The Archdiocese is not attempting to lure high-achieving students away from public education. Just the opposite. They are extending a helping, caring hand to the lowest-achieving, most troubled students in our public school system.
I believe Cardinal O'Connor and the Archdiocese deserve tremendous credit for this proposal, which was made in a spirit of cooperation and concern. Cardinal O'Connor is a longtime friend of public education. The Cardinal himself attended public schools.
So the real issue here is not "Which are best -- public schools or parochial schools?" The real issue is, "Are we doing everything we can, and everything we should, to give students in New York City the best possible education?"
Cardinal O'Connor's offer gives our City an opportunity to explore new ways of improving our schools. I believe that education policies should be guided by experience. And experience shows that parochial schools provide an excellent education, and at far less cost than public schools.
Parochial schools have been especially successful in lowering administrative expenses, and in encouraging parental involvement. They are also successful with students from poor neighborhoods. Children who come from communities where danger and disorder are commonplace often have a special need for structure, order and values in the classroom. Parochial schools can help meet those needs.
I think those who criticize this plan, and who say it would be bad for public schools, should be more open to new ideas. Especially since many of these critics are the same people who have been in charge of our public school system for the past 20 or 30 years... and who helped create many of the problems we see today.
But New York City also has many people of vision and courage who understand that Cardinal O'Connor's offer is a wonderful opportunity to help young New Yorkers succeed.
This effort has received numerous offers of private sector funding and support, which will avoid any Constitutional issues.
Rabbi Morris Sherer, president of Agudath Israel of America, which runs Jewish schools throughout our city, has pledged to make space available for low-achieving students. In fact, so many offers of support have been received, we may be able to extend the benefits of this plan to as many as 2,000 students.
I believe the bottom line is this. Learning isn't about the number of children in a school or a classroom. Learning isn't about what facilities are like. Learning isn't about space or playground equipment. Learning is about the three "R's..." reading, writing and arithmetic.
And I believe learning depends on a fourth "R", too. Responsibility.
When it comes to helping children learn and grow, the kind of personal responsibility shown by Cardinal O'Connor and Rabbi Sherer can help give our children the education that's best for them. We shouldn't be afraid of new ideas. We shouldn't be afraid of competing systems. We should be exploring every possibility and providing alternatives that fit the needs of individual children.
If we can do something to give our neediest students an education that will enable them to lead happy, productive lives, then I say "Let's give it a try."
Finally, on another subject, the Mayor's Office and the City Council are organizing a joint effort to assist the victims of "Hurricane Hortense" in Puerto Rico. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are suffering from the devastating effects of this storm.
If you would like to help, a special bank account has been activated at branches of Banco Popular. For information on how to make your contribution to this vitally important effort, please call 1-800-390-5152. Again, that's 1-800-390-5152.
From Gracie Mansion, this is Rudy Giuliani.