New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that his city is "ready to offer" a full universal pre-kindergarten program, and his plan is going full-steam ahead, despite uncertainty about where the money will actually come from. The city has begun taking applications to fill an estimated 1,000 slots for teachers for the coming fall.
Universal pre-k is the cornerstone of Mayor de Blasio's first few months in office. He touts access to quality early education as a key component in alleviating poverty and giving every child the chance to succeed. De Blasio's plan would expand the currently available programs from half day to full day programs and add additional schools to provide access for more than 53,000 children.
The plan to fund de Blasio's vision was originally to tax the rich. In his inauguration speech, Bill de Blasio said that he would "ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K." But that "little" actually translated into an annual tax increase of $973 per year for some.
The proposed tax appealed to celebrities like Alicia Keys, Rosie Perez, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie O'Donnell, and Gloria Steinem, who have joined de Blasio in promoting the tax hike. The NYC mayor met with mommy and daddy bloggers recently at City Hall, enlisting their help to appeal to their audiences.
Opposition has been expressed by both Democrats and Republicans in NYC, according to the New York Times, calling the de Blasio proposal unrealistic and irresponsible in the city that already has some of the highest taxes in the nation.
The Robin Hood strategy fell short where it actually counted. Governor Andrew Cuomo was not a fan of the funding proposal, at a time when the governor is pushing for lower taxes, not higher. According to ABC News, Bill de Blasio's hopes for the tax on the city's higher earners has been largely ignored in the state legislature.
So another plan is being hammered out in the capitol ahead of the state budget deadline next week. Negotiations for state funds are looking to miss Mayor de Blasio's estimated need of $340 million by about $40 million, but he remains optimistic that the state will budget the city much of the funds needed for his pet project. The current proposal would not release the money upfront. The bill would instead reimburse NYC and other districts after they have first spent the money on pre-k programs.
Questions still remain on whether the mayor's pre-k program would even accomplish its goal. Some would like de Blasio's plan to be tied to measurable results, such as Common Core standards. Others have asked if it would end up simply being cheap day-care paid for by tax-payers. The Inquisitr recently reported on a teacher who resigned her position amidst claims that all the testing and academic content requirements detracts from the real goal of education - that children learn. She noted that younger children often learn best in play, a facet that is increasingly being removed from early childhood education. Would Mayor de Blasio's program include adequate down time for children to just be children?
Whether New Yorkers love it or hate it, Mayor Bill de Blasio's universal pre-k package is poised to be enacted in the coming fall, and he is determined to find funding one way or another. What do you think? Will this be good for the city, or is the de Blasio proposal simply another step in the direction of nanny government?