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Public Employee Press

Unions back new mayor on pre-K plan

By ALFREDO ALVARADO


Surrounded by labor leaders, Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, speaks Jan. 6 at a news conference where unions announced they'll lobby state lawmakers to pass his proposal for a small tax hike on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K.

New York City unions representing more than 1.3 million workers announced Jan. 6 that they will mobilize their members and urge the state Legislature to support Mayor Bill de Blasio's universal pre-kindergarten program, which would be funded through a small tax surcharge on incomes above $500,000.

DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts said the council will lobby state legislators to support the legislation, which would also fund after-school programs.

"Pre-K is the right thing to do for the future of our children and the smart thing to do for our community," she said. "We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mayor de Blasio as he works to get this important legislation enacted."

The New York City Central Labor Council, which includes almost all unions in the city, also pledged to join in the grassroots effort on behalf of the education initiative, which was part of de Blasio’s campaign platform.

CLC President Vincent Alvarez pledged to mobilize members for the upcoming legislative session in Albany "to explain how important this plan is to the growth and well-being of our city's children."

The mayor's proposal has broad support from voters across the state. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, as many as 63 percent of upstate voters and 68 percent of city voters favor raising the income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund early education. In a New York Times/Siena College poll, 72 percent of city residents supported the de Blasio plan.

De Blasio's election Nov. 5 with an overwhelming 73 percent of the vote and the election of Scott Stringer as comptroller and Letitia James as public advocate "marked a progressive turning point that our union helped achieve," said Roberts. The plan to offer pre-K schooling is part of the new mayor's strategy for advancing working- class and minority children to help reduce the growing economic gap between rich and poor in New York City.

"We in DC 37 strongly support universal pre-K, because it will give our children and grandchildren a better start on the education they need to compete in the modern, globalized economy," Roberts said.

Backing the plan is the Universal Pre-K NYC campaign, a grassroots committee of more than 25 unions, advocacy groups, nonprofits and early-education advocates from all five boroughs.

 
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