Earlier today, we pointed out that some Democrats who supported one of Bill de Blasio’s rivals during the mayoral primary were coming around to a campaign pledge they once panned.
Another of those critics of Blasio’s expanded pre-kindergarten access plan—which calls for an income tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers—was American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who endorsed Bill Thompson in the primary. In August, Weingarten held a conference call with reporters specifically to criticize the plan.
“We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize,” Weingarten said then, calling Thompson “a doer” and describing de Blasio as more of an idealist.
But when asked today if she remained pessimistic about the plan, which requires state approval, Weingarten said she had been mistaken.
“Sometimes you’re wrong, as I was during the campaign, when I suggested that Bill de Blasio couldn’t gain support in Albany for his early childhood education initiatives,” Weingarten said in a statement.
Weingarten was previously president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s local union under the national AFT. The UFT is preparing to negotiate a new contract for its 80,000 teachers, and its top priority is to secure billions of dollars in back pay for the five years in which the city and union have gone without a contract.
Though de Blasio was initially seen as the Democratic party’s labor candidate early on in the mayoral primary, he failed to secure endorsements from municipal unions. De Blasio said the snub left him “unburdened” when it came time to negotiate new contracts with city employees, a comment that irked UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who seemed to mock de Blasio’s courting of the union’s endorsement earlier in the year.
“[He] was on my calendar so many times earlier this year, many of our staff members thought he had an office in our building,” Mulgrew said.
De Blasio’s victory has mended some fences between him and the teachers union, and the UFT since offered its endorsement to the public advocate.
Weingarten said that it was de Blasio’s “forceful advocacy for the this idea” that convinced her that his tax plan could win over Albany lawmakers.
“I believe that he can move state legislators to support pre-K for all the children of New York,” Weingarten said. “As a longtime supporter of early childhood education, I will work closely with the mayor to make sure this becomes a reality.”