Sunday, February 2, 2014

De Blasio Unveils Education Priorities in Five-year Program

Last week, NYC education officials unveiled a new five-year capital budget that slashes funding for charter schools, while fulfilling Mayor de Blasio's campaign promise to provide universal Pre-Kindergarten for all city students. The proposal boosts the city's capital budget for education by an additional 800 million, to a total of 12.8 billion.

De Blasio refuted the notion that the approximately 210 million in cuts for charter schools was necessarily going to be used to fund the Pre-K program, telling CBS New York:

“We were simply saying we do not believe the money should be devoted to charter expansion,” [...]“We think it should be freed up for other priorities. 

These priorities include ending the use of trailers and other temporary facilities that have become permanent structures at schools with overcrowding, as well as reducing class sizes across the city.

Marti Adams, a spokesperson for the de Blasio administration, further explained to the NY Daily News:

“It’s a reflection of the city’s new priorities to shift resources from charter expansion to traditional public schools.” 

Proponents of charter schools however, reacted with dismay in the halt in the expansion of charters, which currently have an enrollment of 60,000. The schools were hailed as a model of "oversight and accountability" by the Bloomberg administration and enjoyed rent-free space in existing public school facilities.

While these proponents tout the success of these schools in providing seats to low-income and minority children, critics decry the diversion of public funds to semi-private schools that have been able to "cherry-pick" students. Several parents have made allegations against these schools of harsh discipline against developmentally disabled and other special needs students in order to gain a pretext to send them back to the public school system.

The budget proposal will face approval in March by the Panel for Educational Policy.

Mayor de Blasio touched on the SHSAT several times during last year's campaign by expressing his desire to make the schools better reflect the demographics of the city.

Though there is no word on the future of the test, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew testified before the New York State Senate and Assembly Joint Committees on Education and Finance on January 28th:

In a time when income inequality across the city has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression, these schools, in essence, have become the province of students whose families can afford to pay for intensive test-prep courses aimed at increasing their child's score on the specialized exam. Children who must overcome more barriers in their lives should not be put at a disadvantage. It’s a substantial problem that needs to be fixed, and we are working closely with Assembly member Karim Camara to develop legislation to address this issue.

Read more on UFT President Mulgrew's testimony here: 


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