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Queens Chronicle

De Blasio’s UPK plan gets support

Key legislator, business leaders back mayor’s plan for universal pre-K

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 1:47 am, Thu Feb 13, 2014.

“Ready to Launch” — a detailed plan for full-day universal prekindergarten in New York City — was released last week, and business leaders and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Sunnyside), the chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, have shown a great interest in Mayor de Blasio’s plan.

Nolan paid a visit to Sunnyside Community Services’ pre-K program, which will be applying for full-day funding under de Blasio’s plan.

“As a public school parent and chair of the Assembly Education Committee, I know firsthand how vital pre-K programs, like the one at Sunnyside Community Services, are preparing our children for future success,” Nolan said. “I support NYC’s fair and smart plan to create a dedicated funding stream because it’s the only way to guarantee all New York City children access to universal full-day pre-K and afterschool programs.”

De Blasio’s plan was released on the heels of a similar universal pre-K proposal made by Governor Cuomo that seeks to achieve statewide pre-K without hiking taxes on the wealthy as de Blasio’s plan looks to do.

While the tax increase on earners over $500,000 — from 3.876 to 4.41 percent — has been controversial, some of the city’s major business leaders have signed onto de Blasio’s plan over the past few days.

In addition to founder of Greycroft Partners Alan Patricof and Glenwood Management founder Leonard Litwin, “Ready to Launch” has gotten the support of Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, and Jed Walentas, principal of Two Trees Management.

Walentas said the proposed tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers is “a tax I will be proud to pay.”

“We need a stable, dedicated source of funding not subject to the whim of annual Albany politics and intrigue to make these critical investments,” Wasserman said.

While some business leaders have expressed their support for the plan, Nolan’s approval holds a bit more weight as she heads the committee that could have some say over Cuomo’s pre-K plan should he choose to make it a mandate and not implement it through the state budget.

If the state’s plan does not go through or de Blasio opts out of it, the mayor’s plan could be that much closer to coming into fruition, though it still wouldn’t be a guarantee.

Under de Blasio’s plan, all 4-year-olds would be enrolled in pre-K for the first time in the city’s history.

This would close the gap of 53,767 children who receive part-time pre-K or no pre-K at all, and serve more than 73,000 4-year-olds.

“Every day we see the tremendous impact our pre-K program has on the children we serve, but it’s only a half-day program,” Judy Zangwill, executive director of the Sunnyside Community Services pre-K, said. “Truly universal full-day pre-K increases cognition, boosts scores and builds fundamental skills that put children on an upward educational path, that’s why Sunnyside Community Services will be the first one in line to apply for full-day funding from the city.”

Should the proposal be approved by the state, “Ready to Launch” will go into effect in September.

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