School advocates, educators, parents and police stressed the importance of pre-kindergarten at a lobbying event Monday.
Supporters, including the Alliance for Quality Education and Citzen Action, prepared for a day of meetings with lawmakers, where the advocates would push for their support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $25 million proposed budget allocation for pre-K. Cuomo wants to start next year by establishing full-day pre-K in high-needs districts.
Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff and Sergeant Tracy Henry of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office discussed the connections between educational failures and crime.
“We know what it costs to incarcerate someone in New York. It’s about $70 a day,” Krokoff said, arguing that kids who don’t excel early in school often turn to crime. “It’s time that we start investing earlier, and I can’t think of a better time than kindergarten and early childhood education.”
Raheim Smith, a father of four who lives on Long Island, said sending one or more children to day care, either in place of pre-school or for the hours not covered by half-day pre-K, is costly and stressful. He said parents, whether in high-needs districts or not, need the relief that could be provided by public full-day pre-K.
Cliff Bird, principal of Abram Lansing Elementary School in Cohoes, near Albany, said his school has offered full-day pre-K for six years.
Just like when building a house, Bird said, without a solid foundation, nothing else matters. But some schools can’t even afford kindergarten, let alone pre-K, he said.
“Our school system is set up for kids to be ready when they walk in the door,” Bird said. “Our society is not set up for that anymore.”
“Pay now, or pay later,” Bird said, agreeing that children without a good education are at risk of ending up in prison.
Few are opposed to offering full-day pre-K in New York, but the state’s economy has lagged, and legislators might have other priorities.
The state Education Department proposed putting $75 million into pre-K next year. Cuomo included $75 million in his budget for education reform, but only a third of that would go to pre-K. The rest would be for extending the school day or year, building community schools, providing incentives for master teachers and supporting early-college high schools.