NY to invest in universal pre-K, after-school programs - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

NY to invest in universal pre-K, after-school programs

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Monica Akey is a mother of four who lives in Keeseville, N.Y. She says the universal prekindergarten and after-school program for New York public schools will be a relief for her wallet, after the cost of paying for her oldest to go to pre-K.

"My husband and I spent two years paying out of pocket for a preschool program for him to prepare him for kindergarten, and we want to be able to provide that same opportunity for our other children," Akey said.

Early childhood educators in the North Country are excited about the plan and say pre-K is critical to the development of kids to get them on the right path to college and a career.

"Our education system is recognizing that 4-year-old children deserve the very best early childhood education possible," said Jamie Basiliere, the executive director of the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country.

A universal pre-K and after-school program would not only help a child's development, it would also help parents who work full time and need somebody to look after the kids.

"We work 40-plus hours a week to pay our bills and support our children," Akey said.

Part of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plan puts $1.5 billion toward full-day pre-K for every school in New York that wants it. But even with all that money, there are still financial concerns. State Assembly member Janet Duprey says transportation is an issue in some areas and those school districts cannot afford extra busing. Duprey also says schools simply aren't big enough to accommodate more students, and more classrooms would have to be built.

"It sounds like with funding from the governor's budget there will be money for capital improvement in schools to create space," Basiliere said.

Not all the details of the governor's plan are worked out, but Akey is grateful for the chance to put aside extra money for her kids' college funds, which would otherwise go to pre-K and day care.

"We want them to be successful members of society when they're older. I think that it's really important and it's going to be great and benefiting not only my family but many families just like mine," Akey said.

Families who say they will now have a better chance to give their child's education a good start.

New York lawmakers say the first schools to receive universal pre-K will be schools with low-income families and children in need.

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