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.