Schools: All-Day Pre-K A Great Idea, If Funded

A lingering issue from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State address has returned in the way of a statewide state-funded full-day universal prekindergarten program.

In his 2014 State of the State address on Jan. 8, Cuomo again mentioned his desire to see an expanded universal pre-K program in New York state.

“While we remake our classrooms for tomorrow, we must get young minds engaged as early as possible,” Cuomo said. “In the 2013 State of the State, we talked about expanded pre-K. And the Assembly has long championed the same. It’s time for New York state to have universal full-day pre-K statewide.”

Area school administrators concur with Cuomo in that they can see the value of introducing children to education as early as possible. However, as with most of Cuomo’s State of the State proposals, a clear funding pattern was not addressed in his speech, making for uncertainty as to the viability of such a program.

“We would definitely support a full-day pre-K program,” said Stephen Penhollow, Falconer Central School superintendent. “We truly believe, the sooner we can get kids in and provide them with educational opportunities, it will lead to better foundation skills as they work their way up through the elementary grades.”

While Falconer currently provides a half-day pre-K program, Penhollow said he would jump at the chance to expand that program to full-day; provided it is truly funded by New York state.

“Once again, the governor is good at coming up with a theory; but creating funding that would allow small, rural districts to be able to offer that is still a concern of ours,” he said.

Tim Mains, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, said his expectations for the program would be tempered until Cuomo can present a clear funding pattern.

“I would say universal pre-K is something I believe should be mandated,” Mains said. “The concept of universal pre-K is great, and expanding it from half-day to full-day means I’m going to have to hire more people and expand the space – which I’m happy to do if the funds are provided by the state.”

“The problem is, that may not be the case,” he continued. “The sad part about the State of the State address is that there were a lot of ideas put on the table, but how they are going to be carried out and funded has not been established.”

Mains said the Cuomo’s plans for how he intends to pay for a universal full-day program won’t be made clear until he unveils the New York state budget later this year. If the cost to provide such a program rests on the shoulders of individual districts, area superintendents said they would be unable to provide the program due to the state’s freezing of foundation aid to schools and the imposition of gap elimination adjustments.