Thursday, April 17, 2014

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De Blasio Ups Push For Free Pre-K As Several Mayor Candidates Get Endorsements

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Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is ramping up his push for free pre-kindergarten classes for New York City children, and he, as well as other candidates for mayor, are trumpeting new endorsements in the campaign. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Bill de Blasio has a plan to create free pre-kindergarten classes for all 4-year-olds in the city. He is proposing to tax some of the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for it. But first, he needs Albany lawmakers to sign off on the plan.

"We have a huge constituency that wants this, is ready to fight for it, and I think it's an idea whose time has come," de Blasio said.

De Blasio met with community leaders and education advocates behind closed doors Monday to begin ramping up the public outreach effort that will likely be needed to get the legislation passed in the State Capitol.

The bill has a sponsor in the Assembly. De Blasio said it should be introduced in the Senate in the next few days.

"When we pull this off, we're going to be able to look back and say, 'That was one of the turning point moments in terms of making our school system work for all our kids,'" de Blasio said.

It's not just policy fights de Blasio is focusing on. There are political ones as well. In his fight to become the city's next mayor, he picked up a key endorsement Monday: the backing of Local 1199 SEIU.

"It was a unanimous vote," said George Gresham, president of Local 1199 SEIU.

The local health care workers' union is the largest in the city, and it is known for its formidable get-out-the-vote operation. It could also spend unlimited amounts of its own money to boost de Blasio, so long as it does not coordinate with his campaign.

"We are willing to do what is necessary and proper to make Bill de Blasio the next mayor of the city of New York," Gresham said.

Another candidate, meanwhile, is picking up some important support. The Queens Democratic Party is throwing its weight behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, passing over City Comptroller John Liu, a Queens Democrat who is also making a run for City Hall.

"To have such an overwhelming endorsement from such a diverse borough sends a message to me that this campaign is moving forward," Quinn said. ClientIP:,, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP