Hudson Valley lawmakers fight for pre-K funding in state budget
A fight is underway in Albany to provide all 4-year-olds in the state access to free full-day pre-K.
A delegation of Hudson Valley lawmakers is fighting for funding in the state budget for universal pre-K. Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, of Rockland County, says it isn't truly universal outside of New York City.
"In Westchester, in Rockland oftentimes you have to sign up for a lottery. There shouldn't be winner and losers with pre-K," says Zebrowski.
Zebrowski says he wants every 4-year-old in New York to have access to free pre-K and a full day of learning versus a half-day, which he argues doesn't work for most working parents.
"We currently have a process where there are some half-day slots for $2,700 a kid. There are some full-day slots for $5,400 a kid. Then there is another full-day program for about $10,000 a kid that has been like a competitive grant process," says Zebrowski.
He says this is confusing for parents and school districts, and in many cases doesn't provide enough funding to pay for the program - and that's the case in White Plains.
White Plains School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca says the district serves about 500 pre-K students right now, and because of inadequate funding an estimated 200 more students are being left behind.
"We can't start the educational process behind," says Ricca. "We know that we can do more. We know that we have more children that can take advantage of pre-K in White Plains, but we need to have the resources to do that."
Following last year's budget battle, state-funded pre-K programs were expanded to more than 200 school districts across the state.
The deadline for this year's budget is April 1.