New York Mulls All-Day Pre-K

Michelle Chen covered many of the issues that need to be resolved before New York all-day pre-K can become a reality. Funding is the heart of the issue. The cost to make pre-k available to all eligible 4-year-olds is estimated at $340 million. It is unclear how much of the $340 million is earmarked for teachers’ compensation. Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed an income tax on the wealthy in New York City to fund the initiative but the proposal is opposed by Governor Cuomo.

The New York Daily News reports that Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal scheduled for release today, “calls for the state to finance full-day pre-K not just for New York City, but for every school district across the state.” Cuomo’s plan promises $1.5 billion in state funds of the next 5 years.

The January 20, 2014 New York Times editorial, Pre-K on the Starting Blocks, highlights many of the same issues raised by thought leaders during the MCH Early Childhood Leadership Conference. “…the city will have to persuade parents to sign up, make sure there is a qualified teaching corps with classes small enough to be effective, and tightly integrate the program with kindergarten through third grade so that 4-year-olds do not lose their momentum. It will have to prepare children well for the rigorous Common core learning standards…”

Chen cited the Economic Policy Institute’s position about the benefits so early childhood education, “High-quality pre-kindergarten benefits government budgets by saving government spending on K-12 education, child welfare, and the criminal justice system, and by increasing tax revenues.”

Responses to the Times editorial show there is still a wide gap to close before reaching consensus on universal pre-k. The comments span:

  • Logistics: “the infrastructure of the NYC public school system could not possibly handle an influx of 48,000 new 4 year olds in 2014.”
  • Readiness: “…4 year olds are too young. They are tired in the morning and very tired in the afternoons.”
  • Outcomes: “Finally a school reform initiative that the research tells us has the potential to make a vast different in…student learning.”
  • Parenting: “Articles like these…diminish the effect and responsibility of parents.”

This success (or failure) of this initiative in New York will be watched closely as other states consider expanding pre-K.