New York's Governor Andrew M. Cuomo presented several education highlights in his budget presentation, including support for the education priorities he laid out since taking office. In November, New York voters will be asked to support a $2 billion bond act to build new and larger schools for a new statewide pre-kindergarten program as well as provide technology upgrades for the state's school districts.
Cuomo wants to implement a plan to spend $1.5 billion over the next 5 years to make pre-k available in any New York school district that wishes to implement a program, which would make New York the 4th state in the country to have a universal pre-k program.
"We don't want to just do pre-K; we want to do it great, and we will," Cuomo said.
Deidre Williams of The Buffalo News writes that the pre-K program was welcomed by educators in Western New York, including Denise A. Dunbar, principal at Sidway Elementary School on Grand Island.
"The advantage of pre-K is that it teaches youngsters literacy skills, math skills and social and emotional skills," Dunbar said. "But most importantly, it gets kids used to what school is all about. You set the students up for success."
Principal Dunbar's school is one of many that offers a pre-k program where unfortunately the need outweighs the school's capacity. Anywhere from 100-125 families try to get their young child into Sidway Elementary for the program offered; but only 36 students are taken due to the lack of resources. To admit all the children and expand the program, the school will need a larger facility, more teachers and extra support staff. The governor's proposal in his new budget will aid the district in accomplishing all these things thus aiding the school as well as any others looking to expand their own programs.
In addition to providing funds for New York's pre-k programs, the governor's proposed budget also allocates funds for after-school programs and teacher incentives.
There are a number of schools districts that have failed to meet state academic standards consistently and with the issues in the state's implementation of the Common Core standards. Cuomo seeks to put more funds into programs aimed at getting students, especially those in high need areas needing improvement, more time in schools with the hope that the additional time in academic and enrichment activities will increase students' academic performance.
The governor's budget proposes spending $720 million over the next 5 years for these after school programs, although he did not allocate any funds or specific measures for schools that have failed to show academic performance despite the mention of potentially severe penalties he stated last year.
Another of the education highlights in the governor's proposed budget was the inclusion of a $20 million fund to recruit and provide incentives to high quality teachers. The fund will allow for teachers who are deemed highly qualified by the evaluation system employed by the state to potentially claim a $20,000 bonus. The proposed pre-k, after school programs and teacher incentives are all in the hopes to improve the state's quality of education and bolster students' both new coming and current's, academic performance.