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State must find funding in budget for early education

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An open letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

I am writing to request that you hold the funding levels for Early Intervention Programs and preschool services at the same levels that were enacted in the 2012-13 state budget in your executive budget proposal for fiscal year 2013-14 and commit to doing so in future budgets.

With this commitment, you will demonstrate again your ability and willingness to craft and implement long-term solutions. In these two specific areas, you have the ability to define a legacy by setting a simple but monumental new standard for your administration and all future governors: no funding cuts to these programs.

The reason for this request is simple: Early Intervention and preschool services are the epitome of smart, fiscally responsible and forward-thinking government policy. When funded and implemented properly, these services directly help children and families, ensure better quality of life for all of our citizens and save taxpayers significant amounts of money in future years.

I applaud your plan, mentioned in your State of the State address, to expand full day pre-kindergarten for students in low-income areas. This is a good step toward ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to vital early education programs, but a commitment to a one-year increased allocation does not prevent future reductions, and we have seen numerous increases and reductions in recent budgets.

While the state Assembly, under the leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), has been on the forefront of the fight to restore funding for Early Intervention and preschool services, New York state’s record on funding these services over the last several years has been mixed.

A look at the last five years of the state’s budget allocation for preschool shows modest increases from 2008 to 2010, a slight drop in funding when your administration first came into office and then a resumption of a modest increase in this last fiscal year. Considering the $10 billion deficit the state faced two years ago, your record of commitment to preschool, as reflected by these budget decisions, is evident.

The record of support for EIP allocations over the last five years in the state budget is different. Localities are being expected, by federal mandate, to provide adequate EIP services while receiving less assistance in the state’s budget allocation. If our intention is to support our most vulnerable population and relieve localities of additional fiscal burdens, we must reprioritize and renew our financial commitment to these services.

The focus on the proper development and socialization of children from birth to 3, covered by EIP services, and from 3 to 5, covered by preschool services, is of monumental importance for children. While difficult to quantify, it is undeniable that not properly funding these preventative services simply means higher costs in future years for education, health care and other portions of our state budget.

Therefore, I ask you to view EIP services and preschool as proven methods to help preempt developmental problems that would affect our children, and ultimately all New Yorkers, before these problems become more costly or unsolvable.

I look to you, governor, to continue to be as thoughtful and aggressive as you have been on other topics on this issue and lead us by adopting the simple new standard: at an absolute minimum, no cuts to these services.

Andrew Hevesi

Chairman

State Assembly Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation

(D-Forest Hills)

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