Implementing full-day pre-kindergarten across New York would cost about $1.6 billion a year when it is fully phased in—three times what Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing to pay over the next five years.
If it was expanded to full day and to all four-year-old students, it would cost about $1.6 billion, he estimated.
“The challenge is, and the governor has talked to this issue, the capacity isn’t there to deliver all of those seats and all of those programs in September,” King testified.
In his budget address last week, Cuomo pledged $100 million a year for pr-kindergarten, expanding to $500 million a year by the fifth year. Cuomo has since stressed that the state would make as much money available as needed to expand the program.
“We have the funding. We want it to come online as soon as fast as you can bring it online,” Cuomo said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to tax the rich to fund the city’s roughly $340 million a year pre-k program. Cuomo wants to pay for it through the state budget, starting with new classes in the fall.
King said one of the challenges is that schools would need an infusion of space and resources to get a massive pre-kindergarten program implemented. One district, he said, told him it would need 25 new classrooms to accommodate all the new students.
Cuomo’s proposal in the state budget is for the fiscal year that starts April 1.
“So the challenge over the next four weeks, I think, for you and the governor to grapple with is how do you figure out what a reasonable trajectory is to increase spending over the next few years to get to a place where you could have universal, full-day access?” King said.