De Blasio to give ‘important’ education speech Wednesday

Mayor Bill de Blasio will give an “important” speech about education next Wednesday at Bronx Latin, according to an invitation sent to elected officials and advocates.

The mayor hinted that he would soon have education news to share while on his first-day-of-school tour this week, when he focused his remarks on the city’s pre-kindergarten expansion.

“We’re obviously going to talk a lot about education in the month of September as school begins,” de Blasio said Wednesday. “From the beginning, we’ve said we have to do a system-wide reform,” he said later, adding that he wants to focus more attention on middle schools and on students’ college readiness.

“There’s a host of areas that we want the people of this city to understand there is a full plan” for, he said.

While the mayor’s allies have celebrated the smooth pre-K roll out, they have also called on him to describe a more comprehensive vision for the school system that connects his major initiatives: pre-K, social service-filled “community schools,” and support for struggling schools. None of the de Blasio administration’s major education policy changes have been specifically aimed at high schools.

Meanwhile, critics have argued that the city’s efforts are neither extensive nor aggressive enough to make a major impact on student achievement. Republican state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also signaled skepticism of the Democratic mayor’s handling of the city’s schools when they decided only to renew his control over them for one year.

“They do have the added pressure of knowing they’re under the gun,” said Zakiyah Ansari, a de Blasio ally and the advocacy director Alliance for Quality Education. She added that fellow parents and advocates want the mayor to describe a “a united concrete vision that everyone can grasp and get behind.”

Bronx Latin, a middle and high school in the Longwood neighborhood, has a stellar reputation for preparing low-income students for college. Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña praised the school in a newsletter for principals in 2014 for its high attendance and graduation rates, attention to parent engagement, and rigorous curriculum. (The high school does not screen for academic ability, unlike Brooklyn Latin, one of the city’s eight specialized high schools that admit students based on a test score.)

De Blasio has given two other formal addresses focused on education. One, in Riverside Church in March 2014, was designed to smooth over tensions between the city and the charter-school sector. At the second, last November, he announced the city’s “Renewal” program for turning around 94 struggling schools.

Representatives for de Blasio and Fariña did not immediately respond to requests for comment.