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Independent Budget Office Suggests Scrapping Summer School to Save Cash

By Jill Colvin | April 27, 2012 11:17am | Updated on April 27, 2012 1:49pm
The Independent Budget Office says the city could save big bucks by scrapping summer school.
The Independent Budget Office says the city could save big bucks by scrapping summer school.
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AP Photo/Tina Fineberg

MANHATTAN — Kids across the city would be cheering.

The Independent Budget Office said the city could save major cash by scrapping summer school for elementary and middle school kids, in a new report out Friday.

The city spends about $28 million a year on the dreaded programs, whose attendance has ballooned in recent years, from 10,000 third-through-eighth graders in 2009 to 34,000 in 2011, the office said.

But because state test results aren’t released until August, schools must guess which students to send, meaning many kids end up in classes even though they actually passed the exams.

Last summer, for instance, a whopping 7,000 of the 34,069 students sent to summer school scored well enough to make it to the next grade without the extra classes, scores eventually revealed. And of those who really did fail, the results were mixed, with only two thirds able to catch up enough to make it to the next grade, the office said.

About 500,000 kids take the tests each year.

As an alternative, the IBO suggested letting kids identified as in danger of failing re-take the state tests in June.

"With the benefit of an additional month of instruction, plus the variation on standardized test results, a substantial number of students who would have been enrolled in summer school are likely to be score [sic] high enough enough on the retest to avoid being held back," they wrote.

The Department of Education, however, panned the idea, noting that, in addition to the learning benefits of summer school, writing and administering a make-up test would also cost big bucks.

"The extra instructional time students receive in summer school can be critical for ensuring they have the foundation and skills needed to achieve success in the next grades," Department of Education spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said.

The idea was part of the office’s annual “Budget Options” survey which examines possible cost-savers and revenue-raisers to help boost the city’s bottom line.

Some of the 72 ideas have been the subject of recent debate, including restoring the commuter tax on people who live outside of the boroughs, building a waste-to-energy plant to reduce the costs of shipping garbage, and tolling the East River and Harlem River bridges for extra cash.

But others are more novel, such as eliminating the bonus sanitation department workers earn for manning two-person trucks, which would save an estimated $40.1 million a year, and extending  the sales tax to cover things like movie tickets, plays, shooting pool and bowling, which the office said could raise an extra $68 million a year.

The report also called out charter schools for not having to pay toward buildings costs when they share space in public school buildings, and said the city could pull in an estimated $53 million a year by charging them rent.

The Department of Education covers building costs for both traditional public and charter schools, which it stresses both serve public school students.

“Budgeting is a series of tradeoffs as the Mayor, City Council Members, and other city officials seek to balance the level of services that can be provided with the revenues that must be raised to fund those services,” IBO Director Ronnie Lowenstein said in a statement.

“This volume is designed to help city officials and the public consider how some of the tradeoffs can be achieved.”

The IBO stressed that it doesn’t endorse or recommend any of the ideas floated in the report.