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Bipartisan support for universal pre-K grows

(WKTV) - Bipartisan support for legislation to put the goal of pre-K for every student within reach in central New York and across the nation was on display Monday.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Congressman Richard Hanna brought their pitch for the Strong Start for America's Children Act to a preschool class Monday at Herkimer Elementary.

The four goals of the plan include:

Boosting funding for high-quality preschool programs serving low and moderate income families.

Increasing the quality of infant and toddler care

Broad-scale improvement for childcare

Continued support for the maternal, infant and early childhood home-visiting program.

"We have three states that already do it, so I would like New York to be one of the first to offer it," said Gillibrand. "It's the right investment for the future of that state's economy and the future of the workforce, so Governor Cuomo is wise to put it on his agenda to get universal pre-K to every community."

The expected price tag of the program is $75 billion. While it's easy to agree that our children are our future, when it's put into dollar and cents, it takes an extra push.

"It's not news," said Hanna. "It's not anything anyone really disagrees with, but it's about priorities. I think this should be a priority.

Local sheriffs also made their way into Mrs. Schoff's preschool class with a strong message.

"If we can give kids a solid early foundation -- in this case through the universal pre-K -- not only will they hopefully have that behavioral issue settled, they'll have strong literacy, strong math skills."

Jennifer Polus is a mother of four who has seen two of her children benefit from the pre-K program at Herkimer Elementary.

"I currently have a daughter who is enrolled in the program," she said. "And since the beginning of the year I have seen her socially, emotionally and academically grow in such a short period of time."

For the next six months, lawmakers will garner support for this expanded access to pre-K programs.

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