While the fight to save the Guild for Exceptional Children’s long-standing pre-school is far from over, GEC Executive Director Paul Cassone says the scales may have just tipped in its favor.
Having already absorbed losses of close to $2 million as a result of unrealistically low tuition rates, the Guild was set to close its Carrie Mastronardi Early Childhood Education Center, at 1273 57th Street, as of January 25, 2015.
However, following a spirited fight by the Guild and its supporters, the New York State Education Department (SED), Cassone said, has recommended allowing the necessary tuition increases both to reimburse the Guild for a percentage of its past losses and also to stabilize tuition so that the program can continue well into the New Year.
The recommendation, Cassone said, coincidentally came on Wednesday, December 10, just hours after the Guild and its supporters rallied outside of the SED’s Brooklyn District Office.
“[The SED] was able to identify several specific areas related to the rent, related to the clinical needs of the children, related to the types of clinicians that we have in place, and related to the Universal Pre-K program,” Cassone told this paper. “Essentially, they were able to identify several areas where they would be able to provide some tuition increases.”
Additionally, he said, the program received significant tuition assistance from State Senator Marty Golden.
“Finding funding for GEC was and remains a top priority for me,” said Golden. “This staple of the community must remain open, and I am proud to assist in those efforts. Today our whole community gets a win for early childhood education, and I thank the Guild for Exceptional Children, the board, and executive director for their outstanding leadership and commitment to the cause.”
The Guild announced in early November that the pre-school – which currently serves more than 200 developmentally disabled children in languages from English and Spanish to Cantonese and Mandarin – would close to enable the rest of the Guild to operate as is, a worst-case-scenario Cassone said his board of directors is willing to push aside given the proper approval.
“Although the [SED] is making these recommendations, they must get approval from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Division of Budget, and that could take a while,” Cassone explained. “Our Board of Directors has put together a resolution that basically says we will not close the pre-school pending review and approval by the governor and the Division of Budget within a reasonable time-frame.”
Though there are no promises, Cassone said he’s willing to take whatever good news he can get.
“The good news is that, right now, we’re not going to be closing but we need to keep fighting, that’s really the message,” he said. “We’ve gotten over one hurdle but the race is not over.”