Op-Ed: Prioritizing Our Kids’ Future

The start of a new year is an opportunity to sharpen our focus on what matters the most: our kids. Whether it’s keeping them safe, or boosting their chances to thrive, we must work harder to protect our children.

In his third State of the State address, Governor Cuomo hit the nail on the head with some core priorities that could help us reach that goal: expanding learning time in schools, raising the minimum wage, and toughening gun control policies. As both a public school parent and public servant, these matters are personal to me.

In New York, we’ve become a tale of two cities with less and less economic opportunity for working families. The surest long-term solution to this is investing in early education.

Right now, of the 68,000 four-year-olds in New York City that should receive full-time pre-kindergarten, only 20,000 get it. The remaining children get no Pre-K at all, or an inadequate half-day.

This sets kids up to stumble in later years. GovernorCuomo has put forward a plan that will benefit thousands of children with an ambitious expansion of full-day Pre-K.City Hall should match the governor’s program with our own commitment to provide Pre-K to every child who needs it. We can’t shortchange a single child.

In October, I proposed a plan to provide high-quality Pre-K to every child in New York City. To pay for it, I called for an income surcharge on households earning more than $500,000 per year.

The proposal also included funding for extended learning time through new after-school programs that would serve more than 100,000 middle school students, two-thirds of all middle school students—one of the biggest after-school expansions in city history. That’s how you level the playing field of opportunity.

Another reform we can implement is increasing the minimum wage. A score of other states have a higher minimum wage than we do– and New York is one of the country’s toughest economic markets. An increased minimum wage would better match the living expenses families incur here. It would give minorities and small businesses a better chance to compete. Their prosperity, in turn, would benefit our children by improving the quality of life for working-class families.

Lastly, we need to overhaul our gun control system immediately to keep our kids safe. We need sensible gun policies now. I’ve called for our pension funds to divest from gun manufacturers as one concrete step we can take to curb gun violence. We must stop the senseless bloodshed, for our kids’ sake.

The governor set a progressive agenda that builds on the success he’s had turning our state around. Let’s turn these priorities into reality.

Bill de Blasio is New York City public advocate.

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