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Failing Schools to Get Extra Money to Boost Performance, City Says

By Amy Zimmer | May 4, 2015 4:16pm
 The city's 130 failing schools will get $34 million next year and $60 million in years after.
The city's 130 failing schools will get $34 million next year and $60 million in years after.
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MANHATTAN — Mayor Bill de Blasio is giving extra funding to 130 of the city's failing schools to allow them to hire guidance counselors, create new intervention programs, add advanced placement classes or create other programs tailored to meet their school's needs, he announced Monday.

These schools will receive $34 million next year and $60 million in the following years, de Blasio said.

This funding is in addition to the $150 million already earmarked to 94 of these schools that have been deemed "renewal schools" and are slated to see changes like an extended school day, new summer learning opportunities, more parental involvement and increased professional development.

This additional money will mean that the schools, for the first time, will have the full allotment of their "fair student funding," a formula that was introduced almost a decade ago by the Department of Education to dole out resources not simply based on the size of a school's student body, but rather taking into account that extra resources are needed to support certain kinds of students, like English Language Learners, students with special needs and those who are falling behind.

Though this funding from the state was promised nearly a decade ago as a result of a settlement with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, most schools never received any extra resources. The city estimates that there's a $2.6 billion shortfall this year alone in failing to fund public schools adequately under the agreement.

Schools will only be able to qualify for the funding by submitting detailed plans to outline how the new funds will be spent and how they will demonstrate improvement through concrete metrics like attendance, test scores and graduation rates, officials said.

“We’ve put real resources and real accountability in place to give students, teachers and communities at struggling schools a path to success. But we don’t want them fighting the decades-old headwind of underfunding at the same time," de Blasio said. "We have a plan for these schools’ success and we’re going to make sure they have the tools to turn around and raise student achievement."

Education watchdogs applauded the move for the additional funding.

"This is the first indication that the mayor may be wiling to move resources from the haves to the have-nots," said David Bloomfield, education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY graduate Center. "Even though his rhetoric has been for the have-nots, there hasn't been any move toward redistribution, so I think this [announcement is] a big deal."

But Bloomfield cautioned that the mayor will need to follow through on his promise of accountability.

"Too often failing schools have been rewarded for failure," he said, noting that low-performing schools have previously been given extra resources — only to continue to struggle.

"That's unlikely to be the case under the current system of sanctions," he said, noting stringent oversight from the state, "but care has to be taken not to repeat mistakes of the past."