It is a long proven fact that children enrolled in pre-K have an advantage over those students who don’t start school until age 5 or kindergarten. It is also a well-known fact that a very large percentage of Black and Hispanic students are not exposed to pre-K and therefore start out with a clear disadvantage in their education.
Mayor Bill de Blasio ran his campaign on the idea of taxing the wealthy to fund a universal pre-K program in New York City and the state as a whole. The idea was met with cheers and jeers, but overall, the idea struck a chord, and New Yorkers knew this was the direction we must go in order to ensure the future of our young people.
Fast-forward to three weeks into the new mayor’s term. Gov. Andrew Cuomo comes out with his new budget plan, which includes funding for universal pre-K sans the tax on those making $500,000 or more.
So now we have a mayor and a governor wanting to institute universal pre-K. One plan calls on taxing those making over a half-million dollars a year, and the other calls for state money to make this plan a reality.
Both the governor and the mayor say that the other’s plan is not feasible, but in the end, they are both looking toward the same goal, universal pre-K. The mayor says that using the state budget to fund the program is not reliable and that Albany has promised universal pre-K for almost two decades. The governor now says that the state will put the money where it is needed without raising taxes.
At the end of the day, what we really need is universal pre-K.
We know the statistics. Kids who receive an early education are 20 percent more likely to graduate high school and 20 percent more likely to work their way out of poverty.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, pre-K can reduce the achievement gap by up to 40 percent. The Ounce of Prevention Fund tells us that without high-quality early childhood intervention, an at-risk child is 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
So the end game is clear; universal pre-K is sorely needed, and the only real question is how we get there.
Taxing the rich is great for a progressive agenda and not taxing the rich is great for a governor seeking re-election. But the money has to come from somewhere, and it needs to be money that can be counted on for years to come. If the governor and the mayor could come together to find funding streams that are sustainable and compromise on strategies that might include both ideas in some shape or form, then our children will be the winners, and that is what really matters. We need universal pre-K. Let’s make it happen.