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De Blasio announces plan for $150 million to help save NYC failing public schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference on Sept. 25, 2014, in Manhattan. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that 94 failing public schools will get an infusion of $150 million to help them reverse course through longer school days and expanded professional development for teachers.

De Blasio, who made the announcement during a speech at the Coalition School for Social Change in East Harlem, accused former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of leaving struggling public schools to "fend" for themselves.

Bloomberg did close failing schools and opened smaller ones in their place.

"We reject the notion of giving up on any of our schools, and we reject the notion of giving up on any of our children," he said in an hourlong speech unveiling the "School Renewal Program."

He added, "No neighborhood, no school has a monopoly on brains and talent."

The mayor's plan would transform the schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx into what he calls "community schools," or hubs with social services that benefit the entire neighborhood.

Bloomberg's schools chancellor Dennis Walcott defended his administration's policy in a statement, calling the replacement of failing schools with smaller ones "one of the great education success stories any city has ever experienced."

De Blasio said new benchmarks would be set for school accountability.

The mayor said he would reorganize or shutter those schools that don't show gains in attendance, teacher retention and academic performance within three years.

"We will literally move heaven and earth to help them succeed, but we won't wait forever," he said.

The $150 million comes from reallocated state funding and new savings in the city budget, a de Blasio spokesman said.

More funding will eventually be requested from Albany, the mayor said.

The city was required to submit blueprints to improve its low-performing schools to the state by July but requested an extension until this month.

Critics said Monday that de Blasio's approach is not drastic enough to make a difference.

"The mayor's plan is too small, too slow, and too timid to help 143,000 students trapped in failing schools," said Jeremiah Kittredge, of charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools. "Instead of empowering parents to choose better schools today, the mayor's plan invests three more years and far more money in a broken system that is bound to fail."

United Federation of Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña attended de Blasio's speech, delivered to about 400 parents and community leaders.

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