the first draft

De Blasio’s spending plan would hike budgets at more than 650 schools

PHOTO: Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio presents New York City’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2017.

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to increase the budgets of hundreds of city schools next year and spend millions on his efforts to prepare more students for high-level classes and push them through to graduation.

His $82.1 billion city budget proposal, released Thursday, shows how the city plans to achieve the education goals de Blasio laid out last fall, when he pledged to raise the graduation rate, ensure second-graders could read on grade level, and offer more students the chance to take high-level math classes.

“Our budget will help lift up the next generation,” de Blasio said Thursday, “through a number of investments that will bring our ‘Equity and Excellence’ agenda to our schools.”

Here’s a breakdown.

Big budget boosts

Last year, the city pumped up struggling schools’ budgets. Now, the mayor is proposing do the same for nearly 660 additional schools.

The city would spend $159 million to raise the minimum funding level for all schools, a bump that would affect 657 schools currently below that threshold. That amounts to an average increase of $242,000 per school.

The cost of college access

De Blasio made college preparation the centerpiece of his agenda-setting speech at the start of the school year, where he said every high schooler should have access to advanced courses and help with college applications.

As a start, his budget sets aside $15 million next year to expand the number of Advanced Placement classes, an amount that will grow steadily each year until peaking at nearly $51 million in 2020. The goal is for every school to offer at least five AP classes.

Another $15 million will fund a pilot counseling program for over 16,000 students in two high-needs districts in the South Bronx and Brownsville, Brooklyn, where students are less likely to earn a diploma than almost anywhere else in the city. The “Single Shepherd” program will pair each middle and high school student there with a counselor to help with academic and personal problems, and guide them toward graduation.

The proposal puts $20 million toward the city’s “Algebra for All” initiative, which aims to get more eighth-graders prepared for algebra and more middle schools prepared to teach it. Today, about 40 percent of city middle schools do not offer algebra.

Another $16 million would pay for 400 literacy coaches to work with second-graders, keeping them on track through elementary school. The plan would also fund “transition coordination centers” in each borough designed to help older students with disabilities plan for college and careers.

Attention to overcrowding

De Blasio’s plan would allocate $868 million to add 11,800 new seats in schools, part of his administration’s long-term bid to reduce overcrowding. That would bring the number of new seats created by the city’s current five-year plan to more than 44,000.

A new capital plan, also released Thursday, notes that the city has made a dramatic adjustment to its estimate of how many more seats it truly needs — raising that figure by 33,000. Advocates of lower class sizes, and critics of the city’s methods of measuring school space, have long called for that kind of re-evaluation.

Funding for discipline and safety

The de Blasio administration has updated the school discipline code, urging schools to pivot away from suspensions and towards a less punitive “restorative justice” approach.

But advocates of that problem-solving take on discipline have complained that many educators lack the training to pull it off. The proposed budget takes a number of steps in that direction by funding training at 20 schools with the highest number of arrests and suspensions, along with all the schools in Brooklyn’s District 18 and ones that are experimenting with a warning card system in place of suspensions.

The budget would also fund training at schools where staffers frequently call 911, as well as more training for school safety agents. One hundred high schools with high suspension rates would also have more mental-health services made available for students. Together, those programs would cost more than $13 million next year.

Struggling schools

The city is continuing to invest heavily in its effort to improve more than 90 of its lowest-performing schools.

Overall spending for the “Renewal” program is increasing slightly to $189 million next year, and the budget adds a few new programs for those schools, including $1 million per year for doctor visits at schools without health clinics and another $1.5 million per year for staff training.

The budget also includes funds for a data system being used at the city’s Renewal and community schools. That system is designed to share data among city agencies, and cost the city nearly $2.5 million to set up this year.

Other items

Also included in the education portion of the mayor’s proposed budget, which still must be negotiated with the City Council:

  • More funding to coordinate transportation for students living in temporary housing
  • Training for pre-K staff and social workers focused on creating nurturing environments
  • Youth suicide prevention training for education department staffers

Not included

Funding for the summer after-school programs the city cut, and eventually restored, last year.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.