STONY POINT, N.Y. -- Jen Teichmann, a kindergarten teacher, and the mother of four young children, is adamant about one thing: full day kindergarten should not be viewed as an option. Because Teichmann lives in Stony Point, which has a financially-stressed school district, she is taking the fight to Albany.
On Monday, Teichmann, the advocacy leader of the North Rockland Full Day Advocacy Group, www.facebook.com/groups/NRFullDayK, along with a group of 30, are meeting with Albany officials in both the senate and assembly education committees throughout the day.
“Kindergarten is a core instructional program,” said Teichmann. “Full-day kindergarten needs to be a fully state-funded mandate.”
Full-Day Kindergarten advocates from the North Rockland Central School District and the East Ramapo School District in Rockland County, and the Harborfields Central School District on Long Island (three of the school districts still with half-day kindergarten) will be in the Capitol to rally for full-day kindergarten.
There will be a rally in the public space outside the NYS Assembly and Senate Chamber, 3rd Floor of the Capitol Building at 2:00 PM.
For Teichmann the issue is personal, but her online Facebook media campaign has gained momentum. The group, which started in November, has 1,700 members. A recent GoFundMe campaign raised $720, which has been spent on promotional materials for the Albany trip.
Teichmann has three children who will still need to attend kindergarten in the district, but her daughter, now six, showed her the disadvantage of half-day kindergarten.
“She doesn’t have a strong foundation and struggles with common core standards,” she said. “The children are doing catch-up. They are not able to enjoy love of learning because they’re trying to figure out what’s going around them.”
The 8,000-student district is one of only two public school districts in Rockland County that offers only a half-day for kindergarten students. That distinction has become a major concern for parents. The other district, East Ramapo, went from full-day to half-day kindergarten in 2012 amid major budget cuts.
Kindergarten is not mandated by the State Education Department, but the vast majority of New York's 700 districts have full-day programs for at least five hours per day. Half-day programs run 2 1/2 hours per day. The changes reflect an increased focus on childhood programs that meet the Common Core State Standards and leave time for play-centered learning and socialization.
Pearl River, for example, implemented a full-day kindergarten at the start of the 2015-16 school year.
North Rockland officials say the cost of full-day program puts it out of reach for the cash-strapped school system, which has closed two schools and cut a quarter of its staff since 2007 when it reached a $224 million tax settlement with the Mirant Corporation. Now, the district has more than 20 years of looming debt service.
Superintendent Ileana Eckert, who will be joining the rally, has said the district would like to have full-day kindergarten but budget constraints make it impossible.
On Thursday the group received a letter from the New York State PTA in support of the group's goals.
"We welcome your advocacy and stand ready to support it in every way that we can," wrote Bonnie M. Russell, NYS PTA president.