Cuomo’s budget funds preschool for all

Pat Gareau, Creative Editor

 

 

Students in Hudson Valley’s early childhood program voiced support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to fund universal preschool education in New York.

The 2014-15 executive budget outlines a plan that would implement preschool programs in the public education system with $1.5 billion over five years.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Delmarie Moore, freshman early childhood major.“When you’re in pre-k it’s great for social skills.”

“Statistically, the most important grade we go through is preschool,” said Dylan Agan, freshman early childhood major.

“They’ve done enough validated research that it’s impacting [policy],” said Nancy Cupolo, Chairperson of the Early Childhood Department.

Studies have shown that children receiving a preschool education are significantly less likely to drop out of school, use drugs, go to jail, get divorced or have teen pregnancies.

“Learning begins in early childhood,” said Cupolo.

In New York State, 45 percent of children ages three to four are not enrolled in preschool. While this is better than the nation at large (54 percent), it is still a huge portion of the population.

Professor Eileen Mahoney noted an often cited study from the 1970s that concluded every dollar spent on early education will save $7 in the future because of the reduced costs of other social programs.

Despite long term savings, opponents of state funded preschool worry about the stress that an expensive new program would put on government budgets.

Students in the early childhood program pointed out, as a response to budgetary concerns, that it may be beneficial to cut out 12th grade in favor of pre-kindergarten. In this model, no extra year is added onto the system, but the benefits of early childhood education are retained.

Governor Cuomo is not the only politician involved.

Bill de Blasio, the newly elected Mayor of New York City, campaigned on universal preschool being payed for by increased taxes on the wealthy. Following Cuomo’s proposal, the state and its biggest city are working on how to to best accomplish their similar goals with slightly differing strategies.

President Obama also put forth an early childhood education plan for the country following his State of the Union address in 2013. His plan included funding for middle and low income families to send their young children to preschool.

Currently, only 28 percent of children are enrolled in public preschool programs. Locally, the only districts that provide early education are Albany, Schenectady and Troy. Since private programs are expensive, it causes many children to start a step behind in their education.

Workers in early childhood education can expect many opportunities with a renewed priority of expanded access. But students entering the field soon, like those at Hudson Valley, support universal preschool for reasons far beyond those of job opportunities.

By making sure the very young get off to a good start, society as a whole is strengthened.

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