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CUNY professors announce support for ‘universal pre-K’

Stephon Johnson | 3/20/2014, 2:17 p.m.
CUNY becomes tobacco-free

While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio remains in a dogfight with Albany over universal pre-K, he’s still gaining support for the venture in the process.

The latest union to support de Blasio’s plan on taxing those who make $500,000 or more in order to fund pre-K for all New Yorkers—along with after-school programs for middle school students who need it—is the Professional Staff Congress, the professors’ union at the City University of New York (CUNY).

Despite Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s recent announcement that the Assembly’s budget resolution would allow de Blasio to go forth with his plan, he’s hitting a roadblock in the Republican-dominated state Senate.

“As a union of educators, we know that universal pre-K and expanded after-school programs will make a real difference in the life-chances of the students we teach at CUNY,” said Professional Staff Congress President Barbara Bowen, whose union represents 25,000 faculty and staff, in a statement. “Nothing in education matters more than a strong foundation, and that’s what de Blasio’s plan would provide—for all, not just the privileged. 

“The Senate and the governor should join the Assembly in acknowledging the city’s right of home rule, and let the children of New York have the start on life they deserve,” Bowen said.

Bowen noted that the average CUNY student is a person of color or an immigrant from a low-income household, and those would be the type of New Yorkers who’d benefit from universal pre-K coming to fruition. She also praised the Assembly for passing the New York State DREAM Act and hopes funding can be restored to CUNY schools.

“The Assembly majority’s support for the DREAM Act represents another major advance for the students and families of New York,” Bowen said. “Together with the support for de Blasio’s UPK plan, it makes this potentially a milestone year for educational justice in New York state.

“Educational justice must extend to CUNY,” Bowen continued. “Unless the Assembly and Senate add funds to cover inflationary costs and begin to rebuild the faculty, CUNY will be unable provide the kind of college education the people of New York deserve. Breaks for the rich are unacceptable when the people of New York are in such need of universal pre-K, access to college and high-quality public college education. We look forward to seeing the full language in the one-house budget bills and to working with the Legislature on continuing their strong support for CUNY.”