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New York City Expanding 3K Program; De Blasio Says Target Is To Have 40,000 Seats By This Fall

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- More children will now have access to New York City's 3K preschool program.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement Wednesday morning at a school in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Parents told CBS2's Natalie Duddridge it is a game changer. They say free preschool for 3-year-olds not only gives all kids the same opportunities, but should also save families thousands of dollars a year and set them up for the future.

De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter welcomed kids with elbow bumps to Phyl's Academy Preparatory School on Tilden Avenue on Wednesday morning. However, it was the staff and parents who were the most excited to see them, learning that their facility is now able to offer free preschool for 3-year-olds in September.

"This is an example of what we're going to be able to do all over the city," de Blasio said. "All 32 school districts in the city will now have 3K."

This is an offshoot of the city's pre-K program, starting for 4-year-olds. Now, all 3-year-olds can get two years of education before starting kindergarten.

"Pre-K, 3K, so important for our young people. It really gives a strong start to their academic life," Porter said. "The best part is it's going to be free and and it's going to save New York City families about $10,000 a year. So you can put that in the college savings plan."

De Blasio said it will take some time to get fully universal. Currently, about 25,000 students are enrolled in the city's 3K program. Growth was stalled during the pandemic, but now the city says it is prepared to enroll 16,000 more kids, with the goal of reaching 40,000 seats for 3-year-olds by the end of next school year.

Parents said they hope it helps give all children the same opportunities.

"It's an excellent program. My son is starting to read, he's not even 5 yet. He's practically learning on a kindergarten level in 3K," Melissa Jean said.

"I think it's very important to get education at an early age. They learn the fundamentals on phonics. They learn how to interact. They learn diversity. They learn a lot of things that are going to help them later on in life," Andrea Evans added.

Officials are using money from the federal stimulus package to fund the new seats, but didn't name an exact price tag.

"A substantial investment, but as a matter of priorities this one of the highest priorities in the city," de Blasio said.

Application for 3K for next school year are already open. These newest seats will become available in the next several weeks.

Wednesday's announcement comes as New York City reopened its opt-in period for students to return to in-person learning.

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