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Children’s Health Fund President Dr. Irwin Redlener Plays Leading Role in New York City Pre-K Movement


Mayor Bill de Blasio’s high-profile “UPKNYC campaign” to expand the early learning opportunity of universal pre-k to every child in New York City gained even more momentum on Monday, January 6, as leaders of organizations representing over 1.3 million working New Yorkers announced their support.

The plan calls for an increase in the income tax for New York’s wealthiest citizens in order to pay for universal pre-kindergarten as well as after school-programs for middle schoolers.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, Children’s Health Fund president and co-founder, is a leader in the new movement. In November, then Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio called high-quality preschool for all the city’s children a “transformational change” at the NYC Summit on Children, which Dr. Redlener convened at Columbia’s Earth Institute to provide a platform for experts in education, and poverty issues to share their expertise with the in-coming mayor. At that all- day event, Dr. Redlener said that children need to be healthy to be ready to learn, and he made the case for access to quality health care as an essential part of the equation to improve school outcomes.

Mayor de Blasio has appointed Dr. Redlener to the UPKNYC campaign committee along with former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, film studio executive Harvey Weinstein, civil rights leader Al Sharpton, actress Cynthia Nixon, musician John Legend, and others.

“Investing in children is more than just a moral imperative: It is the best economic return for society,” Dr. Redlener said at the campaign launch on Dec. 19. “When children are helped to flourish through programs like universal pre-kindergarten and high-quality after-school activities, they have the chance to reach their full potential and to develop the knowledge and skills they will need for economic success as adults.”

See UPKNYC's January 6 press release below.




Momentum for Plan Grows as Labor Leaders Join National Experts, Business, Philanthropic, Civic, Non-Profit, Clergy and Academic Leaders

New York, NY – Days before the start of the Albany legislative session, leaders of organizations representing over 1.3 million working New Yorkers joined UPKNYC and urged the Governor and the State Legislature to pass Mayor de Blasio’s tax and pre-k plan. The organizations promised to mobilize their members to lobby state legislators in their districts and in Albany in order to help get the plan passed.

The groups announcing their support of UPKNYC were: The New York City Central Labor Council, the Working Families Party, the United Federation of Teachers, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, 32BJ SEIU, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, the Building and Construction Trades Council of New York City, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 16, AFSCME District Councils 37 and 1707, and the Communications Workers of America District 1. They noted that the proposal would help children succeed in life, and would also help ensure that tens of thousands of working parents would rest assured that their children were in a safe, educational environment while they were at work.

"We know, without a doubt, that high-quality pre-k and after-school programs provide critical benefits to children and working families. Mayor de Blasio is simply asking for the authority to raise the city's own taxes on the wealthy to pay for this necessary investment in New York City's future," said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. "Working men and women will be joining us in Albany, to explain how important this plan is to the growth and well-being of our city's children."

"New York City teachers know first-hand the benefits of pre-k and afterschool programs," said Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers. "We agree with Mayor de Blasio that now is the time to – finally - fulfill the promise of all-day pre-k for all of New York City's children. The best way to do that is with a new source of education revenue - a small tax on the highest earners."

"Universal pre-k is one of the most important single policies for the future of our city," said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest union in New York. "Giving children of all economic backgrounds this crucial early boost will not only provide them with greater opportunity, but it will also help address inequality and improve the future economy, public safety and quality of life for all New Yorkers. Those making over $500,000 a year, who have benefitted most from the recovery, should be proud to contribute half a percent towards this urgently needed initiative which will make such a positive difference in the lives of children."

“Tens of thousands of New Yorkers wish they had a high-quality, full-day pre-K to send their children to,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU. “This issue is important to our members, and we will be in Albany as often as needed to explain to our elected officials how important it is to let us raise income taxes on New Yorkers who make more than $500,000 to ensure that every New York child has the opportunity to succeed.”

“New York is supposed to be a place of opportunity,” said Peter Ward, President of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. “Taxing the wealthiest New Yorkers the cost of a soy latte to pay for pre-K and after-school will make sure that every child has the chance to reach their full potential. We’re proud to join our voices to this effort.”

“New York City has a long and proud history of leading progressive movements, whether it be advancing standards for working men and women, civil rights or the quality and accessibility of education. The fact, however, is that New York City is now lagging other parts of the country in terms of the availability of full-day pre-K. That is not acceptable and it must change. With Mayor de Blasio’s campaign to provide a stable funding source for universal pre-K, New York City will assume its rightful leadership role in innovating and improving the education system for our children at a time critical to their development as students,” said Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, which consists of local affiliates of 15 national and international unions and their 100,000 members employed in New York City’s $30 billion construction industry.

