Our Schools Means Building Our Future
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
For years, there’s been talk—and little more than talk—about improving New York City’s public schools. Our Administration believes the time for talk is over, and the time for action is here. I want to bring you up to date on the progress we’re making in two crucial areas of school reform: driving down the cost of building and repairing schools; and giving students more and better small schools to attend.
Let’s start with school construction. As part of the “Children First” education reform plan, we overhauled the School Construction Authority, which unfortunately had earned a well-deserved reputation for chronic project delays and cost overruns. Such problems were a major reason why the price of building and repairing schools in our city was three to four times what it was in the rest of the State.
When I launched our school construction reforms in October 2002, I set a goal of reducing the price of school construction to $325 or less per square foot. Well, the results are coming in—and we’re doing even better than that. Recently, the Department of Education awarded a $45 million contract for building the new High School of Architecture and Urban Planning in Ozone Park, Queens. The price for this project is $300 per square foot. That’s the third and largest new school contract to be awarded since the SCA was restructured. All three of the winning bids have been below the $325 target. The combined average price of these three projects is $305 per square foot; that’s 42% less than the average price for the last schools completed under the old system.
Our Administration has a $13.1 billion school capital plan for the next five years. It’s the biggest in the city’s history. As part of it, we’re proposing to build 90 new schools. They will provide more than 65,000 badly needed new classroom seats throughout the city. Our success in driving down the cost of building schools, by making the process more efficient and accountable, ensures that we’re getting the biggest bang for our school construction bucks. And that’s good news for students and taxpayers alike.
Another key element of our school reform plan is creating effective small secondary schools. Small schools work; their students do better in the classroom and are more likely to graduate and go on to college. Small schools also provide students with safe and supportive environments, and offer the individual attention that, too often, just isn’t possible in big schools. On Thursday, I announced the launch of 60 new, small middle schools and high schools this September. They will put us more than halfway toward our goal of creating 200 new, small schools by 2007. Between now and March 24th, parents and students will have the chance to find out about these schools and apply to enroll in them for the next school year. Call 311, or log on to the City’s website at www.nyc.gov to find out more.
It’s easy to talk about school reform; it’s another thing entirely to deliver. But when it comes to improving education, our Administration is all about accountability—and results.