NYSNYS News (The Saratogian)
ALBANY — Advocates for early childhood education held a lobbying day Monday to urge legislators to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to expand pre-K programs in school districts statewide.
“It’s already a proven fact there is a clear nexus between education and poverty and crime,” said Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff.
“We know what is costs already to incarcerate someone in the state of New York, it’s about $70 a day,” he said. “But that’s just putting it in dollars and cents. What we often don’t see is actually the collateral damage that is done when we incarcerate people and we mass incarcerate people and the effect it has on the entire family and the family structure and in the larger community.”
“It’s time that we started investing earlier and I can’t think of a better time than kindergarten and early childhood education,” Krokoff added.
He included the new funding in proposed 2013-14 budget plan after his Education Reform Commission recommended expanding pre-k programs as part of efforts to raise standards. New York spends more than any other state in the U.S. on public schools, but ranks poorly in graduation rates and preparing those who do graduate to undertake college students or enter the workforce.
“(Children) have to come to school ready to learn,” said Cliff Bird, principal of an elementary school in Cohoes where 80 percent of the students are low-income. With new core curriculum standards in place for kindergarteners, “they can’t come to school now and expect us to catch them up.”
Raheim Smith, a Long Island parent, said many parents cannot afford to put children in quality day care when they work. “This is very important and I’m glad to see the governor behind it,” he said. While the state should start with high-needs districts, the programs should be available everywhere, he said.
“We know as parents, everybody needs it, for education purposes as well as economics.”
Cuomo has said that the state’s education system has forgotten the needs of children as it has evolved to primarily serve the goals of the education bureaucracy and vested interests such as the teachers union. NYSUT, the leading teachers union in the state, endorsed Cuomo’s pre-k proposal in testimony on the budget last week.
“There is overwhelming evidence that quality full day pre-k opportunities lead to better outcomes in terms of the academic and social development of children,” union leader Andy Pallotta said. “Studies show that these programs increase graduation rates, reduce retention in grades, increase reading and math proficiency, and increase college participation and completion. The social and economic benefits are also striking. Quality pre-k experiences significantly reduce juvenile arrests and lowers criminal activity in the later years. It reduces teen pregnancy and results in healthier lifestyles.”
“Numerous studies show that lifetime earnings are increased significantly,” he added. “In short, the return on investment in pre-k is enormous and has been estimated to be between $12-$14 in economic benefit for every dollar invested.”
At the same hearing, the state School Boards Association said Cuomo’s promise of an additional $25 million “is woefully inadequate for its intended purpose. Transportation issues alone would more than consume this amount before any program costs were paid.”