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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will propose that New York become the nation’s first big state to offer full-time pre-kindergarten statewide, an administration official said.
Cuomo will detail his proposal to the Legislature today in his executive budget proposal. New York would join Georgia, Oklahoma and West Virginia to offer school districts the option of creating the program for 4-year-olds.
Cuomo will propose spending $1.5 billion over five years to implement pre-kindergarten in school districts that choose to offer the program. The local programs will have to be approved by state officials first, to make sure they are productive and rigorous for the age group, rather than a substitute for day-care service.
The funding source after five years isn’t certain because the Legislature can’t bind future legislatures to funding. But pre-kindergarten could by then become another grade eligible for traditional state school aid.
Cuomo will detail where the $1.5 billion will come from in his budget address, slated for 2 p.m. in Albany.
Education experts laud pre-kindergarten as an important development step for students. New York currently offers state funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten, but only for half-day programs. Educators, however, stress the need for full-day programs.
Cuomo’s proposal comes as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has pushed for universal pre-kindergarten for city schools. De Blasio has proposed an income tax surcharge on the wealthiest city residents to pay for it.
That tax increase, however, would conflict with Cuomo’s proposed tax-cut plan. Cuomo has said he wants to change New York’s image as a high-tax state to attract employers and address the exodus of young, educated New Yorkers.
The cost of building classrooms has hindered expansion of pre-kindergarten. Cuomo has proposed a $2 billion bond act to pay for improving technology in all schools which could also fund construction of pre-kindergarten classrooms.