Effective Systems

Taking A Giant Step: A Case Study Of New York City’s Efforts to Implement Universal Prekindergarten Services


The paper explores the reasons universal pre-kindergarten was introduced, the goals of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s initiative, and the process by which it was implemented. Years later, the success or failure of the Mayor’s initiative is not clear. The dissolution of Giant Step can be viewed as sufficient evidence of its failure. Giant Step can also be seen as an important step in the evolution of the universal pre-kindergarten services in New York State. Today, universal pre-kindergarten has been enacted in three states and funding for universal pre-kindergarten services has multiplied several times over in most states since the mid-1980s. Better understanding the evolution of universal prekindergarten services in New York City and its implementation can perhaps help other localities that have interest in implementing universal preschool services. The experience of Project Giant Step points to the vulnerability of well-designed and well-received early childhood programs as they become implemented. It reminds us that sound policies and planning do not always make for viable practices.