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Watching and Waiting -- Pre-K Extension Apprehension

PHOTO: Among NY school superintendents waiting for an opportunity to apply for new Pre-K funding is Freeport's Dr. Kishore Kuncham (here being honored at 2012 Indian Independence Day celebration by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano). Courtesy Freeport Public Schools.
PHOTO: Among NY school superintendents waiting for an opportunity to apply for new Pre-K funding is Freeport's Dr. Kishore Kuncham (here being honored at 2012 Indian Independence Day celebration by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano). Courtesy Freeport Public Schools.
July 26, 2013

FREEPORT, N.Y. – High-needs school districts in New York, including 10 on Long Island, are waiting for an RFP, or Request for Proposals, which could give them access to funding that would broaden existing Pre-K programs.

While not every district is sure it's going to apply for the money to expand its programs for pre-kindergarten learning, they'd at least like to see the RFP, which has been drawn up and is awaiting release.

Freeport schools superintendent Dr. Kishore Kuncham is among those growing impatient.

"We're all waiting for the RFP to come out so that we can understand, more in depth, what the intent of this funding is going to be and how we can take advantage of it," he explains.

Enrollment is swelling in many districts so there is apprehension over whether enough physical space can be found to accommodate full-day Pre-K, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphasized in his State of the State Address.

Some observers applaud the initiative but point out Pre-K addresses the needs of less than 10 percent of all the New York children in early childhood programs.

Dana Friedman of the Early Years Institute says Pre-K would especially be effective as part of the education continuum, so it would be, as she puts it, “grades P through 12.”

"I think it's really important that the governor is starting at least to advocate the fact that a full day of Pre-K is valuable to later schooling and success in education,” she says. “But we have to move from symbolism to real funding."

She adds the majority of the state's children aren't in Pre-K, nor in Head Start programs, child care centers or family child care homes. Half are at home or with relatives because they can't find or afford the care that's out there.

Kuncham says some districts, including his, are worried they won't be able to provide full-day kindergarten, much less Pre-K, because of reduced school funding and the cap on property taxes. He's still for it, though.

"Research time and again has shown that those who had attended Pre-K programs, the graduation rate has been higher," he says.

Friedman says there's a long way to go.

"Achieving Pre-K for all, as President Obama wants to do, and I believe Gov. Cuomo eventually wants to do, is not easy," she says.



Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY