working families.

At the time, standing up UPK– and eventually expanding offerings to include 3-K for younger children– seemed like an impossible longshot. But in nearly a decade since, free schooling for our youngest students has become an ingrained expectation for many New York families. They simply can’t imagine not taking advantage of this unique and high-quality program.

Free early childhood education fills a key need for working families. But when the school-day ends– often before 3pm, and sometimes even earlier– parents and caregivers must cobble together childcare that lasts until the end of the work day. While the city offers some free after school programming, the initiative is far from universal. Less than half of public schools offer free, city-funded after school programs, and hundreds of thousands of students are on waiting lists for available slots.