By guest blogger Alyssa Morones
The mayor-elect of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has ambitious—and likely expensive—plans to improve education, including a major expansion of after-school programs for middle schoolers and universal prekindergarten.
According to the de Blasio campaign site, the number of after-school programs in New York City saw a steep decline from 2008, when there were 87,000 slots, to the roughly 20,000 slots that exist at present. The mayor-elect hopes that by extending learning time through after-school programs, students’ academic performance will improve and behavioral problems will increase, campaign materials say. Specifically, he vowed to “dramatically expand after-school programs for all middle school students,” and “to create truly universal pre-K programs.
Both the after-school and pre-K programs, according to de Blasio’s plan, would be funded by increasing the city’s income tax on residents earning more than $500,000 a year.
Whether or not the Democratic mayor-elect achieves this, though, isn’t entirely in his hands. Any proposed tax increases would first have to go through the state legislature in Albany and then be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. However, with the upcoming 2014 election year, Gov. Cuomo has expressed a wish to cut, not raise taxes.
Some of these ideas have drawn fire. In a recent opinion piece for the New York Post, education pundit Chester E. Finn, Jr. argues that while universal preK could be “potentially worthwhile, the cost of financing it would be over the top.
“Much the same can be said for universal after-school programs for middle schoolers,” continues Finn, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a former education official in the Reagan administration. “A serious education reformer would instead expand learning time by lengthening the school day and year. But the unions won’t like that.”
Of course, it’s one thing to propose something in the heat of a political campaign. It’s another to deliver once the dust settles. It remains to be seen how much political capital the new mayor will put behind his proposals for beefing up after-school programming and prekindergarten access.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.