Speaking with NY1 Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that $300 million in universal pre-K funding approved by Albany lawmakers in their budget is a big win for the city. NY1's Errol Louis filed the following report.
Mayor Bill de Blasio spent months on the campaign trail in 2013 arguing for a massive investment in pre-kindergarten and after-school programs, and then spent nearly all of his first few weeks as mayor trying to convince Albany lawmakers to provide the funding.
That effort, said the mayor, finally paid off.
"We've gotten applications now. About 29,000 seats worth of space have been offered to us. More is coming in," de Blasio said. "A huge number of teachers have come forward, almost 3,000 now. We had almost 1,000 teachers just in the last week.
It's important to note that the pre-K funding is far more specific than the other part of de Blasio's plan, which calls for $190 million a year to create after-school programs for middle-school students. Without identifying a specific budget line, the mayor said the money will be available this year and for the four following years.
"What I was worried about is that Albany might do something very temporary. No, on both pre-k and after-school, there's a five-year commitment," de Blasio said. "We're going to get a substantial amount of that after-school money. We're going to have to figure out what we can do to build that out further, but it certainly allows us to get started on a very major investment."
While we were talking budgets, I asked the mayor about his last-minute deal with Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to use state funds for city residents who are homeless or at risk of ending up in shelters.
"We need to address the question of homelessness in many ways. One of the most important things is to re-establish homelessness prevention, and this is the first step toward that," de Blasio said. "So this action in Albany is a big step forward. We're very, very proud of it.
The mayor's success in Albany comes before he completes his first 100 days in office, a milestone that de Blasio will reach next week. Then, we can expect the next five months to include an all-out effort by the city to make sure those thousands of pre-K classes are open and ready to go when the next school year starts.
While the mayor said he has more things that he wants from Albany, he has time to do it. The April 1 deadline was not the end of the session. That will continue for months in Albany.