NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Schools Chancellor Cathleen Black on Tuesday to announce that $10 million would be given to 532 schools where more than two-thirds of the students failed the standardized tests in the spring of 2010.
The largest amount awarded to a single school will be $65,000 and the smallest is $6,000. The principals of these schools will choose how to disperse the funds among a few options: tutoring during the school day—funded per session; tutoring or intervention programs, including Web-based programs such as Achieve 3000 or Destination Mathematics; or small group lessons after school and on weekends. The funds will be distributed in February, and if the city sees results, more schools will receive the same kind of help.
"This should not be taken as a sign that more money is the best answer," said Chancellor Black, who warned that looming state budget cuts will make it difficult to rely on better funding alone to cure what ails the education system.
"It is not a panacea," agreed the mayor, "but it's a step." He said he is not sure where the $10 million will come from, whether from the Department of Education (DOE) budget or elsewhere, but that it is a drop in the bucket next to the approximately $1 billion in education cuts he expects after the state budget is finalized in Albany.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn thanked the mayor and chancellor for gathering the funds in these tough times. She says the council has been concerned about the city's children ever since approximately 100,000 of them did not make the grade in the spring.
City council wanted to show students "that this one exam didn't come to define them or their future success," said Quinn. The standards were raised for the 2010 math and literacy evaluations, causing many students who previously passed at a level three or four proficiency to be bumped down to a level one or two.
"The best way to improve achievement is to raise expectations," said Mayor Bloomberg. "At the same time, we owe each child all the help we can give them," he added.
When Black began her career as chancellor on Jan. 2, she said her main course of action would be to continue on with the reforms planned by her predecessor, Joel Klein. Tuesday's announcement of funding for struggling students grew out of months of discussion, predating Black's reign, says President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Michael Mulgrew. As Black and Bloomberg brace for budget cuts, Mulgrew warned with foreboding:
"We've already had $2 billion in cuts over the last two years. I don't know how much further we have to go until we have a reenactment of 1975."
The fiscal crisis of the 1970s led to budget cuts that contributed to subsequent health and crime epidemics in New York City. Though the city saved $10 billion on the 1975 budget, it cost an estimated $50 billion in the long run to control these resulting epidemics, according to an article on the American Public Health Association website.