Silver, de Blasio open door to state funding of pre-K

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New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in Albany on Jan. 8, 2014. "Every one of New York State's children should have the opportunity to succeed," said Silver (D-Manhattan) in a speech on March 4. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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ALBANY -- Mayor Bill de Blasio and state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday opened the door to considering Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s insistence on state funding, rather than raising a city tax, to pay for expansion of prekindergarten.

“I’m open to significant, recurring, sustainable funding, however you do it,” Silver said in an interview after a raucous rally in Albany with de Blasio. Silver said he would have details in his state budget proposal next week.

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“Every one of New York State’s children should have the opportunity to succeed,” said Silver (D-Manhattan) in his speech.

De Blasio spent much of his speech rallying support for city prekindergarten, but a top aide said the Democratic mayor is open to considering a  sustainable plan for city and statewide prekindergarten. De Blasio left the rally to a series of closed-door sessions with legislative leaders and Cuomo.

De Blasio’s plan for a city tax increase to pay for prekindergarten is all but blocked by Cuomo and Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

De Blasio made expansion of prekindergarten in New York City paid for by an increase in the income tax on the city’s wealthiest residents a top priority in his campaign.

Cuomo, who has also proposed expansion of prekindergarten statewide in recent years, opposes a tax as he tries to turn around New York’s image as a high-taxed state. Cuomo has insisted on state funding for a statewide expansion. De Blasio needs Albany’s approval to raise the city income tax.

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“I want to see us move forward,” said Assembly Education Committee chairwoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) who strongly supports de Blasio and Silver on the issue. “I think the tax is reasonable, but however we get there we need to get there.”

Prekindergarten for 4-year-olds is roundly supported by education authorities as a way to provide a better education foundation for students. The state has limited prekindergarten programs now, but the effort pushed by Silver since the late 1990s has failed to gain significant, sustained funding it the state budget.

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