Committee Asks New York State To Offer High-Quality Preschool to All 4-Year-Olds
A New York panel has urged the state to make high-quality early-childhood education available to all 4-year-olds, phasing in efforts to serve low-income children first.
In a report submitted to the governor and the legislature, the panel of child-development experts, educators, government officials, and legislative staff members said that publicly funded early-childhood programs now serve only a small portion of the state's 4-year-old population, which is expected to reach 250,000 by 1995.
The report notes that the Head Start program, state-funded prekindergarten, and New York City's Project Giant Step can accommodate only 45,000 low-income children, a total it says is "clearly insufficient."
The panel concluded that the state should supply 89 percent of the funding needed to expand early-childhood programs, with local governments contributing the remain4der. Its report recommends that the state education department oversee such an expansion in collaboration with other state and local agencies.
Most members endorsed the concept that any public or private community-based organization meeting state standards should be eligible for state funds. But representatives of the New York State United Teachers and the state school-boards association have urged that only public schools be allowed to apply for funds, contracting with other providers at their own discretion.
The report proposes that, to be funded, providers must coordinate their efforts with other agencies. They also must offer part- and full-time programs of "developmentally appropriate" education, and health, nutrition, parent-involvment, and transportation services.
The panel also recommended that the departments of education and8social services develop "compatible standards" for prekindergarten and other early-childhood programs, and establish new staff qualifications, training programs, and career-ladder plans.
Although he has not yet released his budget proposal, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo said in his State of the State Message last week that he wants to expand early-childhood programs.
Mr. Cuomo said he would "continue moving toward" the goal of universal prekindergarten for 4-year-olds. He added that programs offering or arranging for full-day care would receive priority in funding.
"I will direct the department of social services to work with the state education department to develop mechanisms to assure that the full-day needs of parents are met in a coordinated manner," he said.--dg