For the first time in years, policymakers in New York City and Albany are working in earnest to deliver what should be a basic right for every child: access to a high-quality pre-kindergarten (pre-K) program. As New York City’s former Deputy Commissioner for Early Childhood Services, and now Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-New York, I know that one of the most effective strategies to address poverty and inequality is to invest in early childhood development and education.
New York’s legislature voted in 1997 — 17 years ago — to fund universal pre-K, but state lawmakers have never been able to identify a reliable funding source to deliver on the promise. Now that’s changed. Mayor Bill de Blasio has laid out a concrete and common-sense proposal to modestly raise taxes on the wealthiest residents in New York City to fund pre-K programs there. Governor Andrew Cuomo agrees pre-K is a priority and proposed a modest investment toward achieving universality. And in the most recent sign that the years-old impasse is nearing a solution, the State Assembly and Senate are both proposing strategies to finance pre-K, with the Assembly in full support of Mayor de Blasio’s plan. This is a tremendously encouraging first step.
The case for making sure 4-year-olds can access high-quality pre-K is simple and powerful. We know if we properly support children in their early years of rapid brain development, not only will they benefit, but so will our state. Investing in early education is not only the just but also the smart and cost-effective thing to do. Nobel laureate economist James Heckman estimates a lifelong economic rate of return of 7 to 10 percent each year for every dollar invested in quality early childhood programs. Students with access to good pre-K programs are much more likely than their peers to graduate from high school and achieve economic stability.
According to New York City figures, there are currently more than 53,000 children in the five boroughs who don’t have the opportunity to attend pre-K programs, or whose pre-K programs are inadequate. The Mayor’s plan proposes reaching all those children. It must happen now. We believe every child in New York State should also have that opportunity to go to a quality preschool, and we applaud our legislators for zeroing in on a mechanism to deliver pre-K statewide at long last.
The uniting principle here is that when we know we can do more to give children a foundation for future success — and when the political will exists and the funding is within reach—it is urgent that we seize the moment. We know high-quality pre-K and full-day kindergarten are vital programs that help children thrive, and the momentum in New York is heartening. Now it’s time to follow through and make this longstanding promise a reality.
—Melanie Hartzog is the executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund-New York office. The Children’s Defense Fund-New York (CDF-NY) is the New York office of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information about CDF-NY, visit www.cdfny.org.
HAVE AN OPINION ON POLICY AND CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS?
The Next America welcomes op-ed pieces that explore the political, economic and social impacts of the profound racial and cultural changes facing our nation, particularly relevant to education, economy, the workforce and health. Email Janell Ross at email@example.com. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
What We're Following See More »
"Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump. Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents."
Russo-Western relations are getting thornier all the time. "Dutch-led criminal investigators said Wednesday they have solid evidence that a Malaysian jet was shot down by a Buk missile moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia. Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Central Crime Investigation department of the Dutch National Police, said communications intercepts showed that pro-Moscow rebels had called for deployment of the mobile surface-to-air weapon, and reported its arrival in rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine." Russia, of course, is denying culpability.
In its roughly 125-year history, the Arizona Republic has never endorsed a Democratic candidate for president. Until now. "The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified," the editors write, as they throw their support to Hillary Clinton.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have reached a deal which is likely to avert a government shutdown. The biggest impediment had been the GOP's refusal to include funding for Flint water system reconstruction in the continuing resolution, and this solution provides an alternative measure likely to appease both sides. The funding for Flint will be included in the Water Resources and Development Act as an amendment to the version passed by the House of Representatives, one which will be passed in the senate. It now appears likely that Congress will in fact be able to keep the government open.
Monday night's debate may have inspired some in Congress, as Senate Minority Leader has decided to take a stand of his own. Reid is declining to allow a vote on a "bipartisan bill that would bolster U.S. spectrum availability and the deployment of wireless broadband." Why? Because of a "broken promise" made a year ago by Republicans, who have refused to vote on confirmation for a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission to a second term. Harry Reid then took it a step further, invoking another confirmation vote still outstanding, that of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.