Two-Year-Olds Now Feeling Admissions Pressure

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"What do you think Kant is arguing here? Can you distill it down?" Photo: Ralf Hettler/Copyright by Ralf Hettler

Another day, another story about how competitive early-childhood-education admissions are in New York City. The latest comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, which reports that waiting lists now aren’t just for preschools, they’re also for “early childhood learning centers.”

To be sure, most affluent parents still opt for a full-time nanny instead of an early-childhood care center. And many lower-income parents rely on government subsidies to pay for day care. But some are looking for an alternative—one that can come with the same high prices and limited spaces as the city’s top private schools.

“Parents now—and this is a real sea change—they understand the infant-toddler years as learning years,” said Betty Holcomb, policy director at the nonprofit Center for Children's Initiatives, which advocates for early-childhood-education funding. She said the new popularity of early learning made such care “impossible to find, even if you’re a millionaire.”

The wait list at one YMCA program in midtown east is over two years old — and not even applying for one of these centers in the first month of pregnancy guarantees admission. The first month! Tuition can be as much as $30,oo0 a year, depending on the center, and interviews are required for admissions (a process that begins a year in advance) at some.  What kind of questions do you ask a 1-year-old and expect a cogent response? Are smiles/burps/wails accepted as answers?

Sure, this sounds vaguely like something you’ve read about before (or a parody of it), but consider this. One of the centers that parents are competing to get their kids admitted to? Kid Krazy. Parents are so intensely worried about getting their child in somewhere, they’re willing to address checks to a place that sounds like a future Kardashian spinoff show, and not even one that would do well in the ratings.