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United Front in Support of Pre-K Plan Gathers at City Council Hearing

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It isn't often you get everyone to agree at a City Hall hearing, but when it comes to funding universal pre-k, it was impossible to find anyone against at a hearing Tuesday, as the idea was to present a united front to combat opposition in Albany. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

There was a resolution, a press conference and a packed hearing that went on for hours. Dozens of council members participated. The speaker helped preside. The public advocate spoke up, and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña testified.

"Chancellors generally do not appear before resolutions, but I think that this is an important one enough that I wanted to be here in person, to put my name and face behind what you're doing," Fariña said.

"It's a call to action that we have now our public advocate as a citywide elected official, that we have the full City Council, representing the 8.3 million people all united in saying that we want to implement the universal pre-k in the way that the mayor has defined," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

That means funding it with a tax increase on those making more than $500,000 a year.

While there may be a united front at City Hall, taxes are decided in Albany, where some key figures have said that they're not on board. So all the talk in Lower Manhattan was really directed up north.

"I'm very optimistic. This is not dead on arrival," Mark-Viverito said. "We've seen how public pressure, grassroots pressure, I am an activist at heart, continue to be. We have a mobilization and a movement happening on the ground."

It was Fariña's first time as chancellor testifying before the City Council. While in the past, Department of Education officials have faced a lot of tough questions from council members, this was different.

"I'm so happy we have an educator being chancellor," said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan.

"I really look forward to working with you," said City Councilman Stephen Levin of Brooklyn.

The hearing still led to a few tidbits of information. The chancellor said that the city plans to institute a uniform curriculum across all pre-k programs, and she said that the students will not take any type of standardized tests.

Then, City Councilman Mark Weprin of Queens asked, "Is there a Plan B, just in case?" Just in case Albany doesn't approve the tax.

"In education, you always have plan B and, if necessary a plan C, but we have to be optimistic," Fariña said. "Otherwise, they'll tell us, 'Go right to plan B,' without giving us a chance to do plan A."

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