During his campaign, Mayor Bill Di Blasio pledged to provide universal pre-kindergarten for all children whose families can’t afford it.
He said he would pay for UPK (universal pre-kindergarten) by imposing a modest tax increase on those with incomes over $500,000 a year. But he needs the support of Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to raise taxes on the super-rich.
In the meanwhile, the Di Blasio administration has announced that it will redirect money from the city’s capital plan that was intended for charter schools to be used instead to begin UPK.
The Bloomberg administration made charters a high priority even though they enroll only 6% of the city’s children.
According to the report in the New York Times:
“The chancellor, Carmen Fariña, in describing the Education Department’s $12.8 billion capital plan, said she would seek to redirect $210 million that had been reserved for classroom space for charter schools and other nonprofit groups. The money, spread out over five years, would instead be used to create thousands of new prekindergarten seats, helping fulfill Mr. de Blasio’s signature campaign promise.
“The decision was an opening salvo in what many expect to be a long battle between the de Blasio administration and charter schools. The mayor is an unabashed critic of the schools, which are publicly financed but privately run. He has argued that the city should focus its resources on traditional public schools.”
The charter industry is outraged and is now angling to get permission to open pre-k programs.
Of course, if the charters maintain their typical practice of excluding children with disabilities and English learners, that would be disruptive for the UPK program.
The next contretemps between the Di Blasio administration and the charter industry will come when the administration reviews the decisions made in the waning days of the Bloomberg administration to open more charter schools in public school space. Chancellor Farina has said she will review each case on its merits, and Mayor Di Blasio has promised to listen to community sentiment.