Local leaders support statewide universal pre-K

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Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to gather support for state-wide pre-kindergarten classes that he outlined during his State of the State address.

On Friday, education leaders in Buffalo gathered to support the governor’s proposal. Across the city through Head Start and pre-K programs, there are already hundreds of children who are starting their education early.

Buffalo Schools Supt. Dr. Pamela Brown said, “We know it’s critically important for children, particularly those who live in poverty to have an opportunity to develop those pre-school skills so they can get off to a great start in kindergarten.”

But there are still many more children who aren’t given the same opportunity.

L. Nathan Hare of Community Action Organization said, “They collectively only make up about 16 percent of all the age-eligible, income-eligible kids in our county. So there are huge gaps in the number of kids who are able to be served.”

Education leaders in Buffalo are trying to drum up support for Governor Cuomo’s plan to offer state-funded pre-K to all children in New York State.

“We are going to make New York the leaders in the nation when it comes to this issue of universal pre-K,” said Sen. Tim Kennedy.

The plan is to invest $1.5 billion over five years to support the universal pre-K program. Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal includes $100 million for next school year to get the program started.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “I say that’s peanuts compared to what our future offers us when we do that.”

The governor’s plan doesn’t specify where that money will come from and there are talks about raising taxes. But Peoples-Stokes has her own ideas.

“We are going to put in another bill that actually allows opportunities to keep some of the stock option transfer dollars that are often given back every year to specifically use for universal pre-K,” she said.

And the timeline is quick. If it passes during budget discussions in April, it could go into effect in a year’s time.

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