State, school leaders call for universal full day pre-K for all children

Studies show that the earlier kids start school, the better they do down the line. But access to free pre-K programs in the Hudson Valley boils down to who is lucky enough to get a seat.

News 12 Staff

Apr 29, 2021, 9:50 PM

Updated 1,143 days ago

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White Plains Superintendent Joseph Ricca joined state and school leaders today calling for universal full day pre-K for all children.
Studies show that the earlier kids start school, the better they do down the line. But access to free pre-K programs in the Hudson Valley boils down to who is lucky enough to get a seat.
A lottery system is how parents of pre-K-eligible children in Westchester and Rockland counties apply for free programs.
"Three- and 4-year-olds in the state of New York, the greatest state in the union, shouldn't be relying on lottery to get the foundational components of a high-quality education," says Ricca.
While New York City has a fully funded pre-K program, districts in the rest of the state have to compete to fund their programs.
Some financial relief is on the way - with an additional $105 million for pre-K programs added to the state budget this year. The funding per child is still low, meaning many districts still can't afford to add more seats.
State leaders say funding formulas need to change or else it's the children who will pay the price.
"We know there is money there, we know we will increase the seats, but we don't know how," says Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski.
Over the next three years, state leaders hope to expand universal pre-K to every school district in the state.
President Joe Biden also focused on this issue. In his speech to Congress, he promised universal free pre-school for all 3- and 4-year-olds. It's a plan that calls for $200 billion.


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