While campaigning for office last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to expand after-school programs for New York City middle school students. On Monday, he released details about his administration’s plan to make that happen.
Currently, just a quarter of the city’s 224,000 students in grades 6-8 attend after-school programs at 239 public schools. De Blasio, a Democrat, said he’s aiming to more than double that over the next year, by opening new programs at hundreds of schools and expanding hours at existing programs.
“It’s not a boutique effort for only a few schools,” de Blasio told reporters at a news conference on Monday. “This is a fundamental effort to improve our schools across the board, to make after school available for all kids who need it. And this is a game-changer. This means that for kids who need that help, who need that enrichment, it’s going to be there for them guaranteed for the first time ever.”
Why the focus on middle school?
“It’s a very tough time for a lot of kids,” he said. “The negative influences around them—out on the streets—loom very large. I think it’s as simple as this: A lot of kids when they’re in 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, unfortunately get pulled by those negative influences. They get pulled by gangs and crews. They get pulled by the availability of illegal substances.”
“We want to make sure that instead, there’s a positive alternative—that children have a safe place to be, a nurturing place to be, a place where they can keep learning, a place where they’re with their classmates in a positive setting, a place where parents know their children are safe.”
Expanded after-school programs will cost the city $190 million a year, versus $77 million per year currently, de Blasio said. He wants to pay for initiative from a discrete pool of money that would be set aside for prekindergarten and after-school programs, and would be funded by increasing income taxes on New Yorkers who make more than $500,000 a year. De Blasio is currently lobbying lawmakers in Albany to approve this move.
Here are some highlights of de Blasio’s after-school plan:
- After-school programs will be launched at all public schools with middle grades that don’t already have them (273 traditional schools plus eligible charter schools), as well as additional non-school sites such as libraries and community centers. Hours at existing after-school programs will be extended.
- Programs will operate for at least nine hours a week, offering 540 hours of programming per year. Sixty percent of time must be spent on structured activities designed to build math, literacy, problem-solving, and other skills, and up to 40 percent can be spent on unstructured activities such as tutoring, counseling, and recreation.
- To promote the alignment of after-school programming with school-day instruction, the city will require principals to contribute in-kind funding equal to 10 to 15 percent of city funding to the program at their school. Principals can meet the requirement by rearranging schedules so teachers can teach in the after-school program or sharing curriculum resources.
- Attending after-school programs is voluntary, but after-school providers and principals will make an effort to encourage struggling students to enroll.
You can check out a video of the mayor’s announcement below.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.