New York City’s highest earners are set to foot the bill for one of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s signature campaign proposals—increased access to early education programs. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday, more than six in ten New York state voters support de Blasio’s plan to fund this and other public education initiatives by raising the city income tax from 3.9 to 4.4 percent on those who make more than $500,000 annually.
But de Blasio still has to sell the plan to a divided state legislature and gain the support of fellow Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is up for re-election next year and has previously committed to keep tax rates under control.
While the poll showed that 90 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Independents support the tax hikes, 60 percent of Republicans oppose it. Since Republicans have partial control of the state Senate due to a power sharing agreement, that opposition could be a critical factor.
Republicans “still have a lot to say about what happens in Albany,” said Quinnipiac’s Maurice Carroll.
De Blasio’s goal is to narrow the achievement gap for low-income minority students by providing free access to preschool programs for 4-year-olds.
But free access is no guarantee that de Blasio’s goal will be reached.
There is direct evidence that high-quality preschool programs produce desirable results. The High/Scope Perry Preschool project tracked 123 low-income, minority children for nearly four decades. The project initially divided the students into two groups. One received a high-quality preschool education, the other group none at all. Students were tested initially for IQ and then tracked over the ensuing decades.
The results were dramatic. Adults who had the high-quality preschool experience were 20 times more likely to have graduated from high school. They were also nearly 20 percent less likely to be on welfare at age 40. These adults also got better grades throughout their school careers and were more likely to remain married.
The free preschool education available to many low-income students through the government-funded Head Start program, however, shows much different results. According to Congress’ recently mandated evaluation of Head Start, the program fails to improve children’s cognitive abilities. In some instances, the Head Start participants actually showed lower outcomes when compared to those in the study who did not participate in Head Start preschool. Administered by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the study tracked 5,000 children who were randomly assigned to either participate in a Head Start program or not. It then followed them through first grade and reported on their progress.
The people of New York—particularly those who have preschool age children, and those who will be footing the bill—deserve to hear from de Blasio assurance about the quality of program their children will receive.