Fighting for a Pre-K program for every child

By Kelly McCarthy

February 24, 2014 Updated Feb 25, 2014 at 10:03 AM EST

Greene, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Representative Richard Hanna and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made a visit to Greene Central School Monday to show the need for more access to Pre-Kindergarten programs.

Experts say the first five years of learning is crucial for child development. That's why Gillibrand and Hanna want to see more funding for Pre-K programs.

They're teaming up to support the "Strong Start for America's Children Act."

"This is an absolute must," said Hanna, R-22nd District, "It's an investment it's not an expense. It's not different than you and I going to college and saying we'll pay it back when we get a better job."

The bill has four main focuses. It would increase funding for preschool programs serving low-income families, increase infant and toddler care, support quality improvements to child care programs, and support the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHEV) program.

Angela Pagano of Greene saw her five year old son, Aleksandr; excel in his Pre-K program.

"He was actually practicing writing his letters," Pagano said, "He was dancing spontaneously in the living room, my son was happy."

Pagano said she feels like one of the lucky ones. Greene's Pre-Kindergarten program runs on state funding and can only accept a limited number of students.

"Half the children who deserve, need Pre-K in this community are unable to attend," Hanna said. "That's wrong. It's wrong as a nation."

Greene's Universal Pre-K program has two half-day classes with 15 students in each class, but there are 30 children on a waiting list who were trying to get into this year's class.

"I look forward to UPK (Universal Pre-K) for every child, not just for the luck few," Pagano said, "Because a good start in life shouldn't be a game of chance."

The "Strong Start for America's Children Act" would make federal funding available for all states to have universal Pre-K programs.

Gillibrand and Hanna plan on introducing the "Strong Start for America's Children Act" into the House and Senate by the end of this year, stating they are working to get more Republican support.

They said the total cost to fund this bill is about $75 billion over ten years.