ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In their last session day this week, lawmakers went after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education agenda.
Despite historic investments, lawmakers say the governor needs to make a shift. Out of the state’s 700 districts, six still remain without full-kindergarten programs.
“Our students are really falling behind, it is affecting them long term,” Barbara Qinn, principal at Taft Elementary, said.
Qinn says her school budget only allows for two hours of kindergarten a day.
“Trying to meet the academic rigors that is being put on us as well as addressing the social and emotional needs of the students, we could not meet in that two-hour time period.”
Qinn says at a minimum, her district needs between one and $2 million for staff and materials to make kindergarten full time.
Her Washingtonville district is not alone. Five districts across the state also fail to offer kindergarten full day.
“Given the property tax cap and the limitations of what you can spend, it presents a real hardship,” Assembly Democratic Leader Joe Morelle said.
Three of the six are the assembly democratic leader’s district.
“A number of the school districts didn’t want to have full day kindergarten, not because they didn’t think it was important, simply because they didn’t trust that the state funding was going to be there.”
Morelle and fellow Democrats, along with Senator Carlucci say the funding should be there.
They want the governor to include $25 million in the budget, spread out over five years, so these six districts can offer full-day kindergarten.
It wasn’t the only education issue today.
Both Senate and Assembly Democrats are asking for $4 billion over two years to make sure education funding is fairly spread out across the state.
The governor’s budget admits an achievement gap in communities exists.
His plans includes $5 million to expand pre-k programs and $35 million for after-school programs in poorer communities, but these lawmakers and educators say it’s not enough.
“I would only hope that they believe that these kids are our future and they put their money where their mouths are right now,” Qinn said.