The 2022-23 New York State budget includes $125 million for 4-year-old children to attend full-day pre-Kindergarten programs, including about $27 million for Long Island, Gov. Kathy Hochul touted during a visit to a West Hempstead school on Wednesday.
The state funding will open 4,200 new seats in pre-K classrooms across Long Island, including 2,600 in Nassau County and 44 in West Hempstead.
“Investing in the care and schooling of our youngest New Yorkers is crucial, as they are at the most important stages of their lives for development and growth,” Hochul said. “The historic funding in the enacted budget will go a long way to provide quality pre-K, K-12 education, and child care to families across the state.”
For example, the Chestnut Street School in West Hempstead opened its first universal pre-K classroom in the 2021-22 school year. It will use state funds to open four more pre-K classrooms in a newly-built section of the school, which children are chosen for based on a lottery system.
“We are delighted to begin this journey,” said Principal Faith Tripp. “We are grateful that our youngest learners in the West Hempstead community will be receiving a high quality education that sets them on the path of lifelong learning.”
With a rising cost of living due to inflation, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Long Island parents to send their children to private preschools. After local state lawmakers heard concerns from parents about the high expense of early childhood education, they worked to get it in the budget. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblymember Judy Griffin say the goal is for Long Islanders to one day have as much access to universal pre-K (UPK) as there is in New York City.
“Providing UPK not only benefits children and families but is vital to a thriving local economy,” Griffin said. “Long Island families need our help to make this a reality.”
West Hempstead School District Superintendent Daniel Rehman says that half of the student population did not attend any type of pre-K before entering Kindergarten because families could not afford it.
“The research is clear: early childhood education pays dividends down the line, setting our students up for success,” Kaminsky said. “By bringing pre-K to many Long Island classrooms for the first time, we can foster the growth of our children in and out of the classroom and prepare our students for the demands of the 21st century and beyond.”
In addition to pre-K funding, Long Island will also receive $4.1 billion in total school aid this year, as well as about $841 million for child care.