Nearly half of school board members favor giving priority placement in state-funded universal pre-kindergarten programs to children living in poverty, according to a poll by the New York State School Boards Association.
Forty-nine percent of those who responded are in favor of priority placement, 43 percent oppose the measure and 8 percent are uncertain.
The poll comes as the state Board of Regents prepares to vote on proposals that would give priority placement in universal pre-K programs to children who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, as well as direct more state pre-K funding to average and low wealth school districts. The Regents' vote is whether to recommend these policy changes. To become law, the state Legislature would have to adopt both proposals.
"Board members recognize that children living in lower wealth areas often have fewer options for early childhood programs," said Timothy G. Kremer, New York State School Boards Association executive director. "At the same time, if the universal pre-K program is truly going to be 'universal,' then all three- and four-year old children should have access to it."
Among other proposals before the Regents this week, 52 percent of school board members support moving from project-based reimbursement on construction projects to providing school districts with a broader construction allowance each year, but only if the move would free up state aid for flexible operating funds, according to the poll. Twenty-six percent of board members were not sure, while 22 percent were opposed to the idea.
The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of board members oppose a possible Regents proposal to dock state aid from school districts that are recommended by the state to merge, but elect not to. Sixty-four percent of board members opposed that idea, while only 27 percent favored it. Nine percent were not sure.
"Board members continue to believe strongly that local communities should have the last say on school district mergers and consolidations," Kremer said.
Results are based on 505 responses to an email-based association's Pulse Poll of school board members conducted in November and December.