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NYC religious leaders voice strong support for de Blasio’s pre-K plan

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray visits First Step NYC pre-school in Brooklyn. Photo: Ed Reed for the Mayor’s Office

Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens signs on

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

From rabbis to pastors to imams to archbishops, hundreds of religious leaders across the city on Thursday expressed their support for New York City’s tax plan to fund universal pre-K and after-school programs.

Thursday morning, 250 religious leaders, many from Brooklyn, released an open letter to Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature on Thursday asking them to back the plan.

At the same time, New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan strongly backed the proposal, appearing with the Mayorat the St. Francis of Assisi School in the Bronx to announce that Archdiocese of New York would be partnering with the city on the pre-K rollout. The Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens has also signed on.

“The partnership of the Archdiocese will be a crucial part of the equation because they understand full day, high-quality pre-K is the way to go,” Mayor de Blasio said.

“Between the Archdiocese and the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, combined in the first round of proposals that we asked for, from organizations all over the city – the Archdiocese and the Diocese combined have put forward 1,700 potential seats,” he said.

Archbishop Dolan said the church could utilize many schools for pre-K that have closed in recent years for economic reasons.

Among Brooklyn religious leaders signing the letter to the Governor were Rev. Herbert Daughtry, House of the Lord Church; Rabbi Avroham Kahn, COJO of Flatbush; Rabbi Seth Wax, Congregation Mount Sinai; the Reverends Sarah J. Kooperkamp and John E. Denaro, St. Ann and The Holy Trinity Church; Executive Director Abdulkani Bakubal, Muslim Community Center; Imam Shair Abdul-Mani, Iqra Masjid; Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, JCC of Boro Park; Rabbi Shea Rubenstein, JCC of Marine Park; Rev. Clinton Miller, Brown Memorial Baptist Church; Pastor Richard H. Calhoun Sr., Flatbush Seventh-day Adventist Church; and Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood, emeritus, St. Paul Community Baptist Church.

The Rev. Al Sharpton also signed on.

In the letter, the religious leaders said that high quality pre-k and after-school programs “level the playing field between low-income children and their higher-income peers, and provide vital economic security to families.”

The signers added that under the proposal, the city’s wealthiest residents would pay a tax equivalent to “the cost of a soy latte a day.” The tax would raise $530 million over the next five years for universal pre-K and after-school programs for middle schoolers.

Mayor de Blasio has been lobbying hard for the proposal, which would tax the city’s highest earners to fund pre-K for 53,767 children who currently receive only part-time pre-K or no pre-K at all.

“We’ve said clearly: we are going to take the resources for pre-K and after school and put them in a lockbox, and use them for those purposes only,” de Blasio said.

The state needs to approve the tax plan, however, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, looking ahead to the November elections, has opposed the idea of any new taxes. He has countered de Blasio’s proposal with his own commitment of $300 million over the next two years to fund pre-school programs.

The city, already burned by unfulfilled education funding promises from Albany, is saying “no thanks.”

“We’ve heard politicians in Albany make promises to expand universal pre-k for more than fifteen years, but without a stable funding source, that promise has been broken time and again,” the religious leaders said in their letter.

On Tuesday, while Mayor de Blasio and supporters lobbied in Albany for the pre-K funding plan, Gov. Cuomo chose instead to cheer on charter school supporters rallying for their free rent deal inside the city’s traditional public schools.

The disruption that often ensues following the co-location of charter schools into traditional city school buildings has prompted the Mayor to recently put the brakes on a small number – 3 out of 17-- of previously-approved charter co-locations, angering the politically-connected head of the Success Academy network, Eva Moskowitz.

Moskowitz let thousands of Success students at her 22 schools play hooky on Thursday, so they and their parents could be bused to the capital to rally for her network.

On Saturday, the Mayor and Reverend Al Sharpton will rally with members of the clergy, officials and others for the National Action Network (NAN)’s UPK Day.

More about the Universal pre-K plan at http://upknyc.org

March 6, 2014 - 4:43pm


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