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January 14, 2014 4:57 AM How Universal Will de Blasio’s Universal Pre-K Be?

By Amy Rothschild

There are reasons to think that, deeply entrenched as the welfare model is, the paradigm may be shifting. The cost of child-care is sufficiently high that many upper-income parents consider public options for their children: In New York and 18 other states, the cost of center-based care for a four-year old exceeds in-state tuition and fees at a four-year college. And for all his talk of lattes, de Blasio’s media campaign is beginning to emphasize the benefits of government-funded pre-K for all. His team has created a video that shows a vibrant, multi-racial classroom that reminds me of the classes I taught in Bridgeport—or how they would look with better facilities, smaller classes, and more funding.

Without a doubt, the next hurdle for de Blasio’s plan is Albany, where Gov. Cuomo has renewed his promise to cut taxes. In the longer term, however, the program will thrive if—and only if—it makes good on its promise to be universal. Learning conditions must inspire middle and upper-income families to keep their kids enrolled, and working conditions must inspire teachers to stay and teach. It’s important that de Blasio emphasize what wealthy voters might receive in exchange for their increased taxes—and then maybe folks will have their lattes, and their pre-K, too.

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

Amy Rothschild is an early childhood educator with experience teaching pre-K in public and independent schools. She is a Fellow at Teaching for Change.

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