Rocio Espada had no idea her family’s story would be used to introduce a major new policy of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Monday in his State of the City address. “I thought wow, I’m so honored,” she said, after receiving a phone call telling her about it. “Because it is not only about me, it’s about a lot of parents out there.”
De Blasio used Espada, a single mother of four, as an example of why New York mothers need universal Pre-K and better after-school programs. The Bushwick resident relies on her mother and a friend to watch her four-year-old daughter, he noted, instead of sending her to Pre-K. (Espada entered her daughter in a lottery for Pre-K at the the local PS 123 school, but didn’t get in; the school has only one classroom.) Meanwhile Espada’s two teenagers, de Blasio added, do not go to after-school programs but instead are free to be tempted by “the negativity of the streets.” The mayor said he plans to dedicate new funding to both Pre-K and after-school programs by raising taxes on those making a half-million or more a year.
Espada, who works a job in the afternoons doing coat check and is also a member of Bushwick-based minority-advocacy group Make the Road, thinks the new mayor will do a better job addressing early education issues than Mayor Bloomberg, whom she criticized for making cuts to the Head Start Program, an early childhood education program for low-income families.
“Pre-K, it is really important. Helping that is the best thing Mayor De Blasio is trying to do,” she said. “There are a lot of mothers out there who really need it for their kids.”