Universal Pre-K expansion in NY priority for ed advocates

Education advocates in New York want an increase in-state aid to fund full-day prekindergarten outside of New York City, according to Pressconnects.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has pressed for an expansion of prekindergarten in NYC has made it a top priority.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and education groups are on a quest for a minimum of $125 million in the coming state budget for pre-K in each of the next two years to expand the program to upstate New York and New York City’s suburbs.

A report released Wednesday by education groups said that 82 percent of eligible 4-year-old kids outside New York are not enrolled in full-day pre-K, including 63 percent of students in high-needs districts. Cuomo’s budget plan increase funding for 3-year-old students to attend pre-K, but not 4-year-olds, according to the report obtained by the Albany Bureau from the union-based Alliance for Quality Education.

Cuomo’s office dismissed the report and stated that he has expanded pre-K, and that grants are obtainable for schools that want to launch the program. His office explains that only 15 high-needs districts in the state fail to offer pre-K.

The state Education Department said 460 districts out of the approximately 700 in New York have state-funded prekindergarten programs. The programs serve around 120,000 students, with about half of those in New York City.

The report from education groups showed how pre-K programs are unequal across New York. Districts can struggle with finding the resources to start pre-K, said David Albert, a state School Boards Association spokesman.

Albert explains that there are a number of factors to consider, from the space and the staff, to how to transport students, and that these reasons are why some districts don’t have full-day programs.

State lawmakers are open to the expansion of pre-K beyond New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio focused on expanding in in the city during his 2013 election. His idea was to tax the wealthy to fund it, while Cuomo instead gave the city additional money in the state budget to pay for the program.

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