NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is upping the pressure on Albany to tax the wealthy, so he can make good on a campaign pledge to mount the largest expansion of pre-kindergarten classes in the nation’s history.
De Blasio read a book to an upper Manhattan pre-kindergarten class on Tuesday, using the kids to send yet another message to the state capitol that he intends to use his landslide victory to force lawmakers to tax the wealthy so he can expand all-day pre-K.
“I just want to show the media this dragon; it represents the fiscal challenges we face,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio is essentially telling Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to do what they can to make sure he has the money to create an additional 50,000 pre-K slots — or else.
And, oh yes, he wants the funds in place by spring.
“We need some of the best minds in the city to start work right now on developing the practical approaches, and making sure that we are ready to go as soon as legislation is approved in Albany,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio named a six-member task force to identify classroom space, teachers and programs, so that some of the new pre-K slots will be ready next September.
“There is a yearning right now among parents to address this challenge. Educators have long come to the conclusion that this is the missing link. This is a moment, a historical moment, this is a break-through moment,” de Blasio said.
The mayor-elect also made it clear that he feels it’s his way or the highway. His task force intends to let lawmakers know that in the strongest possible terms.
“When you don’t heed the will of the people there are consequences,” de Blasio said. “I did apparently run for mayor of the largest city in the country on a platform of full-day pre-K for all, asking the wealthy to do a little more and won with 73 percent of the vote. That suggests to me that this is not your garden variety will of the people situation. There’s extraordinary public feeling.”
The mayor-elect admitted it will take several years to build all the facilities and hire enough teachers to create another 50,000 pre-K slots.
He said he’s so committed to the program he’s going to earmark funds from the capital budget to build more facilities, which, he admits will mean other construction projects will have to wait.
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