Ahead of budget negotiations in Albany, two of the state's most powerful labor leaders are meeting with New York City lawmakers to encourage them to push Mayor Bill de Blasio's city pre-kindergarten plan, a source in attendance said.
The Friday afternoon meeting is being held at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers, where president Michael Mulgrew is being joined by George Greshman, the leader of the health care workers union 1199 SEIU. A number of city Democratic senators and Assembly members are in attendance, the source said, including Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright, the chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Party and co-chair of the state Democrats; and Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the chairman of his borough's Democratic organization. Pressure from powerful leaders of the Assembly could help Mr. de Blasio's efforts.
The UFT is also engaged in contract negotiations with the de Blasio administration, which could give the union extra incentive to push the mayor's pre-K plan.
The main opposition to the plan, however, come from state Senate Republicans, who share control of their chamber, and from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wants the state to fund all pre-K across New York. Mr. de Blasio and the unions backing his efforts want a dedicated, five-year income tax hike on high earners to fund pre-K and after-school programs, but Mr. Cuomo's 30-day budget amendments released Thursday evening don't contain the increase.
And here's part of an opinion piece Mulgrew has in the Daily News that pushes for de Blasio's dedicated revenue stream for universal pre-K (i.e., a tax on those making over $500,000 in NYC to be used to fund universal full-day pre-K):
The unfortunate history for too many programs is that money is provided, then political priorities change and the money dries up. School districts cannot create quality programs if next year’s funding is always in doubt.
We need to provide a designated revenue stream, one set aside for pre-K and nothing else. We have the chance now to do this. We owe our children that chance.
Andy Cuomo wants nothing to do with the dedicated revenue stream for de Blasio's universal pre-K program, so Mulgrew's penning the opinion piece for the News that pushes de Blasio's plan and his having a meeting at 52 Broadway to do the same with members of the Assembly, the Senate and at least one other union leader may not make Sheriff Andy too happy.
Of course, Mulgrew may have sent the message to Sheriff Andy through round-about channels that while he is publicly helping push de Blasio's plan, he's still a Sheriff Andy man at heart.