Educators 'wait and see' on Cuomo plan

By Matt Porter

January 9, 2014 Updated Jan 9, 2014 at 8:39 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to expand pre-Kindergarten across the state, he was met with thunderous applause by local legislators and community leaders.

The governor announced the details on Wednesday in his state of the state address in Albany as part of a comprehensive education plan.

The Windsor Central School District is one of few local districts offering some full-time pre-K classes.

Windsor superintendent Jason Andrews said he would love to be able offer full-time pre-K classes for all eligible students.

"Some of the programs we have are only half-day programs, so if we could expand those to being full-day programs that would have a positive impact on our students," Andrews said.

He said students in pre-K classes have advantages over those who don't attend.

"Early childhood education is really critical to the success of students," Andrews said, "Particularly for students that come from impoverished backgrounds."

In his address, the governor also wants to create a $2 billion bond for technology improvements.

The money would be used to help bring schools up to date with technology, the bond would have to be approved by voters.

Andrew said it's impossible for school districts to keep up with rapidly advancing technologies on their own, but said using the new technology prepares them for life after school.

"They need to be able to use technology in what they're doing," he said.

The governor also floated the idea of paying teachers who perform better on teacher evaluations, something union leaders and Andrews say have not created noticeable improvements in the past.

One topic absent in the governor's speech was the controversial gap elimination adjustment which had been implemented to control and reduce the state's $10 billion deficit.

Now that the state has a surplus instead of a deficit, Andrews had hoped the government would announce the end of gap elimination and restore general funding.

"That gap elimination adjustment in Windsor has cost nearly $20 million in aid since 2008-09," he said.

New York State spends $400 million on pre-K right now, but estimates from the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission in October estimated the cost of statewide universal pre-K to cost $4 billion.

Regional staff director Catherine Farrell for the New York United Teachers does not know how the government will be able to pay for all the new investments.

"I absolutely wonder where he's going to pay for these proposals at this time, especially when he's proposing a big tax break," Farrell said.

Farrell said the governor ignored what should be his top priority in education, reforming the Common Core initiative.

"Teachers are frustrated, parents are frustrated, students are frustrated," she said, "That has got to be his number one issue, he's got to address this common core implementation."

The governor did not address the Common Core at the state of the state in Albany.

Cuomo will release the financial details of his 2014 plan at his budget address a little more than a month.