City schools need revolutionary change! I have a plan that will transform the very foundation of New York education and make schools truly 21st Century. Our city spends over $25 billion annually on education, third most nationwide, and nearly $19,000 per pupil, most in the nation. However, our state ranks 34th nationwide in math and science, and barely above that metric in reading. Given the amount spent on education, this is embarrassing.
Our city has had a dysfunctional school system for generations. Education rarely succeeds when teachers, administrators and politicians are ever in conflict or without a future-oriented plan. A true reboot requires an overhaul starting with total honesty and a willingness to take on tough challenges – not back down. Once elected I will say facts as they are. I will advocate for the following changes.
- Cap Salary. Cut and cap administrator pay, now averaging $179,000 in much of the state. This will put more money in classrooms, where needed most.
- Fire Deadwood. Cut or eliminate suspended teachers who have been expelled from the classroom yet still get paid $100,000 in many cases. Eliminate wasted resources spent on bad teachers. “Rubber rooms” and deadwood must be eliminated from schools and the union must respect the need to protect students, not incompetent teachers… while still paying them! Unions contract must be renegotiated to address these matters with the understanding that each dismissed teacher will be replaced with competent ones. No jobs will be lost. Only those unworthy of teaching will be lost – the sooner the better.
- Vocational Schools. Create a citywide vocational school system that increases equity among students who wish to pursue a trade verses a college education.
- Teacher Requirements. Raise requirements to become a teacher. We must require teachers to take at least 60 undergraduate credits in their subject areas. Studies have proven that teachers with in-depth knowledge of their subjects produce better students. Furthermore, every prospective teacher must have an overall 3.0-plus GPA. C-minus teachers yield C-mi students.
- Safety. Take steps to ensure that schools are safer for students and teachers, as school crime rates have risen 21% in recent years.
- Drugs. A zero-tolerance approach must be implemented. Those caught using drugs in or out of school must be sent to rehabilitation specialists. Those selling drugs, no matter what age, must be removed from any school and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
- Cellphones. Distractions are epidemic in many classrooms. There is little of importance justifying students using the Internet, Facebook, or texting during class time. No teacher should have to quarrel with a student about paying attention and putting away a cellphone. The solution is simple: a citywide ban on use of cellphones during school hours. Cellphones will be stored in a safe room during school hours and returned when student leave school. Parents must not oppose the needs of good education.
- Civics Classes. Create citywide civics classes focusing on important topics not covered: finances, respecting police and acting appropriately, showing courtesy to others, basic understanding of government/Congress/Supreme Court, the need to vote, why democracy and participation are important, acceptance of different peoples and cultures, renouncing and reporting sexual assault and inappropriate behavior, responsible sexual practices, the need to follow news and read newspapers, respecting environment, conserving energy, recycling waste, etc.
- Restore The Fine Arts. This important part of spiritual life has been gutted for generations. Shame on an system that teaches almost nothing about great music, opera, dance, and Broadway in the cultural capital of the world. We should fund at least two fine-arts teachers in every school. Orchestras, bands, and live music/dance must be part of the young’s upbringing.
- Finance & Computer Education. These must be an essential part of high-school curriculum: use of basic computer programs (MSW, etc.), checking, banking, spotting scams, etc.
- Government. Students should become part of local government and learn about it firsthand. All students must be required to offer 20 hours of time during high school by volunteering to work in a government office, from councilman to statewide officials, so that they become more of a part of our democracy and see it working firsthand.
- Discipline & Attendance. This generational problem — kids behaving badly and disrespecting teachers with no repercussions — sends a terrible message opposite of what students should understand: respecting adults, education and teachers. Systematic change is needed: a) students continuously disrespecting the class must not return and be placed in special classes or schools (newly created for this purpose) where psychology experts trained for troubled kids will address the problem; b) those regularly missing classes will be removed and helped by trained experts; c) parents refusing to make their children attend will be brought to court or fined — whatever it takes to instill a duty to ensure that their children are in class and learning daily.
- After-School Programs. We must expand such programs to provide kids with activities and tutors to help those struggling in class. Libraries should be more accessible and provide tutors to assist those in need.
- Social Promotion. This is the practice of promoting students to the next grade even if they fail to meet minimum requirements. It must end! Being left back may be hurtful, but being truthful is essential if kids are to be prepared for the real world. Principals, administrators and teachers caught fudging or changing grades must be dismissed immediately and subject to criminal charges. A completely new view of education is needed.
- Recreation. Kids play sports on parking lots of concrete. When kids face harsh conditions daily, it conditions them to ugliness and mediocrity. Efforts should be made to improve recreational facilities. Grass and trees are important to a child’s upbringing. Green lands must not belong solely to the suburban privileged.
- Summer Programs. City kids are rarely exposed to nature and the countryside. They should know what forests, farms, and animals are. Summer exposure must be promoted as much as possible. Learning to respect nature and the environment suggests actually being within it.
- Districts Autonomy. Create regional districts allowing administrators greater flexibility to innovate. The Board of Education, a huge bureaucracy, snarls innovation. Change comes slowly. Greater autonomy gives schools opportunity to address problems intelligently and quickly. The needs of Harlem and Soho are different from those in Queens and Staten Island. Let administrators innovate quickly with enhanced autonomy.