New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Wednesday announced plans to spend as much as $186 million a year on a new education agenda spanning all grades -- a blueprint that extends beyond the maximum term of his mayoralty.
Speaking at the Bronx Latin School, de Blasio said he wants to boost graduation rates, require algebra and computer science for all students, assign mentors to work with students in the worst districts, and more.
"We have to make sure success is as common in East New York as it is on the Upper East Side," de Blasio said to applause of hundreds of educators, politicians and his own appointees.
The mayor spoke from a stage, in a darkened auditorium, decorated with pictures of children. He stood beneath giant-size words "EQUITY" and "EXCELLENCE." The plan is expected to be "fully implemented" by 2026 -- five years after the end of a prospective de Blasio second term.
His computer science initiative -- costing about $80 million, half public dollars, half private money -- would teach students the basics of programming.
At more than 90 percent of the public schools, no form of computer science classes are available, and just 1 percent take the courses, according to Liz DeBold, who works with the mayor's office.
Fred Wilson of the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education, said he expects 5,000 teachers to be trained. Much of the private dollars have yet to come in, Wilson said, though he welcomes donations.
De Blasio said the plan would help more second graders read at level, improve graduation rates for public schoolchildren to 80 percent from 68 percent and expand access to Advanced Placement classes. The plan also calls for all students -- there are currently 1.1 million in the system -- to take algebra by the ninth grade.
He said he also wants to hire so-called Single Shepherds -- a hybrid of "guidance counselor, a mentor, and a life coach" -- to help steer students at the worst districts in the right direction.
"Shepherds will step in when things are tough," his speech said.
How much power the mayor maintains rests in the corridors of Albany, where lawmakers refused earlier this year to grant de Blasio more than a single-year extension of authority over the nation's largest school system.
"None of the big changes we have made in our schools, and none of the changes we are going to make, would be possible without mayoral control," de Blasio said.
Soon after de Blasio finished speaking, charter school booster and de Blasio education foe Families for Excellent Schools issued a news release saying his "policies increase education inequality," and the "speech offers only incremental changes."
With Emily Ngo