March 21, 2018 01:17 AM
There are only five school districts remaining in New York State that don't have full day kindergarten, and nearly half of them are in Monroe County.
To be exact, both Brighton and Pittsford schools don't have full day kindergarten. For those students, that's hundreds of hours of instruction that they're missing out on. That is something that parents hope lawmakers will address this year.
Among them is Pittsford's Sarah Peluso. Her son Joseph that home during a noon interview, because he only attends kindergarten part-time.
"It's very important," she says, "These are their earliest years of education and the foundation of the rest of their lives."
She points to the district's own statistics, which say that only 68 percent of Pittsford kindergarteners hit reading benchmarks, compared to 86 percent in similar districts.
"All of our research shows the tremendous benefits for our students that full-day 'K' would afford," says Michael Pero, the Superintendent of Pittsford Central School District.
So hasn't it happened?
"We're unique in that 80% of our levy comes from our community. So, for us to grow at all, it's difficult within the restraints of the tax cap."
In an attempt to pay for full-day kindergarten themselves, the district had proposed a 4.7% tax increase last year. The budget, however, failed to reach the 60% super-majority needed to override the tax cap.
They removed the kindergarten plan to get the budget passed and Superintendent Pero says they won't try to override the tax cap again this year.
Senator Rich Funke, who represents Pittsford, co-sponsored a bill that would help local districts with aid to make the transition. He points out what he calls a penalty for wealthy, high-achieving districts that minimizes state aid.
This year, for example, Pittsford is set to receive a significantly lower percent than every other local district.
"It has really kind of tied the hands of the administration [and] the Board of Education over there, trying to get this accomplished," he says.
"They need a little help to get it over the finish line, and that's what we're trying to get done for them."
The legislation has passed both the State Senate and the Assembly. Not, it will be negotiated with Governor Cuomo as part of the budget. Last year, he pledged money to help, but he supports a shorter amount of aid than the bill calls for.
"There's things in there right now that if they stay the way they are would mean we would lose $400,000 here, $50,000 here, and so we need to look at the entire budget before we make a decision," says Pero.
Parents in Pittsford will be watching:
"I hope he makes the right decision and honors the commitment that he's given to Pittsford and comes through for not only Pittsford, but all five remaining schools without full day K," says Peluso.
Parents in both districts should have answers about the state aid in the next few weeks- the state budget is due by April 1. In Brighton, that might not even be needed- voters approved a capital improvement project last year that will allow the district to transition to full day kindergarten, with the full day program expected to begin in fall of 2020.
Updated: March 21, 2018 01:17 AM
Created: March 20, 2018 11:02 PM
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