News Column

Education Advocates Call on Governor to Make 'Blank Check' Pre-K Promise Real

February 20, 2014



NEW YORK, Feb. 20 -- The Alliance for Quality Education issued the following news release:

In a letter released today, a group of New York's leading education advocates called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to use 30-day amendments to the Executive Budget to detail the structure and financing of his proposed statewide pre-K program.

The letter, sent by the Schulyer Center for Analysis & Advocacy, the Center for Children's Initiatives, the Alliance for Quality Education, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the Campaign for Educational Equity, and Citizen Action of New York, reads: "We are encouraged that you have publicly committed to provide as much funding as communities need to implement pre-K and to fund pre-K as fast as communities can phase it in. In public comments, you have referred to this as "a blank check" for pre-K. This is a very exciting commitment, but is not reflected in your appropriations bill. We are asking that in your 30-day amendments you include the necessary funding to allow for the "blank check" for pre-K statewide."

The letter notes that the Governor's current budget falls far short of funding a statewide program: "In your Executive Budget you call for expenditure in 2014-15 of $100 million to expand pre-K and an additional $100 million for 2015-16...These funding commitments represent a positive step, but fall short of the more than one billion dollars in annual expenditures identified by many experts, or the $1.6 billion estimated by the Commissioner of Education, as necessary to provide high-quality full-day universal pre-Kindergarten to all of New York State's four year olds."

The letter also calls on the Governor to allow New York City to raise its own taxes to pay for pre-K: "New York City has offered a complementary plan that, if adopted, should reduce the financial burden on the State by increasing the total amount of funding available for pre-K by $340 million--thus freeing up $340 million in state funding for other regions of the state."

The full text of the letter is as follows:

February 19, 2014

The Honorable Andrew Cuomo

Governor

The Capitol

Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

As you prepare your 30-day amendments to the budget we ask that you address key issues in your pre-kindergarten proposal. The appropriations bill appropriately says that the funding "shall prioritize provision of pre-kindergarten to children in high-need school districts" and that funds must be used "to supplement and not supplant" current expenditures. We appreciate and thank you for these provisions. However, the language provides no additional detail regarding your pre-K proposal. It does not identify how many children will be served, the allocation per child, how funds will be allocated among school districts, or what quality standards will be in place to ensure high quality programming.

In your Executive Budget you call for expenditure in 2014-15 of $100 million to expand pre-K and an additional $100 million for 2015-16. In addition, the 2014-15 Executive Budget Briefing Book projects that this amount will increase by another $100 million per year for three years for a total annual appropriation of $500 million in new pre-K funding by year five. These funding commitments represent a positive step, but fall short of the more than one billion dollars in annual expenditures identified by many experts, or the $1.6 billion estimated by the Commissioner of Education, as necessary to provide high-quality full-day universal pre-Kindergarten to all of New York State's four year olds.

We are encouraged that you have publicly committed to provide as much funding as communities need to implement pre-K and to fund pre-K as fast as communities can phase it in. In public comments, you have referred to this as "a blank check" for pre-K. This is a very exciting commitment, but is not reflected in your appropriations bill. We are asking that in your 30-day amendments you include the necessary funding to allow for the "blank check" for pre-K statewide. This past week, many mayors and county executives around the state endorsed the need for universal pre-K, so you can be assured that there is support and enthusiasm for implementing pre-K throughout the state if you ensure the necessary funding to accomplish this objective.

New York City has offered a complementary plan that, if adopted, should reduce the financial burden on the State by increasing the total amount of funding available for pre-K by $340 million--thus freeing up $340 million in state funding for other regions of the state. It would also ensure that 74,000 four-year-olds have access to high quality full-day programs in New York City. In addition, the Mayor's plan calls for expansion of important after school services for middle school children.

Your 30 day amendment needs to make clear how the State can honor its commitment to all four-year olds and provide districts with the assurance they need that the state will provide ongoing resources for school districts to implement universal high-quality full-day pre-K as rapidly as they have the capacity to do so.

Respectfully Yours,

Kate Breslin, President & CEO,

Schuyler Center for Analysis & Advocacy

Billy Easton, Executive Director,

Alliance for Quality Education

Nancy Kolben, Executive Director,

Center for Children's Initiatives

Wendy Lecker

Senior Staff Attorney

Campaign for Fiscal Equity Project of The Education Law Center

Michael Rebell, Executive Director,

Campaign for Educational Equity, Teachers College

Karen Scharff, Executive Director,

Citizen Action of New York

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