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Advocates call for Pre-K to be offered to every child across New York

Less than half of the school districts in Onondaga County offer Universal Pre-K to their students, but a proposal from education organizations around New York could change that.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Less than half of the school districts in Onondaga County offer Universal Pre-K to their students, but a proposal from education organizations around New York could change that.

A new study recently called Pre-K "essential” and recommended it be made available to every child.

Now, The Campaign for Educational Equity Teachers College, Columbia University and the Center for Children’s Initiatives is proposing a plan that calls for action from state legislators to pass a law making Pre-K available to every child throughout the state of New York.

The Atonement Child Care Center in Syracuse offers universal Pre-K for children in the Syracuse City School District.

Most of the children enrolled are from low-income families, who, according to researchers, need early childhood education the most.

“The first five years are critical, probably the most important time in a child’s life and we do set the stage for their future learning,” said Pamela Coppola, Director of Atonement Child Care Center. “Children [from low income families] are in desperate need of a program like this in order to even the playing field for success in school.”

“We know that poor children lag behind higher income children in school success, and I think we're really looking to answers for that problem,” said Peggy Liuzzi, Executive Director of Child Care Solutions.

Educators say while children from low-income families will benefit the most, the proposal is said to help all students before going to kindergarten.

Experts say Pre-K is vital to a child's development, but it’s not all instructional time; free play can help with a child's social skills.

“It takes a good quality effective teacher, who's offering the right experiences and activities through play so that the children can reach the goals they need to reach,” Coppola said.

The Pre-K education can be crucial for a child’s development according to Liuzzi, who says early programs help students stay on track for years to come.

“Children that start school behind often stay behind,” Liuzzi said.

Pre-K is not mandatory and the proposal isn’t pushing to change that, according to advocates.

The advocates say that every family should at least have the choice of sending their children to pre-K or not.

The proposal would mean the state would foot the bill for child care in the form of schools for children age 3 and 4, perhaps taking money from other school funded activities or programs.

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