Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) joined Cornwall Central School District leadership, local officials, and parents to announce historic levels of school aid funded in this year’s state budget that will create up to 82 first-ever pre-kindergarten seats in Cornwall, and over 2,650 total throughout his Senate District–the most new seats added to any Senate District in the state.
The investment, an additional $125 million above last year’s funding, marks the start of a three-year phase-in to completely universal, statewide pre-kindergarten. Skoufis fiercely advocated for the expansion of pre-kindergarten spending outside of New York City during last year’s state budget negotiations, and once again went to bat for this key boost to early childhood education for the Hudson Valley’s youngest residents.
“By giving all of our kids a shot at a great education, we’re leveling the playing field and setting them up for lifelong success,” said Skoufis. “Without these UPK seats, local families have been forced to choose between sending their kids to expensive programs, or sacrificing this crucial, but costly, early education. That’s why I fought like hell for first-ever UPK funding last year, and a huge increase this year: it simply isn’t fair that Hudson Valley families have had to make that choice while families in New York City haven’t. Our community’s future depends on the success of our kids.”
The state’s UPK funding is considered ‘use it or lose it,’ meaning that school districts that do not choose to create pre-kindergarten programs will be forced to return the aid to Albany. Skoufis is urging every district to recognize the lasting value these new funds will provide, and encourages local parents to speak out about the need for UPK: “Frankly, any school district that chooses not to fully invest in our kids is leaving money on the table and, more importantly, losing out on the opportunity to provide an education to our community’s four year-olds.”
“UPK in Cornwall is a win-win-win-win: for children, parents, the school district, and our community,” said Cynthia Fusillo, a local parent and UPK advocate. “Early learning helps our kids build skills to reach their developmental milestones, grants families the financial freedom to give their kids the educational foundation they need and deserve, helps to break cycles of poverty, and allows parents like myself to reenter the workforce. Research has also shown that access to early learning programs can facilitate discovery of learning disabilities at a younger age, allowing parents and teachers to intervene sooner and improve outcomes.”
The Cornwall CSD Board of Education formally approved the district’s budget, which includes a 24% increase in state foundation aid without increasing school property taxes, on April 21. School district residents will vote on the budget on May 17.