The East Syracuse-Minoa school district is one of many Central New York School Districts receiving a share of a record $1.1 billion in education funding in the new state budget. ESM will get an additional $3.4 million, or an 11.5% increase.
Superintendent Donna DeSiato says the district will also be getting its first installment of $1.75 million in long-delayed foundation aid.
"The foundation aid really goes into the overall instructional programming and operation of the district. Separate lines in that budget account for transportation aid or text book aid or the early childhood program."
DeSiato says until now, they were losing millions of dollars a year because foundation aid wasn’t keeping up with increasing expenses. The education allocation also includes $105 million to expand four-year-old full-day pre-kindergarten statewide. Senator and former high school teacher John Mannion paid a visit to ESM’s Park Hill Pre-K School Wednesday, and says the additional funds could benefit more than 800 kids in his district.
"What we're seeing at times is that there are more children that come less prepared as they enter kindergarten than they did just a few years ago. That can be for a multitude of reasons. We know that this is absolutely essential to make sure that this is in place.”
Long-time Park Hill Pre-K teacher Cara Galle agrees. She says they cover a lot of ground with four year olds, from social and emotional development, to language, reading, and math skills. That's not to mention the fundamentals of being in a classroom.
"If they've gone to pre-K when they get to kindergarten, they don't really need to learn all of those skills: Walking in a line, sitting for a story, raising their hand, waiting their turn, following directions using whole body listening; those are all skills we cover in pre-K."
Superintendent DeSiato says studies show an investment in early education pays dividends down the road.
"Whether it's incarceration, high school drop outs, addictions, or what it costs when someone is not prepared for either college or career; we could go through a list of all kinds of things that we are reactively paying for because we didn't make the first step, which was to invest from the very earliest point of a child's education."
About a dozen school districts in the 50th senate district have the choice to start pre-k programs or expand them to from half to full day. The challenge might be finding the space and hiring staff.