Bills to prevent school districts from cutting kindergarten—and make it a required, all-day affair—will be introduced in this legislative session, promised Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale.
At a press conference Monday held with members of Westchester United, Paulin said she wanted to remove school districts' ability to eliminate kindergarten as a cost-saving measure.
"We want to ensure each and every child in New York State has the benefit of full-day kindergarten," she said.
Westchester United is a network of 19 synagogues, churches, mosques and community groups working to build a nonpartisan power base of Westchester County residents.
The bills Paulin will be introducing would require kindergarten for all 5-year-olds and would mandate that kindergarten be full-day.
She said right now the state requires schools to provide education for 5-year-olds, though many people are not aware of that.
Paulin said, if a school district does not have kindergarten and a parent wants their child in school, the child has to be put in first grade.
Rabbi Seth Limmer of Congregation B'nai Yisrael in Armonk questioned why kindergarten is optional, when studies show it gives children developmental advantages.
"Do we want to be a state that leaves children behind?" he said.
Melissa Robinson of Port Chester used one of her children as an example to show the effects of kindergarten on a child's growth.
She said when her son first went to kindergarten he didn't know anyone.
"After the fourth week when school began, he was telling me the names of his friends," Robinson said, adding that he was getting better at reading and writing and working with others.
In March, Port Chester schools had proposed cutting kindergarten to a half day to try to save money in the budget. The district reversed its position prior to the May budget vote.
The Rev. Bruce Baker of All Souls Parish Presbyterian Church in Port Chester said cutting kindergarten was a huge concern for the village's residents.
"Many of our families are parents who both have to work to pay the rent," he said. "If their children did not have kindergarten, it would put a huge burden on them."
Yonkers resident Herriberto Contreras said he felt kindergarten was an essential part of early education.
"It sets the stage for success," he said.
Contreras said it makes him angry that cutting children's education can be used as a way to balance a budget.
"This is not acceptable," he said. "All children deserve a fair and guaranteed start."
Paulin represents the 88th Assembly District, 88th district, which includes Scarsdale, Eastchester, Tuckahoe, Bronxville, Pelham, Pelham Manor and parts of New Rochelle and White Plains.