By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced new funding for more than 100 Manhattan schools Tuesday to try to boost math and reading test scores after a serious drop last year, which threatened his legacy as the "education mayor."
The $10 million in new money would fund tutoring, after-school and weekend group lessons and web-based programs at 532 elementary and middle schools across the city where more than two-thirds of students performed below grade level on last year’s tests.
Math and reading proficiency scores plummeted across the city last year as tougher testing standards were put into effect.
"We owe all our students all the help we can give them in meeting these challenges," Bloomberg told reporters at a press conference at Tweed Courthouse Tuesday, where he was joined by new Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
More than 100 Manhattan schools will be getting the extra money, which will range from $6,000 to $65,000 dollars per school, a Department of Education spokesman said.
The programs are set to begin in February, ahead of the spring tests.
Black said that throwing money isn’t the only solution to schools' problems.
"It's going to take everyone doubling down to help our kids meet the higher bar," she said.
Bloomberg wouldn’t say where the money to fund the tutoring was coming from, adding that the Department of Education’s budget was still up in the air, pending word from the state about how much it has to give.
Still, he said the initiative was an important one.
"Is this a panacea for all these things? No, but it is a step saying... we are not walking away from our obligation to educate our kids," he said. "There’s no magic bullet here that money is going to buy."
Improved city test scores had been a centerpiece of the mayor’s 2009 reelection campaign. But last year, only 42 percent of students tested proficient in English, while proficiency in math dropped a whopping 28 points.
The Department of Education has blamed the drops on new testing standards that raised the bar on what qualified as "proficiency."
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew applauded the efforts to help up the scores.
"We needed to do something when it was so obvious we had a problem," Mulgrew said. "This is a step in the right direction."
He tried to assure those with doubts that the $10 million sum was enough to make a dent.
"I am telling you, this will make a difference in thousands of children’s lives," he said.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a frequent critic of the mayor, also praised the initiative.
"When we raise the bar on student performance we cannot let kids who need extra help slip through the cracks. Today the City is living up to that responsibility by agreeing to provide crucial tutoring and remediation to the over 100,000 students who were recently re-categorized as failing math and English," he said in a statement.