More children in Mecklenburg County will be eligible to enroll in free pre-kindergarten next school year.

In the past, children in the program had to come from families with a household income at or below 400% of the federal poverty level to qualify.


    • Meck Pre-K dropped income eligibility requirements
    • More four-year-olds in Mecklenburg County qualify for the program after the change
    • The goal is to eventually offer universal pre-K

    This school year, the eligibility is no longer based on income, making it possible for students like Syanne Hoo-Hing, 5, to enroll. She attends Charlotte Bilingual Preschool.

    Her mom, Sean Hoo-Hing, is interested in this school because she wanted her daughter to learn Spanish at the same time she learned English, her native language.

    “We live in a very diverse neighborhood. Lots of languages spoken,” Sean Hoo-Hing said. “That really made me want to get her into a program she could be immersed.”

    In the past, a family of four would only be eligible for the free program if household income didn’t exceed $103,000 a year. This year, the only requirements are being 4 years old and living in Mecklenburg County.

    “With them dropping the income requirement, that’s the only reason we were able to apply this year,” Sean Hoo-Hing said.

    Smart Start of Mecklenburg County CEO Jake House said the change is in accordance with the plan of eventually offering universal pre-K.

    “We want all children learning together. The fact remains is we still have open slots, and we are going to continue to preference children who come from circumstances or families that 400% of the federal poverty limit. But the idea is that this program is open to all,” House said.

    Sean Hoo-Hing is a doctor and had her second child in August. She said it would have been tight for her and her husband to pay for private pre-K for Syanne because she’s only working part-time.

    However, she said her main draw to the program is its quality and the diversity of the children enrolled.

    “When you are able to be around kids coming from different walks of life, I think it prepares you to be able to interact with anybody, from anywhere” Sean Hoo-Hing said.

    Syanne Hoo-Hing also loves her school and has mentioned to her mother she wants to become a Spanish teacher when she’s older. Sean said in the near future, this program will help her daughter be ready for kindergarten next year. 

    “Our daughter is having the opportunity to learn another language while continuing to promote literacy in another language,” Sean Hoo-Hing said.

    Mecklenburg County allocated $20 million to offer Meck Pre-K at no cost for 2021-2022. If you are interested in enrolling your child for next school year, click here.