Calls it ‘a fundamental step towards turning our schools around’
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Vincent Gentile, a deputy leader of the City Council, praised a vote by the New York State Assembly in favor of funding universal pre-kindergarten classes for New York City schoolchildren, calling it “a fundamental step towards turning our schools around.”
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said the action taken by the Democratic-controlled chamber is an important first step in the state’s budget process.
“I applaud Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and members of the New York State Assembly for putting the children of New York City first and committing to dedicated funding for full-day pre-kindergarten in New York City,” Gentile said.
NYstateofpolitics.com reported that the package approved by the assembly included a resolution to authorize the city to raise income taxes on those who earn $500,000 or more a year.
The assembly voted for universal pre-k as part of its budget proposal package on March 12. The assembly’s budget would have to be reconciled with a state senate budget and would then have to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo before universal pre-k would be available to the city’s four-year-old children.
It’s not clear if the idea of allowing the city to raise taxes will move forward in Albany. The state senate, which is controlled by a coalition of Republicans and independent-minded Democrats, appeared to be unwilling to raise taxes, even in the interest of establishing universal pre-k. The seante'e biudget package included funding for universal pre-k, but with a funding mechanism that would not involve a tax increase.
Under state law, the state budget has to be finalized by April 1. The next few weeks are likely to see a great deal of political maneuvering in Albany.
Gentile noted that the fiscal package includes funding not only for universal pre-k but for after-school programs in middle school as well.
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Greenpoint-Williamsburg), the leader of the assembly’s Brooklyn delegation, said the assembly budget proposal would increase aid to schools by nearly $1.1 billion, the largest increase in six years.
The assembly’s proposal is the first step in a multi-year plan that would provide schools with approximately $1 billion each year over the next four years, according to Lentol.
“Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, New York’s schools have struggled with decreased state aid. Teachers were laid off, programs were cut and our children suffered for it. With the economy slowly coming back, the time to fully invest in our kids is now,” Lentol said.
Lentol said the tax to fund universal pre-k and after-school programs amounts to a small income tax surcharge of 0.534 percent that would be charged to those making over $500,000.
“All kids deserve the chance to have an early education that puts them on the path to success,” Lentol added. “The assembly budget makes this possible by giving New York City the opportunity for significant, recurring, sustainable, full-day UPK funding.”