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Letter: Pre-K funds elusive for LI schools

Kindergarten teacher Melissa Mazzalonga asks students questions inside

Kindergarten teacher Melissa Mazzalonga asks students questions inside her classroom at Washington Elementary School in Huntington, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

With fanfare, New York State included in its recent budget $340 million for much-needed pre-K programs.

Surprisingly, $300 million was set aside for New York City, with only $40 million left for the rest of the state. Even that $40 million is of little use to Long Island, because as we are just learning now, accessing it has been made so difficult.

The need for pre-K on Long Island is great. Only half of our school districts offer it, serving fewer than 9,000 of the about 30,000 4-year-olds. Yet, while all other state education funds are provided to districts in the current school year, that is not the case for this pre-K funding.

In this case, the state will reimburse providers only up to 25 percent by April, with the rest coming after the school year has ended. Districts must secure most of the funding from their own revenue in the current school year, while still remaining under the 2 percent tax cap.

This funding process is not adequate and should be fixed. Otherwise, many of Long Island's 4-year-olds will miss the opportunity to gain critical skills that would prepare them for school success.

Jennifer Marino Rojas, Garden City

Editor's note: The writer is vice president of grants and operations at the Rauch Foundation, a private organization that researches and advocates for Long Island communities.