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The Depew School Board is looking for help to determine how to handle the district's eligibility for state funding for prekindergarten.

The state Department of Education doesn't mandate the district accept the money or even have a pre-K program. The state does require the district create an advisory board of parents, School Board members, early education providers and others. They will make recommendations about pre-K to the district, but the School Board will have the final say.

The district does not plan to use its own money to supplement the state funding, said Superintendent Robert D. Olczak. Voters rejected the first budget the district submitted this year because the tax increase was too large.

In addition to forming this committee, the district wants to survey parents of 4-year-olds to find out what they think of pre-K.

Depew has had a pre-K program since 1990, said Robert DeFilippo, assistant superintendent. It's run in conjunction with the Lancaster School District through Erie I BOCES. About 40 children from Depew attend. Virtually all qualify for a free or reduced lunch under federal guidelines.

The state pays for 89 percent of this program, DeFilippo said. The remaining cost -- mainly transporting the children -- is paid by the district.

The pre-K program the state is phasing in over several years would not affect the program the district currently has, Olczak said.

As with any initiative, money can be a deciding factor.

The district does not want to release its estimate on how many 4-year-olds the state will pay for or how much it will pay per child. However, the minimum paid per child is $2,000.

Last year, 124 districts were eligible for state funding for pre-K. About half turned the state down. The reason most often given is that the state didn't give the district enough money to have a pre-K program. Most districts said they cannot afford to use their own funds to supplement the program.

Anyone who would like to serve on the advisory committee should call 686-2260.

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