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On visit to YMCA, Grossman discusses pre-kindergarten expansion

Massachusetts state Treasurer Steve Grossman.

Stephan Savoia/Associated press

Massachusetts state Treasurer Steve Grossman.

MALDEN — State Treasurer Steven Grossman, like most politicians, usually talks a lot and at length. But on a visit here to the local YMCA, the gubernatorial hopeful mainly listened.

Debbie Amaral, CEO of the Malden YMCA, led the Democrat on an hour-long tour of the facility. They walked past sweaty joggers pounding it out on treadmills, young men playing basketball, and preschoolers eating cereal and sipping juice.

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Grossman gave a thumbs-up to a young man practicing dribbling a basketball through his legs and later knelt down to hear about a 3-year-old’s favorite colors (Grossman’s is orange).

Amaral outlined the struggles of running an organization that relies heavily on government money for some of its education efforts. But as the costs of everything from payroll to milk have gone up in recent years, support from the state on a per pupil basis has remained almost static.

“It’s a real challenge,” Amaral said.

Much of the discussion with Grossman focused on the Y’s preschool program. There are currently 67 preschool spots — for kids just under 3 years old to 5 years old — at the Malden YMCA. It plans to add six more spots by the end of the summer, but there’s a 100-child waiting list, Amaral said.

Grossman, in an interview, emphasized the importance of moving towards universal pre-kindergarten in the state.

“If you want to fund universal pre-K over a period of time,” Grossman said, there are four ways to do it: growing the economy, public-private partnerships, saving money, or raising taxes.

He said he had not ruled out the latter option as a last resort and said he wouldn’t shy away from “a conversation that may very well have to happen with the people of this state.”

As he left the Y, Grossman had some parting words for Amaral. He cited Pirkei Avot, an old Jewish text.

“It says, ‘We’re not required to finish the task, nor are we permitted to desist from it.’ So, in your time, you may never get every child off the waiting list. That may not be possible, although I hope it is,” Grossman said.

“But six more kids, six more lives affected in a positive way —” Grossman added. That was a start.

Grossman faces Attorney General Martha Coakley and former Medicare and Medcaid chief Donald M. Berwick in the Democratic primary.

Also running for governor are two Republicans and three independent candidates.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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