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Universal Pre-K Proposal Universally Praised

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Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget released Tuesday includes one of the largest investments in New York’s education system. His call for statewide universal pre-K is being praised by educators in the North Country.

Governor Cuomo spent a substantial portion of his Albany presentation discussing his education proposals, including creating a panel to formulate recommendations for corrective action over flaws in the controversial Common Core curriculum. He asked that standardized testing in kindergarten through grade two be eliminated. The governor then focused on his keynote proposal.   "This year we propose universal full-day pre-K statewide. The state will pay for it. And the state will be proud to pay for it.”

The cost is estimated to be about $1.5 billion over the next five years, and the governor said his budget includes a fully funded five-year plan to cover the costs of implementing the pre-K plan.

Jamie Basiliere, Executive Director of the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, was thrilled to hear the commitment to the state’s youngest citizens.  "It’s truly progressive.  It begins to give our youngest kids a level playing field and gives them all more equal chance to grow and succeed at school and in life. And there will be an economic impact on all of the family child care homes and all of the licensed child care centers. So this announcement from the Governor is good news for all early childhood education and care throughout the state.”

The Willsboro Central School in Essex County has provided pre-K since about 2001, according to superintendent Steve Broadwell. He says it’s important to get children familiar with the school, new friends and educators as early as possible. Broadwell says the governor’s proposal would help his school if there’s additional funding for his program.  "We have the program in place. We have the classroom and the teachers that are in the classroom right now. So it’d really be just additional opportunities for us to have the funding to take some of the burden  off our taxpayers.”

Broadwell agrees with the governor’s philosophy to get young children in the education system as soon as possible. He says there is amazing advancement among his 3- and 4-year-old pre-K children.  "The professionals are giving them cirriculum as well as social acclimation on how to work with large groups. We have 15 students currently in our pre-K program, and while they come in very young and inexperienced in all social settings, within a month to a month and a half it’s amazing the progress you’ll see with our students.  We’re teaching them math and English and science skills. Today as I was down there, they were talking about animals and whether they’re domestic animals or whether they’re wild animals. We think it’s been wonderful for our students.”

Clinton Community College President John Jablonski chairs Clinton County’s THRIVE Leadership Council, a cradle to career education partnership. Jablonski says the governor’s emphasis on universal pre-K is on track with scholarly research on youth development.  "So much of what happens in early childhood determines whether a young person enters kindergarten ready to learn to read. And if they enter kindergarten ready to learn to read, by the time they make the third to fourth grade transition, they’ll be ready to read to learn. So the emphasis that the Governor has placed on early childhood is quite consistent with what all the scholars are telling us about just how important and just how much long term positive impact could be from that sort of investment.”

Governor Cuomo said the state will work with school districts to develop a pre-K implementation schedule.

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