New York Assembly Members Call for Fully Funding Universal Pre-K Statewide

Westchester and Rockland Delegations Hold “Back to School” Press Events in Yonkers, White Plains, and New City to Emphasize Benefits of Pre-K

A Letter Signed by 43 Members of the Assembly Urged the Governor to Include Adequate Funding for Statewide Pre-K in 2020-2021 Budget
September 5, 2019

Yonkers, White Plains, and New City, NY – Today, the members of the New York State Assembly representing the communities in Westchester and Rockland Counties conducted a tour of pre-school programs within their counties to highlight the need for increased state funding for universal Pre-K.

At press events in Yonkers, White Plains, and New City, the legislators were joined by school officials and early childhood education advocates to tour the facilities and discuss the benefits of Pre-K education in terms of preparation and future academic outcomes. The tour also provided an opportunity to celebrate the good work being done at Monstessori School 31 in Yonkers, which provides a Montessori program for pre-K with a focus on creative arts; the Eastview Campus of White Plains Middle School, which contains a dedicated pre-K center; and the Benim Academy of New City, which hosts a pre-K program for ages 2-5 that includes a focus on academic preparation and social skills.

Earlier this morning, a letter signed by 43 members of the Assembly representing districts outside New York City was sent to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, calling upon him to fully fund Universal Full-day Pre-K for the entire state in his 2020-2021 Executive Budget.

“As you know, New York City has a very robust and successful program,” the legislators wrote in the letter to the Governor. “School districts in the rest of the state deserve the same.”

Currently, New York City receives $300 million under the Statewide Universal Full-day Pre-K program. Districts outside of New York City enroll more than half of the public school students in the state, but they are only allocated $40 million in funding under the same program.

A recent statewide survey conducted by the New York State Council of School Superintendents found that more than half of the superintendents surveyed believed insufficient state funding was the single largest barrier to implementing full-time early childhood programs in their districts. The survey also found that 13 percent of superintendents surveyed did not have a full-day Pre-K program, but would establish one if adequate state funding was available. Another 40 percent of superintendents surveyed said that they would expand their existing half-day Pre-K programs if provided sufficient state funding.

“Pre-K teaches kids, at a very young age, the basics of social skills and how to learn – tools that they will need in school and for the rest of their lives,” said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant). “All kids in New York State, not just those in New York City, deserve the benefits of universal Pre-K.”

“Every dollar invested in high quality pre-kindergarten programs returns nearly $9 in economic and other benefits,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains), whose district contains the Eastview Campus of White Plains Middle School. “New York State is investing $300 million in New York City Pre-K programs, but a woefully inadequate $40 million for the rest of the state. It is time to invest in all of our children’s futures.”

“As a former teacher, I know how important it is to do all that we can to give our children the same opportunities to achieve in school,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining). “Pre-K programs are one of the most effective tools we have to ensure all children are educated equally and are given the same chance to advance. Denying state funding for Pre-K programs will only perpetuate inequality for our youngest children.”

“As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families and a strong supporter of fully-funded, full-day kindergarten programs, I call on the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to do more. We must invest in Pre-K for every child and family across New York State,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern). “Universal Pre-K provides 3- and 4- year-olds the opportunity to attend a full-day program, regardless of family income and a child’s skills, it helps stay-at-home parents re-join the workforce and working parents keep working, it helps shape their children’s future, and it is key to school readiness and success. High-quality early learning and development programs, like roads and bridges, are part of the infrastructure of economic development and a stable, thriving community.”

“Early childhood education is the foundation for life-long learning and success in school. We need to increase funding for universal Pre-K statewide and bring Pre-K to children and school districts without the program today," said Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye), a member of the Assembly Education Committee.

“Study after study have found that the benefits from an investment in Pre-K far exceed the costs, and that the positive gains on lifetime earnings, academic achievement, and the social impact of more diverse classrooms are substantial for both low-income and middle-income children when Pre-K is universal,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-White Plains) who is a member of the Assembly Education Committee. “School superintendents across the state have made it clear they are willing to create new Pre-K programs or expand their existing half-day Pre-K programs, but simply lack the funding. The time has come for the state to deliver on the promise of truly universal Pre-K by providing adequate state funding for all of New York’s children.”

“Full funding for universal Pre-K in school districts outside of New York City is essential,” said Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon). “Children benefit from being in the same classroom as children from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Diversity is an integral part of quality early education, and our children should have this opportunity.”

“Educators and policymakers agree that the benefits of Universal Pre-K are innumerable and incalculable,” said Assemblyman Nader J. Sayegh (D-Yonkers), whose district includes Montessori School 31. “Early education programs like Universal Pre-K continue to yield monumental returns in all places in which they’ve been fully implemented. The demands of the 21st Century leave no room for half-baked, half-day Pre-K programs or no Pre-K programs for that matter. I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues across the region in demanding that Governor Cuomo fully fund Universal Pre-K for all of our children. It’s time we permanently bring these results back to families in Yonkers, the Lower Hudson Valley, and across New York State.”

“It has been said time and again: early childhood education is fundamental to a successful future. We have echoed this sentiment continuously over the years when fighting for our children and working to expand K and Pre-K,” said Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City), whose district includes Benim Academy. “Today marks a new beginning in the fight for statewide universal Pre-K. Seeing firsthand the incredible work our educators are doing throughout schools in Rockland and Westchester and sitting down with local childcare experts allowed us to really dig into what is needed to make this a reality. The current Pre-K program in this state has been far too fractured and piecemealed, leaving many families out. I am committed to working feverishly with my Assembly colleagues and childcare advocates to develop a plan that will see every 4-year old across the state in a UPK program.”