Printer Friendly Format
  April 4, 2004

Finally Getting Our Fair Share
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

For years, State government has severely shortchanged New York City’s school children. A blue-ribbon panel appointed by Governor Pataki recently found that the City’s public schools don’t get anything like our fair share of State education funding. The State has until the end of July to comply with a court order to correct this historic wrong. And on Wednesday, our Administration presented our plan for how we would spend what must become $5.3 billion in additional, annual State funding to provide all our public school students with the sound, basic education that is theirs by right.

Our plan has four basic components. First, we’d invest additional State funds in beefing up training of principals and teachers, providing merit and incentive programs to the best of them, and encouraging greater parent participation in the schools. Second, we’d make a major commitment to expanding and enhancing early childhood education. We’d offer pre-kindergarten programs to all of the city’s three-and four-year-olds. We would reduce class size to a maximum of 20 students in kindergarten through 3rd grade, and hire science, art, and physical education teachers for every elementary school. These extra State funds would also help us in our efforts to end social promotion in the 3rd grade, by permitting us to offer specialized instruction and extended school days and school years to students that need extra help.

We’ve also got to overhaul the city’s middle schools and high schools—and that’s our third big priority. Today, nearly 70% of 8th grade students work below grade level. We’d commit a big chunk of extra State funds to turning those numbers around. We would break up large, failing schools and create small, new schools that are academically challenging, safe, and that provide students with individualized attention from teachers. We would also give high school students greater opportunities to engage in both college-level work, and also career and technical programs. Fourth and finally, we would expand programs for special education students, and students for whom English is not their first language.

Now matters are in the State government’s hands. They’ve got to devise a new funding method that will allow us to give our City’s schoolchildren the education they need. Once upon a time, getting the equivalent of an 8th grade education was considered sufficient. But those days are gone, and they’re not coming back. Chancellor Joel Klein and his team at the City’s Department of Education have developed a well-thought-out, practical plan to ensure that every youngster coming into our schools graduates with a diploma that is meaningful. That’s the acid test of what a sound, basic education means. By ending years of neglect of the city’s public schools, State leaders can help us pass that test. And there’s no time like the present to invest in our future.