School boards mixed on Pre-K proposal as long as state aid funding gap persists
FOR RELEASE: February 12, 2015
CONTACT: David Albert
(518) 783-3716 or (518) 320-2221 cell
On Twitter: @nyschoolboards
School board members are divided over Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to expand state-funded prekindergarten to three-year-olds, with slightly more opposing the plan than supporting it, according to a recent poll by the New York State School Boards Association.
Forty-eight percent of board members responding to the poll said they were opposed to the governor's proposal to spend $25 million to expand prekindergarten to three-year olds in high-needs school districts. Forty percent supported the measure, while 12 percent were not sure.
"This proposal presents school boards with a classic conundrum: whether to support a growing state investment in early childhood education or whether to demand that scarce state funds be used to shore up funding gaps in K-12 education," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer.
Kremer pointed out that many school districts do not have enough resources to provide the desired educational opportunities at the kindergarten through grade-12 level. That's largely because of the state's gap elimination adjustment (GEA) – which is currently withholding more than $1 billion in state funds from schools – and a frozen Foundation Aid formula, which provides basic operating aid to school districts.
NYSSBA has asked for a $1.9 billion state aid increase for the 2015-16 school year, with $1.3 billion of that funding going toward GEA restoration and a functioning Foundation Aid formula.
"Starting up a new program and directing a portion of precious state funding – even for a worthy endeavor such as pre-k – makes less funding available for existing educational programs," Kremer said.
Kremer said the sensible thing for the state to do would be to increase state aid overall and allow school districts to use a portion of that funding to provide prekindergarten. In addition, Kremer said NYSSBA opposes the continued separation of the multiple pre-K funding streams, instead preferring to see all such programs combined for greater simplicity and efficiency.
Reaction to the proposal varied by region. Respondents from the Capital District, Mohawk Valley and Western New York regions expressed the greatest opposition to the pre-K for three-year-olds proposal, while those from the downstate suburbs, mid-Hudson Valley and Tug Hill Plateau areas expressed the greatest support. Respondents from the central New York region and Suffolk County were equally split, with the exact same percentage supporting and opposing the proposal.
Results are based on an informal NYSSBA Pulse Poll conducted this month that drew 678 responses.
About NYSSBA: The New York State School Boards Association represents more than 650 school boards and more than 5,000 school board members in New York. NYSSBA provides advocacy, training, and information to school boards in support of their mission to govern the state's public schools.