We are all at Resource Generation’s Making Money Make Change conference! Wish you were here. For those of you who had to miss it, here’s a throw back Thursday post for you by our summer intern Maddie Reichman.
Beginning in February of this year, RG NY began dedicating its tax team to the fight for universal pre-kindergarten education for New York City. Our angle: taxing the 1% to provide a consistent, dependable revenue stream for the program.
“UPK,” as the city-wide campaign was called, meant different things to different organizations. To education organizations, the campaign was a call for expanded and universal access to a crucial educational stepping stone that currently is convoluted and unfair in its procedures and access.
To RG, the UPK campaign represented a specific opportunity to organize and advocate for higher taxes on the wealthy to fund social services that benefit low-income people, people of color, and immigrants. De Blasio’s big idea was to tax NYC’s “1%” to fund UPK. That sounded like a pretty good idea to us.
So what did this campaign look like for RG’s tax team? Our primary strategy was legislative advocacy: leveraging our privileged positions by talking to legislators and telling them that yes, rich people want to be taxed for universal education.
We connected with Assembly member Karim Camara, and on March 27 spoke with India Sneed, Executive Director of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, and Asian Legislative Caucus. We had a long, honest conversation about the purpose and limits of our organizing focus, about the pros AND cons of UPK, and about allying with other organizations fighting for racial and economic justice in the city.
Most of us present at the legislative meeting agreed that sharing our personal stories with Ms. Sneed, and how our personal experiences with wealth and education led to our support of De Blasio’s plan, was an important step towards building honesty and trust during the dialogue.
In the end, the tax on the 1% to fund UPK did not pass, although the program did. Funding is coming from other sources in the budget, which means our campaign did not win.
Although this was a relatively short campaign for us, we are proud of the leadership development we undertook for our own tax team members, the team-building that came out of the lobby visit, and the fact that we took solid, concrete action around a specific campaign.
At the same time, we recognize that we still have room for improvement. We look forward to prioritizing relationships with campaign partners and directly affected groups right from the start for the next phase of the tax team, and we hope to provide more training to our members, such as spokesperson and media training.
We hope to see you at RG NY’s next tax team event! Please stay tuned for new opportunities to plug in in the fall.