New York State Exposed Education: Funding for full-day Pre-K

Updated: 08/18/2014 4:42 PM
Created: 07/24/2014 6:49 AM WHEC.com
By: Rachel Spotts

It is news that some parents have been waiting to hear. State lawmakers approved millions to fund Pre-K programs across New York. However, only two school districts in Monroe County applied for those grants.

Gates Chili's superintendent hopes her district will receive that state money. She says Pre-K puts students on the right path to success. It is an option that Webster mother Rachel Nemeth wish she had. She is upset that her children’s school district didn’t even try to get a state grant.

Rachel Nemeth said, “The expectations in kindergarten now are much, much higher than they used to be. Kids are expected to be able to write their names and do a lot more that they would learn in Pre-K.”

Rachel Nemeth has four-year-old twins, Austin and Matalyn. Both are set to enter Pre-K this fall. In Webster, the school district only offers half day programs. That is a disappointment for parents who want their kids to be fully prepared for kindergarten.

Nemeth said, “The more learning that my kids can get ahead of time and be more prepared to get into kindergarten, the better.”

Administrators at the Gates Chili School District agree.

Erin Ugine, Special Education Coordinator, said, “Hanging up backpacks or knowing which way a book should be held, or knowing concepts of print, letter identification, playing with other boys and girls. These are some of the fundamental things that are critical for school readiness.”

Kimberle Ward, Gates Chili Superintendent, said, “We know and truly believe in how important this is for our students of pre-school age.”

Gates Chili Superintendent Kimberle Ward says it is critical for young kids to be fully prepared when they start school. That is why the district applied for a state grant to launch full day Pre-K. Gates Chili is one of just two districts in Monroe County to apply, along with Fairport. 

News10NBC did reach out to the Webster superintendent to find out why that district did not take advantage of the funding. We called four times, left multiple messages and emails, but were still denied an interview.

State lawmakers approved grants totaling $340 million this spring. The goal is to help school districts across the state launch full day Pre-K, but the majority of the money is going to schools in New York City. Only $40 million will be available for other school districts.

News10NBC learned that some districts didn't apply because the money from the grant won't come until mid-school year.

Jody Siegle, Monroe County School Boards Association Executive Director, said, “At a time like this when many districts have very, very tight budgets and limited reserves, they really don't have the money to forward fund a program of this sort.”

Ward says the money is especially critical for her district, because Pre-K isn't offered at all.  

Ward said, “Right now, we don't have universal pre-kindergarten in our school and in our district. I think that is the difference between those that didn't apply and those that did apply. Many of our neighboring school districts already have pre-kindergarten in their districts.”

Ward says that her district works with organizations in the community to offer daycare, but those programs cost money that a growing number of families can't afford. Ward says offering Pre-K through the district would help lessen that burden. 

Ward said, “We are waiting on pins and needles, at this point, in hopes of getting the funding.”

We should find out in the coming days which districts will be awarded the grants. If Gates Chili is awarded that grant, the district would open Pre-K to 90 students. 

We did reach out to several of the school districts that did not apply for the grants to ask why, but we were denied an interview.

To see a complete list of the school districts across the state that did apply for the funding, click here.

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