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NYC mayor sticks with tax-the-rich plan to pay for pre-kindergarten

January 24, 2014

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is sticking with his proposal to expand public pre-kindergarten education by raising taxes on the wealthy, saying on Thursday his plan should not be subject to annual state budget decisions.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, had offered to give the city $1.5 billion for the full-day pre-school classes proposed by de Blasio in his inauguration address. After the mayor rebuffed the offer, Cuomo told the New York Times the state was willing to fully cover the costs of the $2.6 billion, five-year plan.

“We need reliable funding. We need a substantial amount of funding,” de Blasio, also a Democrat, told reporters at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting about why he prefers backing the program by increasing taxes on the city’s highest earners.

“We can’t do that plan properly if we don’t have that money locked in. I want revenue that people of New York City provide and control,” he said.

Momentum is growing across the country to provide universal public pre-kindergarten, with city and federal leaders in agreement that early education paves the way for academic and professional success. Cuomo would like to see the entire state provide universal pre-kindergarten.

Still, many U.S. areas are scrambling to provide for existing public school programs, as the primary source of education funding – property taxes – remains low. Many states cut education as they try to balance their budgets following the 2007-09 economic recession, while the federal government has yet to renew the funding bill known as No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2007.

(Reporting By Lisa Lambert)