Struggling NYC Public Schools to Receive an Extra $33.6 Million


New York City’s struggling schools will be getting an extra $33.6 million thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2016 budget.

In an article for the New York Daily News, Jennifer Fermino and Ben Chapman report that administration officials announced that 130 city schools will see increases of up to 20% because of a significant move toward boosting student outcomes.

This means that over 250,000 students will see more Advanced Placement courses, additional tutoring, increased guidance counseling, and extended school days. The mayor has plans in place to spend another $59.7 million on the schools that are struggling in 2017.  After negotiations with the City Council, the final spending plan must  be adopted by June 30.

“These new investments will make a real difference,” said de Blasio. “We have a plan for these schools’ success and we’re going to make sure they have the tools to turn around and raise student achievement.”

There are 94 low-performing schools which have already been chosen for renewal by the NYC Department of Education and will now receive over $20 million of the added money. Deputy Schools Chancellor Aimee Horowitz has been heading up the turnaround effort for these schools and said school officials will use the money for improving attendance, test scores, and graduation rates. The schools will be adding an average of $250,000 a year, which is enough to hire two extra staff members or to pay for hours of added programming for students.

Peace Academy middle school in Bedford-Stuyvesant is one of the 94 struggling schools targeted by de Blasio’s push to help floundering schools. But many are saying the school should be closed because of its low enrollment – only 49 students this year. Since 2012, when the school had 155 students, the school’s enrollment has dropped by almost 70%. Because of the loss of students, the per-student spending is $30,000, nearly 50% higher than the city’s average of $21,000.

The school has a principal with a salary of $127,000 per-year, an assistant principal, a guidance counselor, and 10 teachers all of whom are paid from a budget of $1.46 million, write Yoav Gonen and Susan Edelman for the New York Post. Peace Academy was one of the small schools authorized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of his “Renewal” initiative, but received a rating of “F” in 2011 and was set to be closed twice but both times was given a last-minute a respite.

De Blasio has suspended school closings, which means Peace Academy will remain open and will receive not only the extra $150 million in resources, but has also received an award of $317,000 from the state Education Department school improvement grant for this school year.

Bloomberg’s small schools plan involved closing large schools and laying off most of its staff for the purpose of creating a smaller environment to benefit students. Research showed that the smaller-sized schools raised graduation rates and college enrollment among low-income students when compared to other high schools. Ten years ago, a large, struggling middle school in Brooklyn was replaced by two schools – Middle School of Integrated Learning and, M.S. 334, the Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence.

Now the two will merge under the leadership of M.S. 354′s principal, Monique Campbell, according to Kate Taylor of The New York Times.

“We’re going to see a lot more of these mergers and consolidations,” schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña said in an interview, adding that she had asked superintendents to nominate schools that they thought could be effectively consolidated. In some cases, she said, those schools might be within the same building; schools in proximity could also be combined.

Farina added that the size of a school is not the most important factor in its success, but rather it is the strength of the principal.

“What I’m mostly looking for is a charismatic leader, someone who has done something different in their building, someone who’s looked at data, who has had very high teacher retention, particularly in struggling neighborhoods,” Ms. Fariña said.

Dale W. Eisinger, Lisa L. Colangelo, and Ben Chapman of the New York Daily News write that Farina stated the school-combining strategy is a reaction to pressure from the state government to improve a system where only one in three students meet the state’s standards for math and reading. The merging of the Brooklyn schools will be her “test case” and will take place in 2016.