Universal Pre-K FAQs

July 1, 2024

Universal Pre-K FAQs


You’ve got questions about universal prekindergarten (UPK), and we’ve got answers! Check out our list of frequently asked questions about universal pre-k for interested childcare providers. We hope this article provides insight into your own questions and helps you move toward your childcare business goals with clarity. 

Universal Prekindergarten FAQs

What is universal pre-k?

Universal pre-k is an international movement supporting the use of public funding to provide preschool education to all families. The goal of universal pre-k is to provide an equal opportunity for quality early childhood education to children from all socio-economic backgrounds, thus enabling children to improve their academic and social skills before they attend kindergarten. Because universal pre-k is funded by the public, the lack of tuition expenses would make it possible for more families to send their children to preschool. 

Which U.S. states offer universal pre-k?

At the time of this writing, six states and many cities nationwide offer universal pre-k programs, including California, New York, Florida, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma. 

How do I apply for UPK designation as a childcare provider? 

Each state or jurisdiction offering UPK will have different requirements for qualified providers, so be sure to check whether you are eligible under your state’s laws. Then submit a complete application with supporting documents according to the requirements of your local governing body. 

Is universal pre-k compulsory?

No. UPK is a voluntary program for both school districts and children. Parents and/or caregivers may choose, but are not required, to enroll their child(ren) in a UPK program. However, once enrolled, the school district’s attendance policy must be applied. 

Is universal pre-k guaranteed? 

No. While access to UPK programs continues to expand across participating states and cities, UPK is not currently available to all families in all districts. In districts where UPK is available, entry is based on eligibility and a lottery system. Not all families who register for UPK are guaranteed a spot. 

What are the eligibility requirements for children who attend universal pre-k? 

Eligibility requirements vary by location, but typically include residency and age specifications. 

What qualifications must teachers have to teach in a UPK classroom? 

Similarly, teacher qualifications vary by location. For example, in New York State, teachers must hold: (1) a teaching license or certificate valid for service in the early childhood grades; (2) a teaching license or certificate for students with disabilities valid for service in the early childhood grades; (3) for eligible agencies collaborating with the district, a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a teaching license or certificate valid for services in the early childhood grades, or (4) a school district may annually apply to the Commissioner by August 1 of the current school year for a waiver that would allow personnel employed by an eligible agency that is collaborating with the district and licensed by an agency other than the department, to meet the staff qualifications of the licensing agency. 

How do UPK programs ensure that children receive a high quality preschool education? 

UPK programs must meet the high standards of state and local education governance boards, which includes providing a developmentally appropriate curriculum and activities that are child-centered. UPK programs must also periodically measure each child’s development of language and literacy, and cognitive, social, and emotional skills. 

How do UPK programs serve children with disabilities? 

By law, UPK programs throughout the United States must be willing to accept children with disabilities. Each preschool is responsible for implementing a special education program that meets the needs of children with disabilities, such as by developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and services in the least restrictive environment. UPK programs should ensure that all young children with disabilities have access to inclusive high-quality early learning opportunities with individualized and appropriate support. 

Do UPK programs screen children before enrollment?

Yes, UPK programs screen new students regardless of age or grade level, especially if they are a part of a school district where preliminary screening is required. Screening provides teachers with valuable information about each child’s home language, individual interests, strengths, and needs. 

Of course, individual UPK programs will have differing policies regarding various aspects of their program, such as meals and snacks, transportation, school schedule, immunization requirements, allergies and medical conditions, potty training requirements, and so on. 

You can consult your local Board of Education or other UPK programs in your area to see how similar programs approach these topics of interest. 

We hope these answers to frequently asked questions will provide clarity and direction as you decide whether seeking designation as a UPK provider is the right choice for your preschool. 

Honest Buck Accounting offers a full menu of professional accounting services to Early Childhood Education businesses just like yours. 

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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