Community members may be aware that the recently enacted New York State budget included prekindergarten funding to expand programs in low- and medium-wealth school districts and for districts that currently do not have a program for four-year-olds.
Niskayuna was one of the districts that received aid to provide early childhood education opportunities for four-year-olds, as we currently do not have a program. It would require a significant increase in our budget to provide a universal prekindergarten program. The funding that was allocated for our district provides for 104 “slots” in prekindergarten programs.
Considerations as we explore the best use of these funds include:
- We currently do not have any space in our schools for a prekindergarten program.
- Overall community sentiment as we engaged stakeholders in the recent capital project planning work indicated that while early learning is valued, it was also not among the highest priorities for limited local tax dollars.
- There is no guarantee that future prekindergarten funding will be provided to keep up with cost increases. This means that the decisions we make now could affect our budget and our ability to sustain programs.
Yet, we want to use all available resources to improve education and maximize learning opportunities. We are working with regional partners and school systems through BOCES to explore the best way to use the available funds. This will include releasing a Request For Proposals for area early childhood education providers who are interested in working collaboratively.
The funds that we have received, in the form of a grant, would cover the cost of tuition and meals for four-year-olds who reside in the district and would enter kindergarten in the fall of 2022. Any early childhood provider who we work with must provide an educational experience that is aligned with the New York State Early Learning Guidelines, as well as our district-approved curriculum.
Because the grant covers programming for less than half of the kindergarten students we expect to enroll in the fall of 2022, a lottery may need to be held for spots.
We will keep the community informed as this process moves forward.