A state senator from the Hudson Valley is calling for the funding of full-day kindergarten across New York, proposing the money come from the state lottery. State Senator David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat from Rockland County, says every school district in New York should provide full-day kindergarten.
“We have to have full-day kindergarten for every child in New York state, no matter where you live, how much money your family has,” says Carlucci.
Carlucci has sponsored a bill to fund it.
“Take the funds from the New York state lotto that go unclaimed and earmark that for a Kindergarten Conversion Fund, “Carlucci says. “Allow for those districts that have half-day kindergarten to bring them up to full-day. Allow those districts that have no kindergarten to bring them up to a full-day program and, more than that, safeguard the school districts that already have full-day kindergarten.”
He says there are some $60 million annually in lapsed or forfeited lottery prizes. Lottery winners have one year to claim their winnings. Unclaimed winnings then return to the state lottery system, going toward advertising and promotions. Again, Carlucci.
“Education is supposed to be the benefit of the lotto. The lotto was sold to us as a way to fund education,” says Carlucci. “The funds that are left unclaimed, they belong to our students.”
Carlucci says he expects opposition from officials with the New York State Lottery, which is regulated by the state Gaming Commission. A spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission declined to comment, saying the commission does not comment on legislative issues. One supporter is NYSUT, or the New York State United Teachers. Carl Korn is spokesman.
“We know that the best way to close the achievement gap is to stop the achievement gap from opening in the first place,” says Korn. “Full-day kindergarten should be mandatory in New York state and we should fund it to ensure that every 5-year-old begins their school career on the right foot and is exposed to the ideas and concepts that are needed so that they can be successful in first and second and third grade and all the way up the line until college.”
Carlucci says more than 30 school districts could benefit from new funds that would cover capital expenses for kindergarten program expansion. He says there is no such bill in the assembly, though he is working to find a sponsor there. Carlucci says his priority is to try another route.
“My first strategy right now is to get this done in the New York state budget. I think we have a good opportunity to do that. It’s a way that we can have this revolving fund that’s there every year to safeguard kindergarten,” says Carlucci. “So the first step is to try and get it done in the budget. If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll try to pass it individually and get it signed into law by the governor.”
Another supporter hails from Carlucci’s district — the North Rockland Full-Day Kindergarten Advocates. At the end of December, they created a gofundme campaign saying donations would help spread the word and make it a reality in the North Rockland School District. So far, the group has raised $600 toward their $2,016 goal through this online effort.
Carlucci and Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein say full day-kindergarten is an issue championed in the splinter caucus’ 2020 agenda.