Year-round school in New York? De Blasio makes pitch as he hints at gubernatorial run

Mayor Bill de Blasio kicks off the city’s Summer Rising program in July. (Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office)

As he eyes a possible political future in Albany, Mayor Bill de Blasio pitched his next big education ideas Thursday: year-round school and extended school days across New York.

De Blasio stopped just short of announcing a run for governor as he touted his statewide education plan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and he did not share many specifics. It’s unclear how the proposals differ from the universal summer programming he launched in New York City this year that was open to all students for the first time.

“The school day, the school year doesn’t fit the realities for families, and therefore, middle class people, working class people struggle to find a way,” de Blasio said. “How do you have a school day that ends at 2:30 or 3 o’clock when parents don’t get out of work ‘til 5? How do you have a school year that ends in June when, in fact, kids need options all summer long.”

De Blasio, who will leave office next month, has filed paperwork to set up a run for governor. He could make year-round school a key part of his platform and find an ally in his successor, Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who will take the helm on Jan. 1. Adams has voiced support for year-round school and an extended school day, with services for students and families. 

De Blasio directed viewers to his website, where in a video he talks about building on the successes of universal preschool — widely considered his signature achievement over his two terms in office. 

He proposed universal preschool for every child across the state, extending the school day, and universal summer school. De Blasio also suggested raising taxes on “millionaires and billionaires and corporations” to fund the estimated $5.4 billion package — a measure he’s strongly supported throughout his time in office. 

“How about we make education work for working families for folks who struggle and need something better?” de Blasio said in the video.

De Blasio will go around the state “over time” and promote these ideas, he said on MSNBC. He plans to remain “in public service” once he leaves City Hall, though he declined to say whether he’s running for governor. 

The idea of year-round school — in which students have shorter, more frequent breaks throughout the year instead of a long summer vacation —  gained some momentum during the pandemic as a strategy for catching up children who suffered learning loss. But it’s expensive to pull off and might generate opposition not only from families who might want their children to have summer jobs or vacations, but also from teachers.

While universal summer school could be popular among some families across the state, it may be difficult to roll out, and would likely require extensive partnerships with community based organizations, as New York City did this past summer where half of the day was led by teachers, focused on academics, and afternoon camp-like activities and enrichment were run by local nonprofits.

For the first time, the city’s summer school program was open to any interested students, not only those who were required to attend because of poor academic performance. The roughly $200 million program aimed to serve as a bridge to children returning to school buildings full-time for the first time since March 2020. 

About 200,000 students signed up — nearly  a fifth of the nation’s largest school system. The program had a messy rollout, with staffing shortages, confusion about how to enroll, and transportation issues. Still, many children and families viewed it as a helpful transition back to in-person school. 

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