The Mayor’s Universal Pre-K plan for New York City was a popular centerpiece of his election platform, and is now on the fast track to implementation. The DfNY Political Action Committee has become involved because there is a hot-button issue over the funding of the plan. While Mayor DeBlasio has asked for an increase of city taxes on those earning over $500,000 a year, Governor Cuomo wants to include funding for a State-wide Pre-K program in the State Budget process.
Since approval must be given for the increase in NYCity taxes by Albany lawmakers, the issue needs to be examined and understood clearly in order to reassure elected Representatives that they will not be paying a price in future elections for supporting one or the other funding stream.
On February 18th ’14. Democracy for New York http://www.dfnyc.org/ held a link-up at 137 West 14th Street, Bunga’s Den. The recently renovated performance space in the back provides an ideal setting for discussion, and easy access to refreshments is always a plus!
To learn more about Universal Pre-K go to: www.upknyc.org
Let’s take a look at the political side of this issue. Without it, none of the details will even matter - though implementation and curriculum details deserve a whole separate article!
Why is the Mayor’s plan so important to the existence of Pre-K availability in NYC?
- There must be certainty and continuity in funding so that providers are not held hostage to State budget negotiations every year. Imagine going through all of the certification and approval process, only to find a year later that the funding is gone! Thus -
- Providers cannot hire, plan or commit to a service which may be under-funded or de-funded in the future
- The Albany budget process is notoriously subject to political patronage and prid pro quo deals
- While NYC provides a large proportion of taxes to the State Budget, it would be conflated with every other region and city in the state for funding. Equity would demand that whatever funding amount was allocated to Pre-K education would have to be shared throughout the whole state. This would draw attention to the fact that NYC serves a sizable proportion of children and would require a large slice of a finite ‘pie’. Other districts would share the entire ‘pie’ if NYC were removed from the equation – and NYC would still be sending State taxes towards that ‘pie’! City taxes are on a completely separate line.
- Furthermore, the size of the ‘pie’ would depend on priorities and deficits affecting all sectors, so that budgets would fluctuate every year.
- NYC IS a unique setting with specific defined needs, but its example would provide a model for other regions which have not implemented UPK as yet. The Governor would like Pre-K to be available to all, but needs vary around the State. NYC is ready to commit right now.
- To quote Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer at the Link-up, “With Albany, the funding is there - but it’s not. It all depends on the elaborate “dance” of the Committees, and political factions.”
What has DfNY discovered so far in support of this plan?
- There is overwhelming support among the Business, Real Estate and professional communities for the tax, affecting only individuals earning over $500,000.
- Contrary to popular expectations, the tax is considered small enough, and pitched at the right income level, to represent a reasonable price to pay for a ‘known good’.
- Similarly, the wealthy residents of NYC are typically progressive in outlook, and are also sufficiently aware of the effects of poverty to seek/support remedies. Information is key.
- The work that needs to be done politically is to amplify this message and to explain the contrasts between the two plans. Especially in the outer areas of the City – Long Island, Westchester, etc, support may be more tenuous unless people really understand what is at stake.
- The State Budget is due around April 1st, and whatever political alliances need to be established should be in place by then
To take action:
- There are opportunities for grassroots organizing on the subject:
- A petition to sign at http://my.upknyc.org/page/s/upknyc-add-your-name
- Phonebanking at SEIU headquarters: 330 W. 42nd St, 7th Floor. 6:00-9 p.m. For details: contact DfNYC.
- Attend the March Forth lobbying trip to Albany on March 4th. www.upknyc.org http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2014/02/upk-nyc-plans-march-4-lobby-day/
- Call your State Senate and Assembly members:
www.nysenate.gov/senators for Senators
and www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?sh=search for Assemblymembers
Suggested script to use:
Hi, my name is __________________. I’m calling to urge (_____________) to support New York City’s plan to fund Universal Pre-K and afterschool with a small tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers.
The Senate often lets other towns, counties and cities raise their taxes for important programs. Why should NYC be treated differently? New York City’s plan is the only plan on the table that guarantees full funding for Universal Pre-K and afterschool programs.
We’ve waited on the State for over 15 years for funding. It’s time Albany gives the City the right to do what more than 70% of New Yorkers agree with – allow NYC to create a dedicated funding stream to fund universal Pre-K and expanded afterschool programs. Thank you.
In the accompanying video Mayor DeBlasio makes his case in person - well worth viewing.
This is an important issue in which the voices of the public will be especially important. While Governor Cuomo's plan has appeal on the grounds of not raising taxes and appearing "equitable", careful consideration reveals serious flaws. Please add your voice to the debate!