Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has steadied the course to an equal implementation of pre-kindergarten education across the state — finally sidestepping the inequitable political posturing of the new mayor of New York City, William de Blasio, who ran for office promising classes to 4-year-olds by taxing high-income New Yorkers.

The governor proposed in his budget that another cohort of youngsters be provided the opportunity to attend school in hopes that such opportunity will better prepare kids for school and, not parenthetically, relieve families of the need to provide as much day care for preschool children. What the governor was reluctant to do was increase taxes to pay for the expansion of education programming.

“I want a universal full-day pre-k program for the state,” the governor said in a press conference Wednesday in Albany. “New York City, yes — also Buffalo, also Rochester, also Syracuse, also Albany, also Long Island. Every child in this state. How should you pay for it? Well, maybe we should let the rich districts have their own, and then the poor districts finance their own. No — that’s the exact opposite: That’s repugnant to the whole equity argument. It should be statewide: Let the state pay; let the state distribute (the funds). Not that a richer jurisdiction should have a better quality of program because they happen to have more wealth.”

The mayor’s claim that New York City’s 4-year-olds are more challenged than upstate kids is specious and typifies the arrogant attitude some New Yorkers harbor about any part of the state north of Westchester County.

Unfortunately, the argument over who pays for pre-kindergarten education has overshadowed any political debate about whether pre-kindergarten education is a value-added proposition. What is known across rural New York is that there aren’t enough people with incomes in excess of $500,000 a year to underwrite all the expenses of such an expansion of the public school system.

What is also known is that Northern New York schools already face tight fiscal challenges because the tax base supporting them is declining as the economy atrophies. The north country property tax base cannot stand higher levies, and the governor seems to agree by proposing incentives to cut local government dependence on the property tax.

If New York state offers pre-kindergarten education, is should be universal across the whole state, paid for by the state and no local jurisdiction should be allowed to conjure up new tax schemes to build a system that is more equal for some New Yorkers than it is for others.

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