De Blasio Unveils Universal Pre-K Planning Team

By Colby Hamilton on December 3, 2013 4:54pm 

 Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio reads a book to preschoolers ahead of announcing his universal pre-kindergarten working group on Dec. 3, 2013.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio reads a book to preschoolers ahead of announcing his universal pre-kindergarten working group on Dec. 3, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

EAST HARLEM — Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday the team he says will help implement his signature campaign promise of universal pre-kindergarten for the city's children.

De Blasio said the goal of the working group is to come up with the "roadmap" to get universal pre-kindergarten ready to go by the start of the next school year.

"We have made an historic commitment to the people of this city — providing universal pre-kindergarten and after-school paid for by a small tax increase on the wealthy — and we intend to hit the ground running to deliver on it," de Blasio said in a statement ahead of the announcement.

The pre-kindergarten expansion is expected to bring the number of enrolled city children from 20,000 to 68,000, according to de Blasio’s office.

De Blasio named a team of six people to the education team: Elba Montalvo, founder and CEP of the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families; Josh Wallack, head of the Children's Aid Society's Early Childhood program; Sherry Cleary, executive director of the NYC Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at CUNY; Gail Nayowith, executive director of SCO Family of Services; Nancy Kolben, executive director of the Center for Children's Initiatives and Jennifer Jones Austin, who also co-chairs de Blasio's transition team.

The group will focus on teacher development, securing space for the universal pre-kindergarten initiative, and looking at models from around the country to come up with best practices.

“Each member of the working group comes to this effort with years of experience in the field of early education from both the government and non-profit sectors,” de Blasio said in the statement.

Three of the working group members — Wallack, Nayowith, and Kolben — have been registered as lobbyists on behalf of the companies they work for. Both Wallack and Kolben were registered as of 2013, while Nayowith was lasted list as a lobbyist in 2007.

To pay for the universal pre-K program de Blasio has proposed a tax increase on New York City residents making $500,000 a year or more. The tax hike will require approval from the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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