New Plan for Universal Full-Day Pre-K in NYS

Oct 28, 2013

At a time when debate over the Common Core is front and center, pro-education groups are out with a new plan offering a roadmap for full-day universal prekindergarten in New York State.

The Center for Children’s Initiatives and the Campaign for Educational Equity have unveiled a statewide plan that offers a financial strategy that recognizes pre-K as an essential educational service, while providing a plan to phase in pre-K to the state's 3- and 4-year-olds over the next eight years.

“New York State launched its landmark Universal Prekindergarten program in 1997,” said Nancy Kolben, Executive Director, Center for Children's Initiatives. “The state has made great progress toward universal access, but it is now time to take the next steps to assure all children have access. A study of New York’s pre-K program showed that the state’s investment in pre-K expansion would be significantly offset by savings to the school system for future remediation, including reduction in special education and grade repetition, and higher student learning productivity. Investing early is the wisest investment that we can make to improve educational outcomes for our children.”

The proposal for New York State comes while President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education are promoting a $10 billion investment over 10 years in public preschool programs.

Governor Andrew Cuomo included $25 million in this year's budget for universal full-day pre-K, targeted toward high-needs students in lower wealth districts,  which follows a top recommendation his education reform commission  made last December. A Cuomo spokesman tells WAMC more announcements are forthcoming.

The CCI/CEE proposal builds on the state’s pioneering pre-K program initiated by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in 1997 that is currently available to 100,000 4-year-olds on a half-day basis. The proposal also builds on Governor Cuomo’s pre-K competitive grant program initiated this year, which will provide full-day programs to several thousand additional 4-year-olds.

The groups call for incorporating pre-K funding into the existing state education finance system. The plan recommends an investment in the first year of $225 million statewide with priority to 4-year-olds in high-needs school districts, including those in New York City.

Making Prekindergarten Truly Universal in New York: A Statewide Roadmap  by the Center for Children’s Initiatives and the Campaign for Educational Equity