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Mayoral Issue Grid: Education

by Gotham Gazette Staff, Aug 25, 2005
 


Mayoral Issue Grid

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EDUCATION

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-Top priority?
-Pay raise for teachers?
-Should city contribute to Campaign for Fiscal Equity?
-Charter Schools?
-Social Promotion

New York City has the largest public school system in the country with over 1 million students and more than 1,100 schools. When he was running for mayor, Michael Bloomberg promised to overhaul the city’s education system and told voters to hold him accountable for the results.

After taking office, he won control of the schools, abolished the Board of Education, and began instituting policies like the end of “social promotion,” advancing students on to the next grade even though they may not be academically prepared.

Recent test scores show that city students are making improvements, but by any measure, the schools still face many critical issues. Many classrooms are overcrowded. Less than half of each high school class graduates in four years. And teachers in the city make less than their suburban counterparts and many leave or quit.

The state’s highest court ruled that the city’s educational system is severely underfunded. It ordered the state to spend an additional $23 billion to ensure a “basic, sound education” for each child. Lawmakers in the state have appealed the decision and have not increased funding. Some believe the city should pay a portion of the needed funding.

In February 2004, Mayor Bloomberg implemented a plan to end so-called "social promotion," the practice of passing students on to the next grade even though they cannot perform at academic standards. Bloomberg instituted standardized tests for 3rd and 5th graders that are required to advance. He now plans to implement the same tests in the 7th grade. Some criticize the plan, arguing it puts too much pressure on students and that single test does not accurately reflect a level of education.

Fernando Ferrer

Fernando Ferrer promises to increase the number of high school graduates from New York City public schools by 50,000 in four years. Within the next eight years, he wants to lower the dropout rate below the national level.

He plans to improve school buildings, hire more teachers, and create a centralized tracking system to monitor student progress and attendance, which he says will identify children at risk of dropping out. He also promises to provide a laptop computer for each high school student.

Ferrer, who often mentions that his wife is a schoolteacher, promises to give public school teachers a pay raise.

To pay for all of this, Ferrer proposes using the $23 billion that a state court ruled the city should receive in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Although he hopes the majority of the money will come from Albany, Ferrer said city should pay about 25 percent of it.

To do so, he proposed a half a cent tax on stock sales on Wall Street. He argues that it makes sense to require Wall Street to contribute to education because “they are the industry that benefits most in seeing that New York’s children are educated to the highest of standards.”

Ferrer supports increasing the number of charter schools - institutions that are allowed to run independently of the rest of the school system but still receive government funding - as long as they do not take away resources from the pubic school system.

(Read Ferrer’s education platform)

Ferrer said he would not reverse the mayor's action to end social promotion for third and fifth graders. But Ferrer said the real problem is that the mayor is too concerned about test scores.

"The problem in our school system is while the mayor is obsessing about some test score increases in the early grades, we're forgetting about collapsing scores in middle school and a dropout crisis - a level of dropouts of 50 percent and more in our high school grades," Ferrer said.

C. Virginia Fields

C. Virginia Fields promises to reform the school system and eliminate a “top down approach” that she says Mayor Michael Bloomberg has instituted.

She says she will increase parental involvement with an annual “Parent Power” conference. She promises to expand and improve pre-school options. Fields says she will reach out to business, unions, and non-profits to create high school job placement and counseling.

Fields promises to recruit more qualified teachers and give them a pay raise.

To pay for her education plan, Fields promises to secure the $23 that a state court ruled the city should receive in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. She said it is too early to say if the city should be required to pay any portion of the settlement. She criticizes Mayor Bloomberg for not doing more to demand the money from Albany.

Fields supports increasing the number of charter schools - institutions that are allowed to run independently of the rest of the school system, but still receive government funding - but she says her top priority is rebuilding the public school system.

(Read C. Virginia Fields education platform)

Fields said she would not reverse the mayor's action to end social promotion for third and fifth graders, but she said she would take a different approach than Bloomberg.

At a recent forum, Fields said, "I would take the approach of massive intervention very early on, beginning at pre-K, to make sure that we are putting the resources in our schools, assessing our students, providing them with the resources in every step along the way. We are investing in their academics and we can expect a greater performance overall."

