New York City will provide free Universal Pre-K for children 4 years and older. This central campaign promise of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio will be implemented, thanks to a state funding agreement.
The compromise reached with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Assembly and Senate, and the State of New York this weekend included $1.5 billion (of which $300 million was allocated for the Big Apple) for five years in the budget to support the implementation of the program throughout the region.
The initiative was one of the signature issues of De Blasio's election campaign for mayor of New York. Mayor de Blasio took office on January 1 with the promise to meet the growing inequality between rich and poor after twelve years of management Billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
De Blasio had proposed raising taxes on New Yorkers earning more than $500,000 annually to fund Universal Pre-K, which had earned him the wrath of Wall Street and the business sector, who already consider their tax burden too high in New York City.
Since January, the mayor has been leading a media campaign to support the initiative to serve 53,000 children starting next September with the start of the next school year in the city.
Amid the struggle against employers, complicated by rivalries between Democrats, Governor Cuomo took up the gauntlet and included the project in the 2014-2015 state budget to the city guaranteeing nearly all the money required. (De Blasio had initially estimated the program would cost $ 340 million)
"The state has taken a historic and powerful decision that will change the lives of tens of thousands of children," said De Blasio to celebrate the first great achievement of his administration.
"A monumental step"
The news was welcomed by community groups.
"I am proud to see the New York City finally taking this monumental step in supporting the success of our kids. I thank Mayor De Blasio for making this possible," said Maritza Silva-Farrell of ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York on Monday.
Josh Gold, of the Universal Pre-K Campaign in New York City (UPKNYC), and the mayor's negotiator in the state capital said Albany "has changed the course of history for families" in the Big Apple.
UPKNYC, a group that brings together dozens of organizations in the five boroughs of New York (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island) and works in cooperation with the De Blasio administration, led a strong lobby for state funding.
Since January, New Yorkers have "sent 21,335 emails to lawmakers, 25,000 signed petitions, made more than 10,000 phone calls and participated in hundreds of meetings with members of the Assembly and Senate," said UPKNYC.
A Win with Concessions
But if it is true that De Blasio achieved its goal, it must also be noted that the victory came at a price because of the political machinations of Governor Cuomo.
De Blasio lost the debate when it came to raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers. By opposing the tax increase, Cuomo, who'll almost certainly seek reelection in November, prevented possible attacks from Republicans on his campaign.
On the other hand, the governor increased state funding per student for so-called "charter schools" whose expansion the Mayor is seeking to curb.
Charter schools are "independent public schools established and run by parents, educators, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs and others", according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
They operate under a contract or "charter" granted by a state or local public agency, must meet certain criteria and are considered an "alternative" to the conventional system. Currently there are about 2,700 such schools in the United States with a total of 700,000 students.
With Cuomo's decision to increase allocations for these institutions, De Blasio discovered the limits his campaign.
To read the full article, visit El Economista