A report on the elusiveness of universal pre-K in New York

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De Blasio visits P.S. 20 while Public Advocate. (Public Advocate Bill de Blasio)
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A new report from Citizens Budget Commission, a government finance watchdog group, examines the costs of implementing universal pre-kindergarten statewide, and attempts to explain why that remains an "elusive" goal.

The establishment of universal pre-K in New York City is a signature goal of mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio. 

The study, which looks at the feasibility of implementing it across the state, projects that it would take about $4 billion added to the existing $51 billion state education budget to fully fund pre-K in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo included $25 million in this year's budget for pre-K, which was as a top recommendation of his education reform commission in December.

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He said the funding, which will be distributed through a competitive grant process, would create full-day programs or expand existing half-day programs for New York's neediest students.

Critics have argued the program is too limited in reach.

This academic year, 232 school districts across New York State don't have universal pre-K programs, the report found.

Attempts to enact universal pre-K in the state have nbeen unsuccessful for decades. The report shows that the state has been trying to achieve public pre-K since the 1960s, but still hasn't reached funding targets set for pre-K plans set in 1997.

The report estimates that it will cost $12,846 per child in New York City to provide universal pre-K, and that expanding pre-K for all 3-and-4-year-olds would cost the City $619 million.

De Blasio has said he expects his proposed tax increase to raise $2.6 billion over five years, which would help fund pre-K and afterschool programs he's proposed.

De Blasio was also optimistic when Capital's Reid Pillifant asked him in August how long it might take to enact the pre-K plan. "Obviously we want to get the tax approved by the budget on April 1st in Albany, and then start implementation immediately," he said.