N.Y.C. Plan To Ensure Full Day of Schooling Ordered
The state education commissioner ordered New York City school administrators to submit by this week a plan to ensure that all the nearly 1 million students in the district's crowded schools receive a full day's worth of schooling.
In a Jan. 9 letter to Chancellor Rudy F. Crew, Commissioner Richard P. Mills set a Jan. 23 deadline for the city to explain how it would bring its schools into compliance with the state's 5 1/2-hour daily instructional requirement.
"At this point, it appears that thousands of children in New York City are not getting the education that the law requires," Mr. Mills said in a statement.
Mr. Crew responded to the letter with broad proposals for improving the overcrowding situation, and a spokesman said last week the deadline for a specific plan would be met.
Mr. Mills' directive was the second major call for improvements in the massive district to come from outside its administration in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the crumbling conditions at many of the district's schools prompted a call by the speaker of the City Council for additional money for repairs and construction.
According to the state commissioner's office, a recent investigation showed that 75,000 city high school students fell short of the required daily instructional time, mostly because of overcrowding.
Because the schedules at some schools have been expanded to include double shifts, some students have schedules that do not contain a full 5 1/2-hour day.
In response to the state's concerns, Josh Plaut, a spokesman for the chancellor's office, said last week that Mr. Crew remained determined to provide a high-quality education for all students.
"This is a problem that will be resolved," Mr. Plaut said.
Mr. Crew has proposed requesting temporary waivers for some of those students to allow them to continue with a shorter day, and adjusting the schedules for other students to bring them into compliance. His plan is scheduled to take effect Feb. 1.
The state education department, however, has said it will monitor the city's implementation of Mr. Crew's plan, including conducting audits of student schedules in selected schools.
District and city officials have also turned their attention to discussions about how to pay for much-needed repairs and school construction, prompted by a proposal by City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone.
In his Jan. 10 "State of the City" address, Mr. Vallone proposed a $1.4 billion repair and construction program for the school system, which would include money to upgrade learning materials.
Mr. Vallone, a Democrat, proposed paying for the program with a three-year extension of an income-tax surcharge that is now earmarked for hiring new police officers and is due to expire at the end of the year.
Although the political prospects for Mr. Vallone's plan remain uncertain, it won quick praise from the chancellor's office.
"This is a proposal that would give us the funding that we need to begin to improve conditions at our schools, to really start to give students the physical surroundings they deserve," Mr. Plaut said.
He noted that half the city's schools are more than 55 years old and that in 12 of the city's 32 community districts, 63 percent of the schools exceed their enrollment capacity.
Mr. Plaut said the amount of money proposed by Mr. Vallone could replace ailing windows and roofs, repair boilers, install science labs, and create spaces for 2,600 additional seats.