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Lawmakers Reach Budget Agreement for New York City Pre-K Expansion

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have reached a budget deal that will allow fulfillment of one of de Blasio's campaign promises—expanded prekindergarten—but without a special tax on the city's high earners. 

The New York Times reported that the agreement was reached on Saturday, and would provide $300 million for early education. However, de Blasio had sought additional money for after-school programs, which is not a part of the budget deal. In addition, the agreement offers protections for charter schools: the city would be required to either find space for charters in public school buildings or pay the cost to house them in private space. The mayor had also campaigned on the idea of charging rent to charter schools, and the budget legislation now prohibits that action. de Blasio has rescinded co-location agreements with some charter schools, a move that has spawned protests among some charter supporters.

Education observers in the city described the final package as a mixed bag for the mayor, a Democrat, who got what most of what he wanted on one education initiative while appearing to back down on another, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

"With respect to pre-K, he pretty much won, and with respect to charter schools, he pretty much lost," Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of education and history at New York University, told the newspaper.

The preschool initiative that de Blasio had been pushing would have raised taxes on those earning more than $500,000 a year. Those making $500,000 to $1 million would have seen an average increase in their city income tax of about $970 a year. The mayor required approval from state lawmakers for the new tax levy, and he said he only needed 5 years to get the program up and running. 

The mayor's office estimated that the tax increase would generate $340 million for pre-K and $190 million for after-school programs. in a statement he released praising the budget agreement, de Blasio did not say where any funding for expanded after-school programs might come from. 

"With the investment announced today, this state has made a powerful and historic decision that will change the lives of tens of thousands of children," he said. 

State lawmakers are slated to vote on the agreement on Monday. 

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