“A modest tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-K is overwhelmingly supported by working families in New York City and statewide. With universal pre-K, everyone wins: it will help reduce income inequality, strengthen our economy, and prepare the next generation for good jobs. The state legislature and Governor Cuomo should join Mayor de Blasio and a growing movement of working people to enact this tax to fund universal pre-K. The children of countless low-wage and middle-class workers will benefit tremendously from this progressive and pragmatic proposal,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW.

"Quality, truly universal, pre-k is not just the right thing to do for our children, it is the smart thing to do for our community. Investing in high-quality pre-k programs has a dramatic positive effect on students’ long-term academic achievement,” said Lillian Roberts, Executive Director of AFSCME District Council 37. “We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mayor de Blasio as he works to get the state Legislature to pass Universal pre-k paid for by a small tax on those making over $500k a year.”

“The benefits of full-day pre-kindergarten and after-school programs are indisputable; they not only set our children on a path to success, but they provide critical economic security to New York City’s working families. Ensuring that Albany passes Mayor de Blasio’s plan to impose a modest tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for these critical programs is a priority issue for our members, and we will work over the coming months to send this message loud and clear to leaders in Albany,” said said George Miranda, International Vice President and President of the Teamsters Joint Council 16.

“Our members are 100% behind Mayor de Blasio’s plan,” said Chris Shelton, Vice President, Communications Workers of America District 1. “Pre-K and after school programs help our kids achieve their full potential. And unlike politicians in years past, Mayor de Blasio has offered a dedicated way to pay for these programs. We will help our elected officials in Albany understand why they should allow New York City to tax its wealthiest residents to help invest in our future.”

"The core promise of this society--that no child be foreclosed from opportunity--is imperiled without universal pre-k," said Bill Lipton, New York State Director of the Working Families Party. "Today, we have a rousing mandate from New Yorkers on exactly how Albany should pay for this--a little more from the wealthiest who have seen the most of the opportunity that education can offer."

“For too long, New York City has been headed in the wrong direction when it comes to early childhood education and after-school: cutting instead of investing, leaving too many children behind, and depriving working families of much-needed economic stability. It is high time for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create a city where all children are afforded the same opportunity to succeed,” said Raglan George, Jr., Executive Director of AFSCME District Council 1707. “When we invest in our children, all of New York City benefits. DC 1707 looks forward to working with Mayor de Blasio to ensure the voices of New Yorkers are heard in Albany, and that this plan is passed.”

In recent weeks, a broad coalition of more than 35 organizations and prominent New Yorkers including business, civic, non-profit, clergy, and academic leaders launched UPKNYC: The Campaign for Universal Pre-K and After-School, and released a video showing growing national attention and support for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to raise the income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund high-quality pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds and after-school programs for all middle school students in New York City who need them.

A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that a significant majority of New Yorkers support the Mayor’s plan. 63% of New York State voters are in favor of raising the income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund early education for all children, including 68% of New York City voters, 55% of voters in the suburbs and 64% of those who live in upstate New York. A recent New York Times/Siena poll of New York City residents found that 72% are supportive of the Mayor’s plan.

Leaders from business, civil rights, academia, advocacy and the arts have formed UPKNYC’s growing campaign committee, including: Roger Altman, Founder and Executive Chairman of Evercore Partners, former Deputy Treasury Secretary, Chairman of New Visions for Public Schools; Cynthia Nixon, actor, Ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, longtime advocate for increased financing to NYC public schools; Jeffrey Sachs, preeminent economist leading Columbia University’s Earth Institute; Richard Beattie, Senior Chairman of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Harvey Weinstein, Co-chairman of The Weinstein Company; Al Sharpton, one of the nation’s most renowned civil rights leaders, founder and president of the National Action Network; Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Jr., Senior Pastor of the historic First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem; Steve Witkoff, founder and CEO of the Witkoff Group; actress Olivia Wilde; Dr. Irwin Redlener of the Children’s Health Fund; and musician John Legend.

The campaign committee also includes the leaders of a growing list of over 25 advocacy and non-profit organizations with deep roots across the five boroughs, including: Citizens’ Committee for Children, The Children’s Aid Society; The Center for Children’s Initiatives; Children’s Defense Fund New York; United Neighborhood Houses New York; Hudson Guild; University Settlement; Harlem RBI; Committee for Hispanic Children and Families; the Campaign for Children (a coalition of more than 150 early childhood education and after-school advocacy and provider organizations); Good Shepherd Services; Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; Day Care Council; SCO Family Services; Coalition for Asian American Children and Families; Neighborhood Family Services Coalition; Advocates for Children; Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University; New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness; Alliance for Quality Education; United NY; Make the Road NY; Strong Economy for All; NYC Coalition for Educational Justice; New York Communities for Change and the Urban Youth Collaborative.