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Budget hearings focus on education funding

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Budget hearings focus on education funding
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Several lawmakers were in Albany this week to hear testimony about funding education, with a focus on common core and universal pre-kindergarten. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports.



STATEWIDE -- Universal pre-kindergarten across the state may be more expensive than Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget estimates. Education Commissioner John King told state lawmakers on Tuesday the plan could cost $1.6 billion per year. However, Cuomo has proposed a phased-in $1.5 billion program over five years.

"You're probably talking on the order of $1.6 billion per year and the question the governor and the Legislature will need to focus on in the next few weeks is, 'What's an appropriate plan for the ramp up''," asked King.

In an exclusive interview, Cuomo told Time Warner Cable News the final numbers for the statewide program will be reconciled in the budget process.

"Everybody has numbers and that's what the budget process is all about. When it comes to what will pre-K cost statewide these are all guestimates by everyone because no one really knows," explained Cuomo. "It depends on how fast local districts come up to speed on the demand. What is the demand for the pre-K slots? So they are literally just that. They are estimates, I don't think people really know."

Meanwhile, King was grilled for more than two hours by the Assembly and the Senate at a budget hearing. In addition to funding issues, lawmakers had a lot of questions about the continuing controversy over the implementation of common core.

"The only thing common about common core is that it seems to be commonly being objected to across the state right now," said Senator Terry Gipson.

Lawmakers at the hearing were especially concerned about whether school districts even have the resources to properly teach the new standards.

"I want resources in the classroom today to help the kids in our school system today," said Senator Cecilia Tkacyzk. "I don't think we have the ability to get our kids ready for colleges and a career based on the budget we were presented."

King has repeatedly defended the standards, despite his acknowledgment the implementation has been flawed.

"I don't think it makes sense to go backwards and to retreat from the idea that students should be writing more, students should be reading more challenging texts, students should be doing more problem solving in math," argued King.

Cuomo has called for a commission to study the common core and wants to have a legislative fix in place by June. However, some lawmakers say they want changes much sooner.

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