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  December 5, 2004

Calling on Full Funding for Education from the State

By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

A sound basic education: That's what State law says that all of our children are entitled to. And unfortunately, it's what too many public school students in our city have been cheated out of by long years of unfair State funding for education. That was what the State's highest court ruled nearly 18 months ago in the "Campaign for Fiscal Equity," or CFE, lawsuit that our Administration supported and joined.

In recent months, a special panel of court-appointed referees has been examining the facts about State support for City schools to determine what needs to be done to right this historic wrong. Last week, they issued their report, finding that our schools need an additional $5.6 billion every year in operating funds, as well as $9.2 billion in capital funds for school construction, repair, and equipment. And our Administration's position is clear: Because the injustice committed against the City's school children resulted from State failures, it must be corrected by all of the State's taxpayers.

Months ago, we let State leaders and the CFE referees know how we think additional education dollars should be spent: On new professional development, incentives, and merit programs for teachers and principals... on expanding pre-kindergarten programs, and doing intensive work with students in the early grades... on establishing new, small, and academically challenging secondary schools... and on improving education for students who are "English Language Learners," and for those who have learning disabilities. The overarching goal of these priorities is simply to ensure that all our children get a chance to share in the great American dream. If they don't, we lose out on their talents and all that they have to contribute.

We can't afford to let that happen. Even without additional State funds, our Administration is moving ahead to provide first-rate education to all our students. Last week, for example, Chancellor Joel Klein and I unveiled plans to build a campus of four new, small secondary schools in the South Bronx. These new schools will reduce the serious overcrowding in high schools in the Bronx. Just as importantly, they will also offer high-quality instruction, safe learning environments, and the kind of individual attention that students need. Attendance figures, test scores, and other measures show that small secondary schools work; that's why our Administration has already created more than 100 of them.

The new schools in Mott Haven are among 95 new school buildings we'll construct over the next five years in all five boroughs, at a cost of more than $4 billion. But we're not just throwing dollars at our problems; our Administration has also reformed the process of building new schools, cutting projected costs by a third while improving the quality of work. In other words, we've shown how to do what's right for our children as students and also what's right for their tax-paying parents here in the city. Now it's up to State leaders to show the same kind of commitment.