Boston invites more early education providers to join expansion of universal pre-K

The city is expanding pre-K access a step further for the 2023-24 school year, the city announced Tuesday, opening up funding for more early education providers and taking another step in the Universal Pre-K plan.

“We’re determined to make Boston the first choice for families, and that includes closing gaps in access and availability of early education options,” said Mayor Michelle Wu.

The city’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) model aims to offer kids ages three and four free early education for 6.5 hour school days 180 days a year, according to the city. Tuesday’s announcement follows a $20 million investment in the program last July.

The city is looking to expand the program by inviting in new community-based childcare providers to participate in the UPK model.

Providers — including “nonprofit and for-profit organizations, early education providers, private schools, religious schools” — may apply through the city’s portal to receive city funding to support the programs.

The city is also expanding the program to include family childcare providers, who teach a small group of children in their private home.

The smaller programs may offer families benefits like “flexible hours, multilingual or mixed-age settings, and sometimes more affordable services,” the city release detailed, and the change came based on consultation with BPS, childcare providers, city officials and others.

These providers may help “ensure continuity of care and family choice,” said TeeAra Dias, Director of Boston Universal Pre-K.

“This is the boost that FCC providers need to highlight that we are not babysitters but educators,” said family childcare educator Claudette White.

The expansions overall are set to add 350 new pre-K seats, for a total of about 1,475 seats. The district also holds 3,621 K0 and K1 seats in BPS schools.

Superintendent Mary Skipper said quality UPK is vital to Boston students’ foundations.

“Providing our families with quality pre-kindergarten options for our 3- and 4-year-old children is critical to ensuring that learning gaps do not form and that students’ academic, social-emotional, and physical needs are met holistically,” said Superintendent Mary Skipper.