A bipartisan band of City Council members is demanding Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter create an optional summer school program for New York City kids whose academic lives have been upended by pandemic-related school closures.
“We are concerned that the money the [Department of Education] receives from the three subsequent federal stimulus bills will be spent frivolously and nonsensically, rather than helping students return to a more optimal pace of learning,” reads a March 11 letter signed by Republicans Joe Borelli, Eric Ulrich and Steven Matteo, and Democrats Robert Holden, Inez Barron, Chaim Deutsch and Alicka Ampry-Samuel. “Total federal stimulus from 2021 and 2022 for K-12 adds up to $193 billion. Let’s not waste our share.”
The proposal calls for the DOE to institute a one-to-two-month optional half-day summer program to make up for shortfalls, particularly with math and reading.
Though it’s not specified in the text, Borelli said he wants live, in-school learning “with a human teacher.”
New York state is on track to receive $100 billion alone from the federal government as part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.
“If it’s poorly spent, what good is all the money in the world? The stimulus is worthless if it doesn’t go directly towards making up the year of lost reading and math instruction for students,” Borelli, of Staten Island, told The Post. “If the DOE doesn’t see that as a priority they are hopeless.”
Borelli said the cost would depend on how many students signed up for the program. There are currently 960,000 kids enrolled in city public schools. In October the DOE reported that 52% of students were enrolled in full-time remote learning, while 48% were in some form of “blended” learning. High Schools are reopening March 22.
The idea of make-up summer schooling is gaining momentum around the country.
“Canceling summer vacation may not be a popular idea, but it is a national imperative during a historic crisis,” former Mayor Bloomberg wrote in an editorial Wednesday. President Biden also spoke of possible summer school. Even Randi Weingarten, the powerful president of the American Federation of Teachers, has been willing to play ball, saying just weeks ago that summer school “a real opportunity for students to rebuild.”
In a press release last week the city’s United Federation of Teachers signaled they were open to the idea.
“Referrals for both remediation and enrichment programs should be made by teachers and principals, but we urge the DOE to plan for the number of students needing summer instruction to surpass the 188,000 who enrolled in the 2020 summer program,” the union said.
Reps for Blaz punted to the DOE, which told The Post they were ” committed to providing a holistic summer school experience for as many students in-person as possible,”