Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out this year’s budget while bashing the government policies of yesterday. He also committed to a state-funded universal prekindergarten program, which put his agenda at odds with that of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“This year we propose universal full day pre-K statewide, period,” Cuomo said during his address in Albany Tuesday afternoon. “All the educators will tell you this is the single most advantageous reform that a state can make. That the younger you get children into school the more open and accessible their brain, the more they can take in earlier. Incredibly, New York will become just the fourth state in the nation to offer statewide universal full day pre-K.”
Cuomo said the 2014-2015 executive budget would reduce spending over the next two years by about $2 billion, and the money saved would be funneled into programs including $1.5 billion for a fully funded universal full-day prekindergarten program, $720 million for an after-school program over five years and a $2 billion Smart Schools bond act.
And though that is much of the same campaign platform on which de Blasio campaigned on, the new mayor opposed the method to Cuomo’s solutions. Rather than using excess funds to make universal prekindergarten a reality, de Blasio’s stance has consistently been to raise taxes on the city’s most wealthy residents to make for a more sustainable base for the program.
The state Afterschool Network applauded Cuomo’s commitment to universal prekindergarten as well as after-school programs and used words like “bold” to describe the coming year’s budget. The group said the governor’s proposal would initially almost triple the state’s current investment in afterschool programs and promises to continue to grow support for these crucial programs over five years.
“New York has a tremendous foundation of high-quality programs that can be quickly scaled up under the governor’s proposal to reach more than 100,000 students who currently have no access to afterschool experiences,” said NYSAN’s Executive Director, Nora Niedzielski-Eichner. “These new programs have the potential to change lives for children all across the state as they have the opportunity to explore new interests, develop healthy relationships, and receive academic support—all components of high-quality programs that have been shown to increase the chances that students will stay in school and out of trouble.”
But Make the Road New York, a Latino-focused working class advocacy group, said Cuomo’s budget address failed to include key immigration issues they have been fighting for, including a commitment to the state DREAM Act.
“Perhaps the central challenge of our time is income inequality and the struggle to make New York a state for all of us,” said Make the Road New York Co-Executive Director Deborah Axt. “The battle against inequality demands, at the very least, education, decent jobs, affordable housing, and fair taxes for all of us. We are concerned that the portion of Governor Cuomo’s budget proposals falls short.”
The governor also used his address to applaud the state’s accomplishments over recent years, which included turning a $10 billion deficit into the now $2 billion surplus. He told stories of years past when the state struggled to come to terms on budgets on a more routine basis.
“Thirty years, 23 late budgets, and not a little late, 50 days. And then you wonder why the people in the State of New York thought the government wasn’t working,” Cuomo said. “New York state government was gridlock on steroids. And the budget was manipulated by special interest pressures, which drove spending ever higher.”
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