What is City Seats?
New Orleans City Seats is a program that provides free, high-quality early childhood education to qualifying families with young children in Orleans Parish. Since 2018, City Seats has significantly increased access to quality early childhood education for low-income young children and improved the quality of centers participating in the program growing from serving 50 children in 2018 to over 400 today. In April 2022, New Orleans voters approved a millage that dedicates up to $21M annually for early care and education for the next twenty years. This adds an additional 600 seats to the program and with the state match, we may be able to serve up to a total of 2,000 children in the 2023-2024 school year through City Seats. The program serves children ages 6 weeks through 3 years old. The program is administered by Agenda for Children and operated by community partners, including over 20 early learning centers across the city.
How to enroll
Families can apply for a seat through the NOLA-PS enrollment website.
Families’ Frequently Asked Questions
Which families are eligible for the seats?
To be eligible for City Seats, children must be:
- a resident of Orleans Parish;
- be under age four (as of September 30);
- and meet income requirements.
If my child participates in City Seats, what can I expect from the program?
- Free, full-time care (Monday-Friday)
- Free hearing and vision screenings
- A developmental screening within 45 days of starting a program, and referrals to other services that can help
- Free classroom help for teachers and children from the TIKES team
- Social work services for any family who would like extra support
How do families apply for seats?
Families can apply for seats through the NOLA-PS Common Application Process (NCAP). Visit the NOLA Public Schools site for more information on how to apply
How are seats offered?
Children get matched to seats either by:
- Applying for a seat through the Main Round of NOLA-PS Common Application Process (NCAP): The “main round” application process for the following school year usually opens in November and closes in January. Results come out in March. If a child is matched to a program during Main Round, their families will receive an email (and have information in their common application account) letting them know they have received a City Seat spot. They can then accept the spot and follow the instructions on how to register their child in that program.
- Applying during “open enrollment”: Families can apply for a seat throughout the summer and school year through the “open enrollment” process. In most cases, qualifying children will apply for a seat and get placed on the wait lists of programs they would like to attend. If a spot opens up for them, their families will receive a phone call to let them know that they can accept a seat, and will have up to 24 hours to accept or decline the seat. If they accept, they’ll receive instructions on how to register with that program.
Who gets priority for these seats?
Children who receive higher priority for admission to a City Seats center include:
- children with lower incomes (less than the federal poverty level);
- children who have a sibling already in the City Seats program at that center; and,
- children who live within the same zip code and/or within a half-mile of the center to which they’re applying.
How do you decide which centers will be able to offer child care through the City Seats program?
- Centers apply to participate in the program for the following school year through a Coordinated Funding Request process that usually starts in October.
- Their applications are reviewed and scored based on program quality, administrative competence, demand for their services, how well they meet families’ needs and if they’re located in an area of the city where there are many qualifying children but not many free seats. Centers also receive an interview or site visit, which is also scored.
- The review committee then makes recommendations of how many seats for which age groups should be awarded to the top-scoring programs, with a goal of making sure that seats are offered throughout the city at high-quality programs that meet families’ needs.
- The NOEEN Steering Committee reviews and approves the recommendations in a public meeting.
How can I learn more about my options and apply?
- Visit the Nola Public Schools Enrollment page to:
- Find a list of programs that have openings for the current school year
- See all of the early childhood programs that offer free seats (*check back in the winter because more programs will likely be added for the 2023-2024 school year)
- Check your child’s eligibility and apply for publicly funded seats in an early childhood education program, whether that program is located in a school, early learning center or Head Start
- Once you’ve narrowed your list of choices, call the centers you’re interested in with any questions you might have, or to see if you can arrange a tour.
- Visit a Family Resource Center for hands-on help in navigating the enrollment process.
My child is currently a participant in the City Seats program and I have questions, who do I talk to about that?
- All parents and guardians of children in City Seats sign an MOU. If you have a question, check the MOU and see if it answers your question
- If they are not able to answer your questions, they will reach out to City Seats liaison staff.
Who runs the NOEEN City Seats Program and why?
Agenda for Children coordinates the City Seats program through its role as the co-lead agency for the New Orleans Early Education Network (NOEEN). The Louisiana Department of Education funds lead agencies in every parish to coordinate publicly-funded early care and education programs, including early learning centers, Head Start programs and schools. When the City of New Orleans created the City Seats program in 2017, City officials designated Agenda for Children and NOEEN as the program’s administrator due to its existing governance structure (through the NOEEN Steering Committee) and the systems NOEEN already had in place to coordinate funding, improve program quality and enroll children in centers and schools.
New Orleans Public Schools, as the co-lead agency, is a key partner in City Seats that is responsible for the application and enrollment processes, and helps administer the coordinated funding process, which helps to determine which programs receive public funds, and how many publicly funded seats they will be awarded.
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More information on City Seats
Founder, Agenda for Children
Judy Watts was a fierce child advocate who co-founded Agenda for Children to make Louisiana a state where all children can thrive. She was a commited anti-racist who worked closely with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Under her leadership, Agenda made major impacts on early care and education, child welfare, juvenile justice and children’s health care access.
City Seats currently serves 400 children and we are continuing to grow by serving up to 2,000 in the 2023-2024 school year.