Local School Districts Discuss Funding Pre-school Long Term

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Three local school districts have been awarded state grants to implement and expand full-day pre-school starting this coming school year, but what happens when the money from Governor Cuomo's five-year pre-school initiative runs out?

Niagara Falls will receive about $290,000 dollars to cover the next three years of full-day pre-school programming, however, is it enough? Superintendent Cynthia Bianco says yes, for now.

"What are we going to do after the three years? My answer to you is seek other revenues," she said.

Bianco says because of ongoing poverty in the City of Niagara Falls, the school district is already used to writing for grants as often as they can. She said if the state does not continue universal pre-school funding, that's likely the route they'd take by writing for more grants.

Bianco says the grant money, right now, is enough to establish two more full-day classrooms. She says that will successfully get 30 to 40 young children off the current wait list and into structured classes this fall.

Bianco says she's grateful for the money but believe more investment is needed at school districts everywhere.

"It has to be more of a long term solution, but we'll take the interim because you know what? We survive year to year. That's no way to run a business, but that's what we're in," she said.

In Buffalo, about $2.5 million will go a long way.

Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie said that amount is enough to create four new classrooms in the schools, open nine classes at community partner locations, and establish a family support center to provide better parents resources.

Tuesday at an elementary school meet-and-greet, Ogilvie said he hopes the state would continue funding such an initiative, but if not, Buffalo is in the same boat as Niagara Falls.

"We will gradually over time make sure that the resources are there to give every one of our students a good start," he said.

In Cheektowaga, assistant superintendent Mary Morris isn't concerned about future pre-school funding, citing that they're a smaller district. She also oversees Cheektowaga's universal pre-school program.

"I already had a thriving half-day pre-k program, and then to make it a full day program, the amount of money they're awarding me is more than enough to make that conversion," she said.

All in all, the pre-school funding doesn't solve every problem these three school districts face, but they'll definitely take what they can get.

Unlike Niagara Falls, Buffalo does not have a wait list, so Buffalo families aren't going to get a phone call about this, but this grant money means there ARE open spaces for more pre-school children. There is still time to enroll for this fall at the central registration office at 33 Ash Road.


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