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NYS Comptroller


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State Education Department
Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program: Monitoring of Health and Safety Requirements

Issued: December 20, 2016
Link to full audit report 2016-S-10
Link to 90-day response

To determine whether the State Education Department’s (Department) monitoring of the Universal Pre-Kindergarten providers’ compliance with applicable health and safety regulations is sufficient. Our audit scope included the period January 1, 2013 through August 4, 2016.

The Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program was established through Chapter 436 of the Laws of 1997 to provide all four-year-olds in the State with the opportunity for an early childhood education. UPK provides four-year-old children access, at no charge, to comprehensive early childhood education experiences that promote their social-emotional, creative expressive/ aesthetic, physical, cognitive, linguistic, and cultural development. The early childhood agencies (eligible agencies) collaborating with school districts comprise a wide range of early child care and education providers, including: day care centers, nursery schools, Head Start programs, group family or family day care providers, preschool special education providers, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and private schools.

Department regulations require buildings and classrooms used for UPK to be safe and to comply with applicable fire safety, health, and building codes, and for equipment and furnishings to be safe and suitable for children and maintained in a state of good repair and sanitation. For the 2014-15 school year, there were 1,338 UPK providers operating outside of New York City that reported serving 43,623 children.

Key Findings

  • The Department does not directly monitor UPK providers for health and safety. Instead, the Department relies on the school district operating the UPK program, or the Office of Children and Family Services, to ensure that UPK providers are complying with health and safety requirements.
  • There is a wide disparity in the way UPK providers are monitored for health and safety. Some providers are inspected regularly for health and safety, while others are reviewed mainly for program curriculum.
  • There is a lack of consistency in how school districts inspect their UPK provider locations for health and safety compliance.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop requirements and issue guidance for school districts to follow when performing health and safety inspections of UPK facilities.
  • Implement a structured system to monitor school districts’ oversight and inspections of health and safety compliance of all UPK providers.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

State Education Department: Oversight of School Fire Safety Compliance (2015-S-86)

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email:
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236