Gov. Cuomo Provides No New Funding for Needed Programs that Residents Support
(Long Island, NY) A newly released poll from the Rauch Foundation’s Long Island Index found that 74 percent of Long Island residents support public funding of Pre-K for all families. The survey, conducted by the Stony Brook University Center for Survey Research, also found that 90 percent of Long Islanders agree that attending preschool for at least one year is important for future success in school and future prospects as an adult. This support for preschool attendance was high in all income, age, education, and racial groups.
Decades of highly regarded research support the public’s desire for Pre-K. Time and again, studies show that quality early childhood education improves educational outcomes for children as well as improves the quality of life for families and businesses on Long Island.
Given the importance of quality early education, 74 percent also support the use of public funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs for all families. Support was highest among those aged 18 to 34, at 83 percent. But more than 65 percent of those over the age of 50 also support the public investment. Only 19 percent opposed it.
At the same time, there is tremendous unmet need for quality early childhood education across Long Island. Less than a quarter of the 30,000 four-year-olds on Long Island have access to public Pre-K, mostly half-day. Only a lucky few children managed to get a full-day seat in the Governor’s Universal Full-Day Pre-K launched last year. Waiting lists are growing in districts that offer the new program.
In addition, the cost of private preschool – and quality child care for younger children — is soaring out of reach for the island’s middle class and professional families, and impossibly expensive for parents working in low-wage jobs. With private tuition now running to $13,000 a year, many families need help with the costs. Yet 78 percent of the families eligible for a subsidy can’t get one because counties are running out of money. So are parents, who are forced to make-do with makeshift arrangements that disrupt their children’s learning and their own earning power.
Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo’s proposed state budget includes no new money for Pre-K for four-year-olds, nor does it include any new funding for child care. The state did win a federal preschool grant that will add about 145 new full-day seats this year. But it is surprising, even shocking, that the Governor did not increase the state investment for his own program for four-year-olds this year. It is especially surprising given the promises he made just a year ago, as he announced the new program, with a pledge to invest $1.5 billion over five years to assure every four-year-old in New York State had a seat within five years. Indeed, he promised a “blank check,” to any district with a plan.
The Ready for Kindergarten, Ready for College Campaign, launched by the Alliance for Quality Education, Early Years Institute, the Center for Children’s Initiatives, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, would like to encourage state lawmakers – and especially Long Island’s leaders in the legislature — to make good on the promise of Universal Pre-K. Given this recent poll, they would be wise to enact a state budget that includes funding to support the tens of thousands of four-year-olds still left behind.
“The students and families of Long Island deserve to have access to the highest quality educational opportunities available in our state. We successfully provide a statewide full-day universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) that serves nearly 37,000 children and, in Long Island, I’m proud to have worked with the Family Service League in constructing a new wing of a school in Bay Shore to offer UPK to an additional 100 children,” said Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Bayshore). “As we move forward during the legislative session, I will continue to fight for Long Island’s families in advocating for a state budget that puts our students first and ensures our schools have the necessary tools and resources needed to thrive.”
“As Long Island works to grow our economy, we need to make our communities more attractive to young families,” said Linda Armyn, Vice President of Corporate Development, Bethpage Federal Credit Union. “Early childhood programs not only prepare children for future success in school, but add to our local economy and provide critical support to working parents. Economists agree that investing in early childhood is one of the smartest investments we can make.”
“This is an important public validation of what school superintendents know – we need greater investment in Pre-K,” said Dr. Dana Friedman, president of The Early Years Institute. “The lack of adequate state funding prevents districts from offering Pre-K or serving all who need it.”
“The vast majority of our families on Long Island need and want Pre-K for their children,” said Director Lisa Tyson of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “It’s time our Governor keep his promise and fund Pre-K so all of our children can have the advantages that Pre-K provides — mainly a brighter future.”
“Investing in high-quality early learning is a winning strategy that will significantly close the achievement gap – and more than pays for itself,” said Nancy Kolben, Executive Director of the Center for Children’s Initiatives. “The legislature and the Governor should listen to Long Island families and increase the investment for the 2014-2015 school year. They join with others across the state wanting the best early learning opportunities for their young children.”
“Gov. Cuomo has abandoned his promise to provide quality full-day Pre-K for the four year olds of New York State,” said Jasmine Gripper, the Alliance for Quality Education’s Early Childhood Education Coordinator. “Children and families across the state are eager to have access to this vital program. Investing in children’s education at an early age puts them on track for success. We can’t wait! The children of New York need the Governor to fulfill his promise, not abandon it.”
“Long Islanders are echoing what developmental scientists have shown to be true. Seventy-five percent of brain growth and 85 percent of intellect, personality and social skills develop before age five, so it is imperative that we invest in our youngest children long before they enter Kindergarten,” said Louise Skolnik, DSW, Trustee of Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy and former Nassau County Deputy Commissioner of Social Services and Director of Human Services. “We need investment to make Pre-K truly universal.”