Less than three weeks after taking office as New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio has launched a huge political-type campaign to be able to tax the rich to pay for children’s education. This coincides with the release of a new poll that shows 74 percent of New Yorkers support his plan to tax households that earn more than $500,000 a year to fund pre-kindergartens.
The month-old non-profit, UPKNYC (Universal Prekindergarten in New York City) has enlisted the help of hundreds of volunteers who will hand out flyers in the street and at subway stops, and send targeted emails to citizens. Chief organizer is Stephanie Yazgi who was in the forefront of de Blasio’s successful campaigns for mayor and public advocate. She was also one-time director of the Walmart Free NYC campaign. Berlin Rosen, the company in charge of his mayoral campaign has been appointed to handle the new campaign’s PR.
A number of high-key labor leaders have publicly supported the initiative, including President of 32BJ SEIU, Hector Figueroa; President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Stuart Appelbaum; and International Vice President and President of the Teamsters Joint Council 16, George Miranda. They all support the conviction that effective pre-kindergarten (pre-k) has the capacity to decrease the achievement gap between low- and high-income children by as much as 40 percent. It’s already been proven in Chicago.
New York Mayor, De Blasio’s stated stance on the rich tax campaign is that too few kids have the start that they need to be able to succeed later in life. By taxing very wealthy New Yorkers, the city will be able to provide all-day pre-k and a series of afterschool programs that will “put all our kids on the right path.”
The New York Mayor’s plan is to increase taxes on anyone earning more than $500,000. His massive new campaign that essentially entails getting extra revenue from the rich, will enable the city to finance universal, high quality pre-k for all four-year-olds and after-school care for all middle school pupils. But to be able to do this he needs permission from Albany, capital of New York State.
The campaign to provide universal pre-kindergartens is not a new one. However, as the UPKNYC explanatory brochure points out, it was previously impossible because there was no committed source of funding.
Poll to Assess New York Mayor De Blasio
The latest poll, undertaken by Quinnipiac University and released January 16, shows that support for the new mayor is continuing to increase, and momentum for the ambitious plan is growing. Previous polls indicated support for the rich tax ranging from 63 to 72 percent.
The new poll indicates that a total of 67 percent of New Yorkers are generally optimistic about de Blasio, whose four-year-term began this month. A breakdown shows that 80 percent black and 76 percent Hispanic voters share this optimism.
Overall, the message from voters is that education is vitally important, not inequality of income. A total of 57 percent of participants believed de Blasio would improve NYC’s public schools.
While 74 percent said they backed the idea to increase income tax payable by the very rich, 37 percent were opposed to using this money for anything but the funding of pre-k education. A total of 66 percent supported the idea of reducing the financial gap between less well-off and wealthy citizens living in the state.
While there is great enthusiasm about de Blasio’s plans to improve education for kids, not everything he is doing has been given the green light by voters. For instance, there is intense opposition to his plan to ban horse-drawn carriages from New York City, with only 28 percent of participants in the poll saying it’s a good idea. There is also obvious resistance to him giving his wife, Chirlane McCray, a major role in “shaping public policy.” A total of 27 percent said it was a good idea, while 36 percent said they would prefer her to have a minor role. A total of 43 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of all participants said she should be given no role whatsoever.
The poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph D, was carried out over a week from January 9 to 15, and 1,288 New York City voters were interviewed on cell phones and landlines. Ultimately it indicates that the new New York mayor has substantial support particularly for his massive tax-the-rich campaign.
By Penny Swift