ALBANY, N.Y. - Dozens are gathering in the Legislative Office Building in Albany Monday; parents, educators and members from the law enforcement community, all calling for an investment in full day pre-k.
Supporters are coming together from across the state sending their message to legislators to approve Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to invest $25 million to expand full day pre-k program, as well as to maintain the current $385 million level of funding for universal pre-k.
"We are finding more and more it's necessary to start getting our students prepared for school before they come," said Cliff Bird, principal of Abram Lansing Elementary School.
Bird has been a principal at that school in the Cohoes City School District for 23 years. Through a state grant, Bird tells NEWS10 he's had full day pre-k in place for five years and has seen the benefits firsthand.
"If we don't put the money in now in making sure our kids are ready and successful in school and life then we're going to end up with having to pay later when they're not ready for society," said Bird.
But Robert Libby, the superintendent of Bird's school district, says the money the governor is proposing isn't enough and worries it could further hurt already cash strapped school districts across the state.
"It's not a concern with the program, it's a concern with the funding," said Libby. "Until we're providing a sound basic education regardless of your zip code, we shouldn't be adding to other programs."
Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff and Sergeant Tracy Henry from the Albany County Sheriff's Office are also among those coming together for the cause. Both say a full day pre-k program would give children a good start and ultimately lead to a reduction in crime.
"Early childhood education puts our kids on a path to success and is proven to reduce instances of criminal activity in the future. How can we afford not to do this?" said Krokoff.
Parents are also speaking, emphasizing the tough economic times and the money troubles they face trying to pay for full day pre-k programs.
"Full-day pre-kindergarten has a proven track record of success," said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. "It increases student outcomes in schools, results in more success in college and the job market, and reduces incarceration rates. Governor Cuomo's proposal to start a pilot program in full-day pre-kindergarten should be adopted by the legislature."