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School officials: Universal pre-K is a premature discussion

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: School officials: Universal pre-K is a premature discussion
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Advocates say pre-kindergarten programs help kids develop both educationally and socially.

In fact, the National Institutes of Health says for every dollar spent on early childhood education, there is $11 of economic output. That's why some legislators are pushing for universal pre-K funding. But some school administrators see a flaw in their plan.

There's no question that early childhood education has major benefits for children. That's why Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Utica, are working to pass the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.

"If you start kindergarten and don't have any of that background or support, you may not start out loving school. You may start out feeling unprepared or behind the curve. That's really critical to a child's development," said Gillibrand.

The act would allow the federal government to give money to states running a full-day universal pre-kindergarten program. But some educators believe lawmakers are missing a step.

"I thought it was kind of funny when I saw it because kindergarten is not a required grade right now, yet they want to mandate the grade before it in essence. So I thought that was kind of goofy when I first heard it. So for me, I think people should be able to institute full-day kindergarten first, have that funded each year, see how that goes and then maybe roll it back to universal pre-K," said Christopher Brown, the West Genesee School District superintendent.

In fact, a number of local districts, including West Genesee, just switched from half-day kindergarten to full-day this school year. And the state only provides funding for one year to help with the transition.

"We have to plan out after that first year how we're actually going to sustain that full-day kindergarten experience. So you have to make considerations in other areas of your budget or make sure that when you're planning for salaries and benefits of those teachers who are going to provide full-day kindergarten that you have that accommodated for," said Brown.

While most districts have adopted full-day kindergarten as the norm, some districts have considered cutting full day kindergarten back to half day because of tough budgets.

The cost for federal universal pre-K legislation would be $75 billion over 10 years.

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