We have long advocated for universal pre-K for our kids. Mayor Bill de Blasio has admirably taken the leadership on this initiative, and his vision and fight for universal pre-K is laudable. He must ensure that it is not only universal but also economically integrated. Research confirms that state investments in early childhood education have significant benefits to our children’s development.
The newly inaugurated mayor’s proposal of creating 48,000 new full-day pre-K seats by next fall 2014 will be a challenging order, and will require converting 38,000 existing half-time slots to full-time and adding 10,000 seats, all to the tune of $340 million.
He proposes paying for this by raising taxes on New York’s wealthiest taxpayers, increasing the tax rate on income over $500,000 from 3.9 to 4.4 percent. Consequently, those making $500,000 to $1 million per year would contribute an annual tax increase by an average of $973 per year to society.
His biggest hurdle toward achieving this goal will be to convince Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature, who will need to sign onto any change in the city’s income tax, but they should be encouraged by the fact that this goal is in lockstep with President Obama’s proposal for universal pre-K in his last State of the Union address.
This growing consensus in favor of universal pre-K is a huge step in the right direction. In providing universal access, as opposed to funding programs for high-needs students only, two big benefits will inure to all: shifting a significant financial burden from middle-class families who do not make the cut for means-tested programs, and improving the quality of early childhood education for all students by integrating classrooms.
The mayor needs our universal support on this commendable initiative. Confucius, the great philosopher, was right when he said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Universal pre-K is not nearly a thousand miles. We can do it if we try.