News Release - Mayor Warren Announces Early Education Commission, Gates Foundation Invitation

City of Rochester

News Release

(Tuesday, February 4, 2014) – As part of her first major education address since taking office, Mayor Lovely A. Warren announced the formation of an Early Education Commission to support the success of Universal Pre-K in Rochester. The announcement came as part Mayor Warren’s plenary address at the University of Rochester Presidential Symposium, Revitalizing K-12 Education in Rochester.

“From the earliest days of my campaign, I have been stressing the importance of early education, Universal Pre-K,” said Warren. “The good news is that this year, policymakers are finally taking notice of the mountain of compelling research in support of Universal Pre-K. here’s a growing consensus that it’s more cost effective to provide high-quality early learning experiences than remediation later.”

“The New York Education Reform Commission, a group of 20 of the nation’s leading thinkers in education, recently recommended that New York State significantly expand its Universal Pre-K program. I am very encouraged that the Governor has come on board and included the proposal in his executive budget that included allowing charter schools to offer UPK programs. The Governor’s pre-K proposal was unanimously endorsed by the state’s Big 5 mayors. And just last week in his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his commitment to Universal Pre-K, signaling federal funding is likely in the works too. This is all good news for Rochester’s children.”

The Commission is in the early stages of planning. The members, who will be announced soon, will be tasked with: 

  • Engaging all stakeholders to help convince leaders in Albany that our region needs its fair share of the new Universal Pre-K funding announced by Governor Cuomo in his State of the State and budget messages. 
  • Seeking grant funds to conduct an enrollment study to quantify the total seats and enrollment projections, parental demand, and identify barriers to access. The data will be made available to providers interested in expanding or starting up new programs.
  • Working with community partners with pre-K experience, like Action for a Better Community, Baden Street Settlement, the city school district, charter schools and others to assess whether there is sufficient supply of pre-K teachers and quality professional development programming.
  • Convening parent focus groups to collect feedback.

The Commission will be led by Allen Williams, the City of Rochester’s Director of Special Projects in conjunction with Marisol Ramos-Lopez, the Commissioner of the Department of Recreation and Youth Services.

Mayor Warren also announced that she is one of a select few mayors who have been invited to Washington, D.C. in March to attend an invitation-only meeting to be held by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to talk about how we can collectively work to increase the achievement of students, particularly those who are disadvantaged.

Warren stressed that education is at the heart of many of Rochester’s problems, and our solutions too. It is the lynchpin upon which everything else revolves – success for our children, the stability of our neighborhoods, public safety and our economic future. The Mayor expressed her desire to eliminate barriers to progress and work with all willing partners on seven key strategies: 

  • Empowering parents with more choices so that all children can go to a school that helps them reach their potential regardless of their zip code.
  • Expand access to high-quality early education for all children – in other words, Universal Pre-K.
  • Launch a program to set up schools as neighborhood centers with expanded hours, services and community partnerships.
  • Help RCSD recruit extraordinary urban teachers to Rochester through partnerships and incentives.
  • Expand college access and attainment.
  • Strengthen and expand the pathways to careers by focusing on vocational-technical programs to close the middle skills gap and train workers for the 16,000 jobs coming on-line in this region in the coming years.
  • Fight summer learning loss through re-tooled City Recreation programs focused on creative learning opportunities.

“The discussion around education and how best to educate our children shouldn’t be a call to arms or a field upon which political battles are fought, but a collective commitment to making sure Rochester’s children have equal access to educational opportunities,” championed Warren.

“We can’t lose our focus. Too much is at stake. It can no longer be about public schools versus charter schools, or teachers unions versus parent groups. These are false choices. And we can no longer operate under a double standard that asks students, teachers, administrators, parents or citizens to be patient because change is coming. The time is now. I look forward to working with anyone who is committed to helping our children. My door is open, and I hope we can all work together to build a better future for all of our children, and now that every child has the potential to achieve greatness regardless of their zip code,” she finished. 

The full text of Mayor Warren’s speech is located here. 

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News Media: For more information, contact the City’s Communications Director, Christine Christopher at 428-7405.