Assemblymembers Zebrowski & Skoufis Announce Full Day K Incentive Legislation

Providing increased state aid of a 5-year period would help achieve universal full day K statewide

Assemblymembers Ken Zebrowski and James Skoufis announced their proposal to provide full day kindergarten to all New York children, including those in the North Rockland School District. The proposal increases conversion aid and provides multi-year funding to better assist school districts in the transition to full day kindergarten. As of the 2015-16 school year, only nine districts remain in New York that do not provide full day kindergarten. The legislation would change the current full day K incentive program, which is only a one year grant, to a five year phase out providing the districts with increased funding and flexibility to convert to a full day program. It would also mandate that any current districts that have full day K, or transition to full day K, maintain the program ensuring New York children are guaranteed this important service in the future.

"It is universally acknowledged that early childhood education is fundamental to the future success of our children. In recent years there has been well deserved focus on universal pre-k, however, officials seemed to have forgotten that the children in nine New York districts are still not provided full day kindergarten," said Zebrowski. "It makes no sense that in these districts children could potentially go to a full day pre-k program and then go backwards to a half day kindergarten class. Kindergarten is a critical time for a child and it shouldn't matter what side of the street you live on to determine your eligibility for this service," concluded Zebrowski.

"The early, formative years are imperative to ensuring our children grow up to become thoughtful and productive members of society," said Skoufis. "Due to unique situations in nine school districts around our state, however, thousands of students have unacceptably gone without a full day's kindergarten education. The legislation Assemblyman Zebrowski and I are introducing will provide the resources necessary to close this gap and best prepare our young children for the remainder of elementary school and beyond."

The proposal would enhance the current financial incentive, “Full Day K Conversion Aid” that provides funding to school districts for transition costs. The current state aid program provides one year funding; the Zebrowski-Skoufis proposal would change this into a five-year funding program that gradually phases out. This expansion allows for districts that struggle financially to more easily transition to a full day program over a five-year period. Eligible school districts would receive the maximum aid in the first year, and the aid would decrease incrementally over the next four years. The current system provides one year of funding, but afterwards districts face a "cliff" that is difficult to budget for in the current climate. The program would be available on an ongoing basis, giving school districts the flexibility and the time necessary to develop a funding plan and deal with space requirements.

In addition to the legislation, Assemblyman Zebrowski organized a coalition of Assemblymembers, who represent school districts that currently provides half day K, to write a letter to Governor Cuomo requesting that he include the Full Day Incentive proposal in his 2016-2017 budget. The letter was co-authored by Assemblyman Skoufis, Assemblymember Jaffee and the following Assemblymembers: John McDonald, Harry Bronson, Carrie Woerner, Andrew Raia, and Chad Lupinacci.

"Our hope is that this program can be incorporated in this year’s State Budget and that the Governor heeds our call in Wednesday's budget proposal," said Zebrowski.

Assemblyman Zebrowski and Skoufis will be joined at today’s press conference by Senators Larkin and Carlucci, as well as Assemblymember Jaffee who are all supportive of the program and the push for full day kindergarten.

Zebrowski and Skoufis will also be joined by a group of North Rockland parents and residents who have been advocating for full day kindergarten in the North Rockland School District. The Assemblymembers' proposal ought to enable the district to make this goal a reality for young North Rocklanders.

"This bill, which starts its journey today, will rescue our children from the tied hands of the nine NYS school districts that each face unique economic challenges," said Jen Teichmann, parent and President of North Rockland Full Day Kindergarten Advocates.