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Universal Preschool

B3 LogoUniversal Preschool (also called Universal Pre-Kindergarten or Universal Pre-K) refers to government-funded programs that are free to all regardless of family income, children’s abilities or other factors. While the above definition is technically accurate, there are many options for preparing young children for school success, including:

  • Expanding the School District to serve younger children
  • Providing scholarships to individual families
  • Income-based programs such as Head Start
  • Expanding affordable community-based early childhood programs

Around 35 states support versions of Universal pre-Kindergarten. However, not every child is served. Vermont, Washington, D.C., Florida, and West Virginia describe their early childhood systems as Universal Preschool for all 4 year olds.

In keeping with the recommendations of the Early Childhood Task Force, Cambridge is building a mixed-delivery Universal Pre-Kindergarten system that includes Cambridge Public Schools, the Department of Human Service Programs, Head Start, and community-based providers.

Advantages of Mixed-Delivery System
  • Ensures parental choice to meet the diverse needs and philosophies of parents.
  • Community-based providers can afford to stay in operation because 3-4 year-olds require less expensive staffing ratios than infants and toddlers.
  • Preschool programs that were designed with the developmental needs of young children in mind often have more developmentally appropriate spaces for serving preschoolers than elementary schools. (Researchers refer to this as “efficient use of space”)
  • High quality programs can be aligned to the Department of Early Education and Care’s early learning standards and frameworks.
Disadvantages of a Mixed-Delivery System
  • There is less opportunity for quality control and more variance in program quality.
  • There will be uneven teacher qualifications and pay within the system.
  • Can be come detached from learning standards because quality initiatives are voluntary.
  • The range of options has the potential to be confusing or frustrating for families.