A. Gifford Miller

Gifford Miller has made reducing class size his top priority. He has proposed a 20 percent reduction in all class sizes. This means limiting 17 students in kindergarten through third grade classes, 20 students in fourth through fifth grade, and 23 students in junior and senior high.

He also proposes eliminating quotas on the number of students a principal is allowed to discipline and providing after school programs for every child. Using new technology, he plans to foster better parent-teacher communication. And he wants to institute a service program so that every high school student performs community service.

Miller promises to give public school teachers pay raises. He says he will provide bonuses for teachers who agree to work in under-performing schools.

To pay for his education proposals, Miller proposes using the $23 billion that a state court ruled the city should receive in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. He believes the city should pay about 10 percent of this amount and has proposed an income tax on New Yorkers who make more than $500,000 a year to pay for it.

Miller supports increasing the number of charter schools, institutions that are allowed to run independently of the rest of the school system but still receive government funding

(Read Gifford Miller’s education platform)

Miller said he would not reverse the mayor's action to end social promotion for third and fifth graders, but that he does not believe it is the real problem.

"Giving tests does not transform our schools," Miller said. "What transforms our schools is lowering class sizes."

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner says that the top priority for the education system should be ensuring school safety. He believes principals and teachers should be given more power to suspend unruly students. He also wants to replace the current school curriculum and give teachers more say in their lesson plans.

He promises to revamp school spending to ensure that more money goes toward the classroom. For example, he wants to eliminate Mayor Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy that trains principals.

Weiner promises to pay teachers more in order to keep them from moving to higher paid jobs in the suburbs.

To pay for his education proposals, Weiner proposes using the $23 billion a state court ruled the city should receive in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Although he admits that the city will likely have to pay some portion of this, he has not committed to a specific amount.

Weiner supports increasing the number of charter schools, institutions that are allowed to run independently of the rest of the school system but still receive government funding

(Read Anthony Weiner’s education platform)

At a recent forum, Weiner said, "I believe that having a test substitute for a good teacher or having a test substitute for a reasonable debate in this city is just wrong. You know, I desperately want that third grader to pass but I also want that fourth grader who's an average student to become a great student. I want that seventh grader who's a great student to go on to become a scholar, to go on to Harvard and Yale and the other great institutions. This is what we should be focusing on."

Michael Bloomberg

Even Michael Bloomberg’s opponents agree that abolishing the Board of Education and taking control of the city’s schools was a major accomplishment. Bloomberg has also instituted a citywide curriculum and increased city funding for the Department of Education by $2.5 billion since 2002. Bloomberg eliminated the policy of social promotion in the 3rd and 5th grades and points toward a 10 percent increase in reading scores for 4th graders as proof of its success. Bloomberg also created a Leadership Academy to recruit and train principals.

Since giving the teacher’s a raise in his first year in office, Bloomberg and the teacher’s union have been deadlocked over additional pay increases. He has offered teachers raises of about 5 percent over three years in return for work rule concessions. The teachers union is demanding a 19 percent pay hike over three years.

Bloomberg supports the State Supreme Court ruling that city schools should get $23 billion in more funding. But he does not want the city to pay any more than it currently does. Bloomberg has argued that any increase at all in city education spending would require cuts in other areas that "would harm the very children this lawsuit is designed to help." Michael Cardoza, the Bloomberg administration's corporation counsel, has even said that the city would reject any additional state funds if it had to chip in part of the settlement.

Bloomberg says he is a “strong supporter” of charter schools, institutions that are allowed to run independently of the rest of the school system but still receive government funding. He has urged the state to increase the number that can be created. In the last three and a half years, the Bloomberg administration has opened 17 charter schools with 16 more set to open this fall. His five-year capital plan includes $290 million toward building charter schools in the city.

(Read Michael Bloomberg’s education platform)

Mayor Bloomberg implemented a plan to end social promotion in the third and fifth grades. He points toward a 10 percent increase in reading scores for 4th graders as proof of its success. Bloomberg is now wants to require standardized tests in 7th grade as well.


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