De Blasio Defends Plan to Improve New York City Schools


At a visit to Richmond Hill High School last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his plan to increase the performance of struggling schools.

De Blasio said the Queens high school has shown great improvement since being added to the a list of 94 "renewal schools." The schools on the list receive funds for services such as weekend tutoring the expansion of after-school activities. "The students, the faculty, everyone can tell that things are getting better," he said.

The mayor went on to report that 67% of students in the school were now on track to graduate. That number is up from 60% last year, although 52% of its students actually ended up graduating the same year. Previous Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration had planned for the school to be shut down, but a lawsuit kept it open, reports Kate Taylor for The New York Times.

De Blasio said his administration felt that helping struggling schools to improve was a better philosophy. However, that philosophy is at odds with the education priorities of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is suggesting the state should take over struggling schools. In some cases, Cuomo is asking that school management be given to charter school companies. He would also like to see the number of charter schools allowed in the state to increase.

De Blasio answered by saying that city officials "know a lot more about what we need for our children than bureaucrats in Albany do."

Mr. de Blasio has said he thinks the current cap is sufficient and rejected the receivership proposal. "The notion of a group of bureaucrats 150 miles away trying to determine the fate of our children sounds like a formula for disaster," he said on Thursday.

De Blasio would like to see the administration and staff left in place within failing schools and offered additional support in the form of training for principals and teachers, increased staffing, and adding social services. However, very few of the 94 schools on the list have received such help since the plan was announced in November.

State legislators recently met with Aimee Horowitz, who had been put in charge of implementing de Blasio's plan.

Horowitz, who came to Albany to Tuesday, said in a statement, "Our leaders at the state level are critical partners in this work, and I look forward to working with them to fulfill the promise of our Renewal Schools. Working together, I am confident that we can turn these schools around, and put all our students on the path to college and careers."

At the same time, 8 teachers from the 94 "renewal schools" separately lobbied with representatives from the United Federation of Teachers in an effort to convince state leaders to support de Blasio's plan over Cuomo's proposal.

Jessica Bakeman of Capital New York said Cuomo modeled his proposal after a similar plan in Massachusetts, which has seen some success since its implementation.

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