There's a political fight brewing between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over universal preschool: They both want to pay for it!
Leave it to New York’s top two political alpha males: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are locked in a contest over something they both agree on. Mr. de Blasio wants to offer free, full-day prekindergarten to every 4-year-old in New York City and pay for it by raising taxes on wealthy residents. Mr. Cuomo is promising to pay for full-day prekindergarten across the entire state, without any tax increase.
... Mr. Cuomo told The Times on Wednesday that he would be willing to write what amounts to a blank check to Mr. de Blasio and other mayors in the state who wish to improve and expand their preschool programs. “As fast as he can come up to speed, we will fund it,” the governor said.
Since prekindergarten was a major plank in Mr. de Blasio’s campaign platform last year, the governor’s offer could be a big victory for him, even though it would not be financed in the way he had envisaged.
... Questions remain, too, about the strength of the governor’s commitment. Mr. Cuomo says he has long supported universal preschool, but this did not become a full-blown priority until after the de Blasio election. He told The Times that he now considers it “the greatest single educational reform that we can make.”
Of course, the obvious solution is for NYC is to accept state money to fund universal preschool for all 4-year-olds, and then tax NYC's rich to expand the city's programs to all 3-year-olds. The latest research suggests that getting kids into high-quality preschool by age 3 is the key to closing the achievement gap.
But either way, it's a great fight to have! Too bad we don't have the same problem here in Seattle, where pronouncements by both the mayor and city council that they are committed to funding universal citywide preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, has been met by crickets from Olympia. If anything, we're more likely to see an effort by legislators to preempt our authority to fund preschool than one to rush in with cash and claim the credit. For now.
Still, the example we see in New York is encouraging. The number one objective of implementing high-quality universal preschool Seattle-wide is to enact the one education reform that has been repeatedly proven to be the most effective at improving both academic and life outcomes, while dramatically closing the achievement gap. But it does not come out of any desire to screw the rest of the state and go it alone. The hope is that if we pass it here and prove that it works, other cities will follow suit until there is enough political pressure to fund a high-quality program statewide.
"It's not fair!" the rest of the state will scream. "Why do Seattle-area children get preschool and ours don't?" That's what it will take for Republican legislators to support raising the revenue necessary to make a statewide program possible. But we have to do it here in Seattle first.