New York City Mayor-elect De Blasio Lays Down Gauntlet on Ed Reform

The New York City Mayor-elect is refusing to be shaken by disgruntled wealthy New Yorkers as he continues to harbor his plan of sweeping reforms to the city’s schools once he takes office next year. He believes his margin of victory is a “clear mandate” of pursuing his ambitious plan.

Bill de Blasio is New York City’s Mayor elect and is set to take office on 1st January 2014. He is sticking to his campaign promises of delivering universal pre-kindergarten and free after-school programs to middle schoolers, after largely avoiding new policy proposals. A tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers will pay for those programs although he needs approval from the state legislature. Unsurprisingly, several leaders in Albany, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, have signaled a reluctance to deliver. However, in the keynote speech Bill gave at an education conference hosted by Columbia University, he called his nearly 50-point win earlier this month “substantial” and the source of enough political capital to enact his ambitious agenda.

“We are very proud to have won the way we won and within that vote was a clear mandate for serious changes,” he said. “I have not offered a small, Band-Aid solution. I haven’t offered a pilot program or a boutique concept.”

“I have offered a game-changing investment in early childhood education and after-school,” he continued. “Nothing else will do.”

At the conference former mayor, David Dinkins voiced some doubts as skepticism exists about the feasibility of the plan. Fighting for a commuter tax instead, which would apply to people who work in the city, but reside elsewhere was suggested by David who hired DeBlasio as an aide in 1989. However as expected, due to his ambitious agenda, Bill gently side-stepped the suggestion.

“I take your point to heart,” he told his former boss, “but I think in the here and now, this is the right path and the attainable path.”

A committee would be formed to flesh out some of Bill’s announced education proposals. He has not yet announced any appointments to his administration and revealed on Monday that he has yet to interview any candidate for schools chancellor. That post along with police commissioner and first deputy mayor, are the most important to fill according to the mayor-elect.  Also, he dismissed the notion that next year’s balanced budget would complicate contract negotiations with city unions, who have been pushing for significant raises and back pay.

According to the Daily Freeman News, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week that he had already balanced the ledger for fiscal year 2015, a sign of the city’s improved fiscal health which could spur the unions, who have been working on expired contracts, to increase their demands.

“The way I look at it is: it’s a good, strong starting point,” Bill said. “It doesn’t negate the huge challenges created by the open contracts.”

Despite being a long ally to labor, Bill has not pledged to deliver retroactive raises, which would cost billions of dollars, according to the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office.