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At City Hall, coalition urges de Blasio to stick to his pre-K pledge

Rows of tiny children shivered inside puffy coats on the steps of City Hall Wednesday to make the cutest case possible for daycare, after-school, and full-day preschool funding.

Their plea wasn’t directed at the outgoing mayor, but the incoming one, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, whose campaign was fueled by a pledge to tax the rich to pay for full-day pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds and after-school programs for all middle-school students.

“We are here today … to say: take your campaign promise and turn it into a reality,” said Wayne Ho, chief policy officer for Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, one of more than 150 advocacy groups and service providers in the Campaign for Children, a coalition formed to fight cuts to early-childhood and after-school programs.

De Blaiso recently named FPWA’s executive director, Jennifer Jones Austin, as co-chair of his transition team. One of her roles, the campaign said last week, is to lead the push for universal pre-K.

The coalition’s 19-page plan urges the next administration to commit $150 million of the city budget to fund these programs, which is the amount the City Council has had to cobble together in recent years after the mayor’s office cut the funds from its budget.

The plan also proposes the creation of a new Office of Early Childhood to focus on children aged five and younger.

The coalition argues that early-childhood programs — which include subsidized childcare, Head Start and universal pre-K — prepare children for school while freeing their parents for work. Its plan asks de Blasio to extend his vision beyond the full-day-preschool and after-school pledge.

The report says that the city’s early-childhood system serves about 140,000 children, but that thousands of eligible children still miss out. And one of the city’s main after-school programs has shrunk by about 35 percent since 2008, the report adds.

De Blasio says his proposed income tax on households that make more than $500,000 would raise about $342 million, which would finance full-day preschool for all the city’s four-year-olds, including the 38,000 now in half-day pre-K and the 10,000 others in none. He also says the tax would fund more after-school programs.

De Blasio’s tax plan would require state approval, which could be an uphill battle, as well as a legislative tweak that would allow the city to spend the money on full-day pre-K.

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