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Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon says more than three-quarters of 4-year-olds outside New York City don’t have access to state-funded full-day pre-kindergarten.
Nixon blames Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the lag, calling it a broken promise.
"In 2014, Andrew Cuomo promised that he was going to expand pre-K to all of New York's children, not just those in New York City," Nixon said at a press conference in Albany. "But four years later, 79 percent of 4-year-olds outside New York City lack full-day pre-K."
Cuomo and state lawmakers approved a five-year plan in the 2014 state budget to subsidize statewide pre-K. The plan earmarked $1.5 billion for pre-K through 2019, with $340 million for the first year. Most of the first-year money — $300 million — went to New York City schools.
Is Nixon right that 79 percent of 4-year-olds outside New York City don’t have access to full-day pre-K?
Nixon was citing a statistic from a report by a handful of education advocacy groups, including the Alliance for Quality Education
The report used data from the state Education Department. A spokesperson for the department sent us the data. The numbers reflect access to state-funded pre-K for 4-year-olds during the 2016-2017 school year, the latest data available.
The state counted 103,679 4-year-olds outside New York City during that school year. Only 22,124 of them had access to state-funded full-day pre-K, according to the data.
That translates to about 21 percent of 4-year-olds outside New York City with access to state-funded full-day pre-K. So that means 79 percent of the children did not have state-funded full-day pre-K, confirming Nixon’s claim.
That doesn’t mean the other 81,555 4-year-olds did not have access to pre-K altogether.
Twenty-five percent of 4-year-olds outside New York City had access to state-funded half-day pre-K, meaning 46 percent of them had pre-K during that school year. Added to the New York City 4-year-olds who had full-day pre-K that year, about two-thirds of 4-year-olds statewide had access to state-funded full- or half-day pre-K.
Between New York City, Long Island, and upstate New York, about 66 percent of 4-year-olds statewide had access to either state-funded full or half-day pre-K.
Was there a deadline?
Nixon is right that Cuomo promised to expand pre-K to children statewide. But Cuomo never promised statewide pre-K by the 2016-2017 school year, and the 2014 state budget did not set a deadline.
Cuomo pledged funding for statewide pre-K during a radio interview before the state budget passed in 2014.
"We’re going to have a statewide pre-K program funded by the state," Cuomo said. "That’s what we said we’re going to do, and that’s what we’re going to do."
Cuomo said after the 2014 budget passed that timing would depend on local districts.
"We have to watch the implementation rate and how fast we can actually make universal pre-K a reality and where," Cuomo said. "But we have the funding to move the program at the pace the localities can move the program."
The state has more than doubled its funding for pre-K since 2013, from $410 million to more than $800 million.
The boost in funding did not change the share of 4-year-olds with access to pre-K outside New York City between the 2014 and 2016 school years. Only about 46 percent of those students had access to either full or half-day pre-K during the 2014-2015 school year, according to state data. That share was the same two years later.
Nixon claimed that 79 percent of 4-year-olds outside New York City don’t have access to full-day pre-K four years after funding was earmarked in the state budget.
The latest data supports Nixon’s claim, though it’s from the 2016-2017 school year. That’s three years after Cuomo and lawmakers committed funding for universal pre-K, not four as Nixon said. There was also never a deadline to implement statewide pre-K by the start of that school year.
Her claim was accurate but we thought it needed additional information. We rate it Mostly True.
Email conversation with press staff from Nixon’s campaign
Report: "Opportunities Foreclosed Equity Denied", September 2017
Data obtained from the New York State Education Department
Email conversation with Julia Watson from the Alliance for Quality Education
Phone conversation with Morris Peters, spokesperson from the state Division of Budget
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