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Pre-K proposal raises questions for districts

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Pre-K proposal raises questions for districts
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Knowledge is power, but it also costs money. As schools continue to face difficult fiscal years, a proposal by the governor may make their budgets even tighter. YNN's Chris Whalen tells us more about the Cuomo's measure and the peculiar problem that it may cause.

BROOME COUNTY, N.Y. -- Along with jobs and the economy, Governor Andrew Cuomo touted education as a top priority in what he calls the 'New' New York.

"We are still providing education as if we were an agrarian economy in an agrarian society and we needed the children home to work the fields," said Cuomo.

Among the changes Cuomo proposed are longer school days, longer school years and more early education, including more pre-kindergarten offerings statewide.

"Children who receive early education perform 25 percent better on math by the second grade, 20 percent better on English, 30 percent are more likely to graduate from high school, 32 percent are less likely to be arrested as a juvenile," Cuomo said.

Locally, the ideas are met with support, but how they would be implemented leaves some district officials concerned.

"On their own they're great ideas, but we have not seen how they'll be funded, where the money is going to come from, if it's going to be competitive grants, I have some concerns about that because I think we're going to have districts that are going to be the 'haves' and districts that are the 'have-nots,'" said Allen Buyck, superintendent for Broome-Tioga BOCES.

But that's only part of the problem. As many districts face fiscal constraints, more teachers and programs are getting the axe.

In Maine-Endwell, one proposal for next year's budget includes the elimination of kindergarten, since it is not required to be offered in districts by law. Without kindergarten, a pre-kindergarten program would be tough to implement.

"If you're going to support UPK and not K, what happens in that in between point and from an educational standpoint it makes no sense," said Jason Van Fossen, superintendent of the Maine-Endwell School District.

Which is one of the reasons Van Fossen says he doesn't support that proposal for his district's budget and a reason that many other districts will have to find even more ways to tighten their belts if pre-k becomes a requirement across the state.

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