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Cuomo: NYC pre-K plan 'repugnant' to need for equity

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives the

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives the State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza and Convention Center in Albany on Jan. 8, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday said Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposal for expansion of prekindergarten in New York City alone was "repugnant" to the need for public school equity.

"I believe that's a service that should be provided to all children everywhere in the state," said Cuomo, who is instead offering state funding for a statewide pre-K program. "I want to make sure that richer communities and the poorer communities in this state are also in a place to afford that service."

Cuomo's comments were an escalation of his clash with de Blasio, who on Tuesday complained the state was treating the city "like a colony."

"The state is treating the city like a city," countered Cuomo at an Albany news conference Wednesday. "It's a city. We have cities, we have counties, we have villages. We have a state and we have a constitution and the constitution says some matters are best managed statewide."

Cuomo has rejected two of de Blasio's biggest proposals: an increase in the city income tax on high earners to expand city prekindergarten; and a higher city minimum wage.

De Blasio has said Albany is standing in the way of New York City's effort to take care of its own, while shouldering the cost through a city tax.

Wednesday, the mayor pushed the urgency of prekindergarten in his budget address. "We're on the runway ready to take off right now. The engines are revving," he said. He plans to open new prekindergarten classes in September.

Afterward, he said, "The governor by obligation has to think about the whole state, and he's right that there are some very troubled areas of the state that need special support. I'm right to say that our kids in New York City . . . are not ready for their futures on an alarming scale. And we have the largest population of public school kids. We have the largest population of poor public school kids."

Voters, however, appear to have lined up behind Cuomo. A Quinnipiac University poll Wednesday found a plurality of state voters including those in New York City favor Cuomo's plan.

Quinnipiac said 49 percent of city residents prefer Cuomo's plan while 40 percent favored de Blasio's. Statewide, 47 percent favored the idea of using state funds while 37 percent favored taxing the wealthy. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. "Just about everyone in this most liberal of states likes universal prekindergarten," said Quinnipiac's Maurice Carroll. "But voters prefer Gov. Andrew Cuomo's no-new-taxes approach."Cuomo said allowing wealthy areas to pay only for their own prekindergarten is "repugnant to the whole equity argument."

"So do I believe the wealth in New York City should be used just for New York City? No," Cuomo said."I don't believe the wealth in Nassau should be used just for Nassau."

With Emily Ngo


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