On Thursday, Nov. 16, District Advocacy Team members met with Conor McMahon, Finger Lakes regional representative for Gov. Cuomo, here in Rochester, and with Jamie Frank, assistant secretary for education, in Albany. The Full-Day Kindergarten petition, signed by over 2,000 people voicing their support for FDK funding, was presented during these meetings.
Our teams thanked the governor for his support of FDK as evidenced by his pledge to include additional funding in the state budget to support implementation of FDK in Pittsford, as well as the other four districts in the state without FDK. We provided a brief synopsis of the work Pittsford has done over the past several years studying the question of bringing FDK to our school district and shared the evidence we have of the need for our children to participate in a FDK program. The community support for FDK was highlighted, along with the expectation that we remain fiscally responsible in keeping our proposed budget at or under the tax cap.
We shared that we had 1,600 signatures within the first 36 hours of the petition being released as an indicator of the strong support the community is showing for FDK. Many people took the time to add personal comments and we encouraged the representatives, and others, to read through these as they provide personal testimony to the importance of what we are asking for. We mentioned the meetings our Advocacy Team has had with all area legislators, and the support that Sen. Funke and Assembly Majority Leader Morelle demonstrated for our kick-off meeting.
Our parent representative was able to share his experience as someone whose child attended a full-day preschool program, then faced the dilemma of putting his child in our half-day program or paying to provide for a full-day kindergarten experience. He chose the private, full-day option to avoid feeling like his child was going “backwards” in terms of a schooling experience. Other points from members of our team included:
• New families are shocked to learn that Pittsford doesn’t have FDK, and families looking to move into the area are considering whether a district that has FDK might be a better fit for their needs.
• Most of the funding needed in the first year would cover the staffing of teachers and paraprofessionals, creating additional jobs in New York State.
• Significant, state-defined obstacles including the tax cap, being considered a “high wealth” district, a high taxpayer burden, low aid in some areas, and frozen aid in others, are items the governor could provide relief for in Pittsford.
The representatives were open to our discussion and concerns and shared that there was widespread support for this effort at the state level. The Finger Lakes regional representative suggested the possibility of the governor visiting our half-day kindergarten program, and Pittsford’s assistant superintendent for business has scheduled a follow-up meeting related to our state aid situation with the Albany office. Both meetings were a productive continuation of our FDK Advocacy efforts with local and state representatives.