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Free Education and Pre-K for Undocumented Immigrant Children Under Age 6

By law, undocumented children have the same rights to attend public schools as U.S. Citizens and permanent residents. According to a 1982 Supreme Court decision (Pyler v. Doe), states cannot deny children of undocumented immigrants access to public education. Moreover, education is mandatory for all children in the United States. 

The Pre-K program is an early childhood education available to children aged three to five before kindergarten. The Pre-K program fosters essential cognitive, social, and emotional skills through play-based exploration and interactive experiences.

Also Read: Homeless Students Are Guaranteed Access to Education Under the McKinney-Vento Act

Pre-K programs offer an environment where children develop language, literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills, enhancing their readiness for formal schooling. These programs are provided to children, regardless of their immigration status, in various settings, including public schools, community centers, and private institutions.

In New York, children aged 6 to 16 are required to attend school. If your kid is three years old, you can enroll them in 3-K programs.

Application for Fall 2024

3-K and Pre-K applications for Fall 2024 admissions are open on January 10. Families can apply in 3 ways during the application period, according to Jenna LyleDeputy Press Secretary of NYC Public Schools:

  • They can apply online at www.myschools.nyc. Services are available in many languages, including Haitian Creole and Spanish. 
  • They can apply by phone at 718-935-2009. Services are available in many languages, including Haitian Creole and Spanish. 

Early Head Start and Head Start programs

Infants and Toddlers between six weeks and three years old who are not yet eligible for Pre-K can enroll in the Early Head Start program. This program offers year-round care and learning for up to 10 hours in Center-based care at NYC Early Education Centers (NYCEECs) and Home-based care through the Family Child Care Network. 

Head Start programs provide children nutritious meals, health screenings, and support for accessing necessary health services. Additionally, these programs assist parents and families in achieving personal goals such as employment, housing, and adult education.

These free federal-funded programs for eligible parents and children provide meals and health services to their families. Qualifying children can join any time during the year, regardless of their immigration status. 

To meet eligibility criteria, families must satisfy one or more of the following conditions:

  • Family income falls within the federal guidelines
  • Reside in temporary housing.
  • Receive Human Resources Administration (HRA) Cash Assistance
  • Receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Receive Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)
  • Enroll a child who is in foster care.

To check about eligibility and to enroll, visit MyCity.nyc.gov or send an email to CCapplication@schools.nyc.gov

The program will request one or more documents to verify eligibility during the application process. These documents may include:

  • Income Tax Form 1040
  • W-2
  • TANF documentation (i.e., Cash Assistance)
  • SSI documentation
  • Pay stubs or pay envelopes

NYC Early Education Centers (NYCEEC): These community-based organizations partnered with DOE to provide free pre-K. You can find on this map the NYCEEC near you. You are encouraged to consider NYCEEC if you’re receiving social services from the organization running the center or if your child currently has siblings attending the center. 

District Elementary Schools: These are public elementary schools offering pre-K programs. You can consider it if your child has an older sibling already attending the school or if they are attending 3-K at the school. 

Pre-K Centers: These centers are run by NYC Department of Education staff and only offer grades before kindergarten. You can consider a pre-K center for your child if you want them to attend a program with only young children or if they currently attend 3-K at the pre-K center. All pre-K programs serve children with disabilities. 

For updates about the admission process, you can fill out this form. Information is available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, and Haitian Creole. 

For more information about admission or waitlists regarding the 3-K and Pre-K programs, call 311 or 718-935-2009. You can send an email to ESEnrollment@schools.nyc.gov

Also Read: Migrant Children Miss School as Families Are Scattered Across the City

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