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Coalition Launches 'UPKNYC: The Campaign for Universal Pre-K and After-School'

Business, Civic, Non-Profit, Clergy and Academic Leaders to Spearhead Campaign for De Blasio Plan

12/19/13

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio addressed a press conference Thursday launching UPKNYC: The Campaign for Universal Pre-K and After-School. At left, Chirlane McCray, Jeff Sachs and Irwin Redlener are among those looking on.

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio addressed a press conference Thursday launching UPKNYC: The Campaign for Universal Pre-K and After-School. At left, Chirlane McCray, Jeffrey Sachs and Irwin Redlener are among those looking on.

A coalition of prominent New York citizens today launched a campaign to rally support for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s plan to raise the income tax for New York’s wealthiest citizens to pay for universal pre-kindergarten and after school-programs for middle schoolers.

The campaign, dubbed UPKNYC: The Campaign for Universal Pre-K and After-School, will include public outreach and a push to convince lawmakers in Albany to pass the plan. It is supported by The Earth Institute.

De Blasio’s plan also received support today from the New York City Advisory Council on Child Well-Being, a group organized following a special NYC Summit on Children held Nov. 25 at Columbia University, and sponsored by The Earth Institute.

“We urge leaders in NYC and in Albany to support this plan with the policies, finances, philanthropy and partnerships needed to bring this vision to fruition,” the council said in a declaration issued today.

The UPKNYC coalition launched Thursday includes business, civic, non-profit, religious and academic leaders and entertainers. They were joined at a press conference launching the campaign today by Mayor-elect de Blasio, his wife, the writer Chirlane McCray, and parents from across the city. Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs and Dr. Irwin Redlener of the Children’s Health Fund, who runs the National Center for Disaster Preparedness and the Program on Child Well-Being and Resilience at The Earth Institute, both spoke as well.

The coalition has set up a website, http://upknyc.org/, and sent a video narrated by McCray to tens of thousands of New Yorkers. For more on the coalition and the campaign, and the value of pre-K education, visit the site.

 “In recent decades, the growing divide between rich and poor has also meant a growing burden on the city’s poor children, who often face insurmountable obstacles to breaking free of poverty,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a member of the coalition’s campaign committee. “Fortunately, we live at a time of unprecedented wealth and financial capacity in the city.

“With its world leadership in finance, the media, and commerce, New York City is ideally positioned to support all of its children. All segments of the NYC community, including its business leaders, political leaders, and philanthropists, should support the mayor-elect’s call for a small tax increase on incomes above $500,000 per year to fund the expanded pre-K and after-school programs,” added Sachs, who also serves as special advisor to the UN Secretary-General.

The coalition’s campaign committee also includes Roger Altman, founder and executive chairman of Evercore Partners, a former deputy treasury secretary and chairman of New Visions for Public Schools; musician John Legend; actor Cynthia Nixon, a longtime advocate for increased financing to NYC public schools; Dr. Redlener, co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund; Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network; the Rev. Michael A. Walrond Jr., senior pastor of the historic First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem; Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company; actor Olivia Wilde; and Steve Witkoff, founder and CEO of the Witkoff Group.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of New Yorkers support de Blasio’s plan. Sixty-three percent 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 percent of New York City voters, 55 percent of voters in the suburbs and 64 percent of those who live in upstate New York.

“Investing in children is more than just a moral imperative: It is the best economic return for society,” Redlener said.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.”