J-D, F-M to reject new state funding that allows school districts to add or expand Pre-K, others considering

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — At least ten school districts in Central New York have been allocated funding in the New York State budget to either add or expand their universal prekindergarten programs.

State Senator John Mannion, a former high school biology teacher, announced Wednesday that ten school districts in his state senate district can split funding for up to 800 full-day Pre-K slots.

  • Baldwinsville
  • Fayetteville-Manlius
  • Jamesville-Dewitt
  • Liverpool
  • Marcellus
  • North Syracuse
  • Skaneateles
  • Tully
  • West Genesee
  • Westhill 

To highlight an already-existing program, Mannion visited Park Hill School, which houses the long-running prekindergarten program for the East Syracuse Minoa School District.

Senator Mannion said, “I have been in classrooms almost thirty years and my wife has as well. What we’re seeing, at times, is that there is probably more children that come less prepared as they enter kindergarten than they did just a few years ago.”

Superintendent Dr. Donna DeSiato touted the benefits ESM’s program has on the four-year-old students.

Dr. DeSiato said, “We can reduce the amount of all kinds of costs in our world, whether it’s incarceration, whether it’s high school drops out, whether it’s addictions, whether it’s what it costs when someone is not prepared for either college or career. If we could go through a list of all kinds of things that we are reactively paying for, because we didn’t make the first step which was to invest from the very earliest point of a child’s education.”

DeSiato’s district won’t benefit from Pre-K funding, but she encourages other districts can use Park Hill’s model to get their own programs started.

NewsChannel 9 reached out to the superintendent for each district to see if their districts plan to use the funding to get programs open by the next school year in September.

The superintendents of North Syracuse and Liverpool, both of which have some Pre-K programs for a limited number of students are working with their outside providers to see if the already-existing programs can be expanded.

Baldwinsville, West Genesee, Westhill, Marcellus and Skaneateles school districts are all exploring what the funding means for their districts and discussing if programs can be up and running by September, according to emails from respective superintendents and administrators.

The Marcellus Board of Education will discuss the possibility of introducing Pre-K using the new funding at Monday’s meeting. Superintendent Michelle Brantner emails: “The administration is interested in pursuing the possibility with the board of education’s support.”

“The funding was a bit of a very pleasant surprise,” West Genesee Superintendent Dr. David Bills emails NewsChannel 9. “We are examining all options, at this point.”

A spokesperson for Baldwinsville emails, “We are still exploring several factors, including long-term funding and the housing of the program.”

Tully, which already has some Pre-K, has not yet discussed what to do with the new money.

Some districts have already decided to reject the funding, apparently not able to get programs up and running by September.

A spokesperson for the Jamesville-DeWitt district writes NewsChannel 9, “At this point in time, the district does not have the capacity to add a Pre-K program and therefore will not receive the money…”

It doesn’t seem that Fayetteville-Manlius plans to take advantage of the funding either. A district spokesperson responds: “At this time, F-M, unfortunately, does not have the capacity for a UPK program.”

Senator Mannion says he’s still researching if the funding is a one-time offer or if districts can build programs for future years.

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