Daniel Coates, a lead organizer with MRNY, said the main goal was to educate the underserved population of New York City and bring them to Albany to rally at the legislative offices to support a tax increase on the city’s top earners to fund the program.
“We want this campaign to work and we want to make this a reality to our families so this has to go to Albany,” Coates said at the town hall held at Community United Methodist Church in Jackson Heights. “Universal pre-k has incredible support in the community and we wanted to show it and show what we are fighting for.”
Families and members of the community broke up into workshops following the town hall to learn how to make phone calls and write letters to legislators in Albany in support of the proposal.
“The full-day option for prekindergarten is the real option that allows the opportunity to ensure their children, who are often English language learners, to get on the same page as everyone else in the school,” Coates said. “It also allows them (parents) to work, which is key to have an opportunity for people to earn more money.”
Coates added that the families in Jackson Heights, along with numerous other communities in Queens, are the ones most in need when it comes to work supplement and education.
“Particularly in immigrant communities, and particularly in low-income communities of color across the city, that’s where the need exists,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing it, to combat a severe overcrowding problem that these schools already have.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said while her children have been fortunate enough to enroll in prekindergarten, many parents have a difficult time getting their children in the same programs.
“As much as I love my children, they shouldn’t have something that every child in the City of New York cannot have,” Katz said at the town hall.
She added that she would initiate a “war room” at her office to work with the School Construction Authority and Department of Education to ensure space for prekindergarten.
“We need pay for it and the mayor has a plan to pay for it,” she said. “We need to make sure that the plan goes through and we can pay for full day of pre-K so not only are they learning for the full day, but so parents can go out to work.”
Dionisia Romero, PTA president at P.S. 110 and member of the Parents Action Committee of MRNY, helped lead the town hall and said she hopes the session would prepare them for their advocacy on the state level.
“We know that children and working families in Queens would benefit greatly from expanded access to pre-K and afterschool programs,” Romero said. “We are here to make sure that the Queens community is informed about our city’s plan, and to ensure the voices of our community members are heard in Albany.”
Councilman and Education Committee chairperson Daniel Dromm issued a statement following the town hall showing his support for the mayor’s fight for universal prekindergarten and that community support would be beneficial.
“Study after study has shown that children who receive early childhood education perform demonstrably better later in life than those who don't receive it,” Dromm said. “It's right to ask those who can afford it to pay their fair share of tax dollars. The mayor's plan will help create a better, stronger NYC for generations to come."