The stage has been set for thousands of New York City pre-K teachers to go on strike, a walkout that could cast a shadow on one of Mayor de Blasio’s most-heralded accomplishments as he weighs a run for president.
Monday’s vote by District Council 1707, representing about 8,000 teachers who work in community-run preschools and daycares, paves the way for a possible one-day action later this spring. The members are demanding raises to bring their salaries in line with their counterparts who work in public schools.
“We’re the same teachers. Why can’t we have the same salary?” asked Ivette Merlano, who teaches 4-year-olds in Chinatown.
De Blasio has staked much of his education record on his administration’s rapid expansion of free pre-K. The city now guarantees a spot for every 4-year-old, a feat made possible largely thanks to community organizations, which enroll about 60 percent of Pre-K For All students.
But teachers in those programs can earn as much as 60 percent less than their peers who work in public schools and are represented by the United Federation of Teachers.
The city didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the potential strike. De Blasio has made recent trips to New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere as he considers a run for the White House, and he has cited universal pre-K as one of his key achievements.
Members of the local representing teachers in federally funded programs voted last week in favor of walking off the job. Their counterparts in the local representing teachers in city-funded programs followed suit Monday.
“This is something that needed to be done for a while now,” said Sheila Hawkins, who teaches 4-year-olds in Queens. “We are not babysitters. We are educators.”
Still, a strike might not happen. DC 1707 leader Kim Medina said the union hopes to work out its differences with the mayor. If those efforts fail, the union is planning a single-day strike in early May. They are also planning a rally on Wednesday on the steps of City Hall.
“You never want to come to a strike,” Medina said. “This is their bread and butter, and to lose a day’s pay, it has to be worth it. And it’s worth it.”