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Thousands of NYC families wait-listed for free 3-K program. The city says seats are still available.

Over 2,000 NYC children wait-listed for free 3-K program
Over 2,000 NYC children wait-listed for free 3-K program 02:34

NEW YORK -- Thousands of New York City families have been wait-listed for the city's free 3-K program, even though Mayor Eric Adams promised every child who wanted a spot would get one.

As families are scrambling to find other child care options, the mayor is blaming is own education department for confusing parents.

Thousands of NYC kids on waitlist for free 3-K program

In April, Mayor Eric Adams said, "We're going to make sure that every child that wants seats will have access."

But after Department of Education letters arrived Thursday, more than 2,400 New York City kids were left without seats, out of the 43,000 who applied.

Child care advocates blame millions of dollars in budget cuts to early education programs by the Adams administration, of which the mayor recently restored $500 million.

In a statement, a City Hall spokesperson told CBS New York:

"The mayor was clear: Every child who wants a seat will have access to a seat and he will keep his word. The guidance sent to a limited number of families by New York City Public Schools, unfortunately, did not fully convey all the seats still available to New York City students. NYCPS is sending an updated letter that will make perfectly clear that there are approximately 9,000 seats still open for 3-K, and we will work with each family who has not received an offer to any of their choices to find the nearest location with available seats that works best for them."

Advocates argue the city's affordable early education programs are critical for childhood development and helping lower income kids get on an even playing field with their peers later on.

"If the mayor wants to retain New Yorkers who are middle and working class instead of just the very rich, he needs to fully fund and prioritize rolling out universal 3-K," said Rebecca Bailin, director of New Yorkers United for Childcare.

"It does feel like the mayor lied to parents"

Brooklyn dad Ben Lowe applied to dozen different 3-K school programs for his 3-year-old daughter, Alexandra, but when the DOE's letter came Thursday, it read "you did not receive an offer" from any of them.

"It does feel like the mayor lied to parents like me and to other parents, I'm sure, who are also facing the same bad news today," Lowe said. "We were promised by the mayor we would be able to get into one of these programs, so we didn't look at private options, but besides, those programs, not only are they full, but some of them cost $40,000 a year. We can't work that into our budget anyway, so we really were counting on this working."

The Lowe family is waiting to learn if Alexandra will get a seat and if that seat will be in their neighborhood.

"If we get off a waitlist, does that mean we're gonna be walking half an hour in the wrong direction every morning to drop her off? If we don't get off a waitlist, does that mean we're gonna be spending tens of thousands of dollars a year for day care?" Lowe said.

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