Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Mayor: Pre-K Plan is Moving Ahead Despite Funding Fight

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Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city is ready to rapidly expand its pre-K program this fall, but the big question remains who will pay for it. Speaking along with Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in Little Italy, he released more details on his plan to implement universal pre-K in the next two years. Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Mayor Bill de Blasio read to pre-school students at PS 130 in Little Italy on Tuesday. If he gets his way, there will be thousands more in the city's school system this coming year.

The mayor says there is tremendous interest from public school principals and local organizations when it comes to creating new pre-school classrooms. The city is hoping to add 21,000 public pre-kindergarten seats this fall. The mayor says the Department of Education has received proposals for thousands more than their target.

“This expansion is very, very real and this school system is ready to make history,” said de Blasio.

The administration released a nine-page progress report on its expansion plans that is short on details. Officials have not explained exactly where the new pre-K classrooms will be located.

The Department of Education says it is still determining whether the organizations and schools that offered to add them can actually do so.

Of course the big question here is how the city is going to pay for universal pre-kindergarten. De Blasio wants to raise taxes on New Yorkers who make more than $500,000 a year, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has not been receptive to the plan.

“I believe the better course is let the state pay for it since it is a statewide initiative and the state has the funds so that we don't have to raise taxes,” said Cuomo.

“No one has put forward anything that would actually achieve what we're talking about, except than the plan I've put forward,” said de Blasio.

The mayor's plan requires approval from Albany lawmakers, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose support is essential for the mayor, is hardly going to bat for the tax hike.

“We have not ruled out the mayor's plan, if need be, or the governor's plan or some combination thereof,” said Silver.

It increasingly looks Mayor de Blasio is going to have a tough time getting his wish.

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