Harborfields travels to capital for full-day kindergarten

Harborfields travels to capital for full-day kindergarten

Harborfields Fair Start members Marge Acosta, Rachael Risinger, Jenny Post, Jennifer Rogdakis and Natalie Mason in Albany on Monday, Feb 29. Photo from Rachael Risinger

The fight for full-day kindergarten at Harborfields was taken to Albany this past week.

Members of Fair Start: Harborfields Residents for Full-Day Kindergarten, a group established about a year ago, traveled to the state capital this past Sunday and Monday to speak with legislators and work toward a solution to bring full-day kindergarten to the district.

Rachael Risinger, a member of Fair Start, said the group decided to go to Albany to try and increase public discourse.

“We want to bring awareness and come up with a solution with the state,” Risinger said in a phone interview. “And see what we can do with legislators.”

Risinger said the group has a total of 34 legislative meetings involving New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary of Education, members of State Sen. John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) staff, Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) and others.

“It was very successful,” Risinger said of the meetings. “It was a great experience, we got a lot of support and had a lot of really good meetings where we felt like we were heard.”

Raia said the conference with Fair Start was also a positive experience and added that he fully supports full-day kindergarten for the district.

“They [Fair Start] knew what they were talking about and were very passionate about the issue,” he said in a phone interview. On the issue of Harborfields not having full-day kindergarten, Raia said, “I don’t think it’s fair — a child with full-day kindergarten will learn more than one without it.”

Risinger said the group has come back to Greenlawn with two important pieces of information that could help ensure the change in the district.

The first is assurance from multiple Republican and Democratic legislators is that the Gap Elimination Adjustment will be fully restored. Since the 2010-11 fiscal year, the GEA has reduced every school district’s budget in New York to combat a fiscal crisis in the state.

Risinger said restoration of the GEA will help finance full-day kindergarten.

Jennifer Rogdakis, founder of Fair Start, agreed that the group got a lot of positive information about the GEA.

“This is great news for our district,” Rogdakis said in a phone interview. “It could give Harborfields the push it needs to get full-day kindergarten.”

There is also a bill co-sponsored by Raia at the capital right now that would provide five-year funding for schools that are transitioning from half-day to full-day kindergarten. This legislation was originally introduced by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) and Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Orange and Rockland Counties), who are representatives from other areas in New York where some districts do not have full-day kindergarten.

Risinger said this piece of legislation could bring full-day kindergarten to Greenlawn.

“Our children at Harborfields deserve what 99 percent of other kids in the state have,” Rogdakis said. “They need more time to love learning — a half day is not enough time to learn and socialize.”