The cost of Bloomberg’s education proposals

Published on January 13th, 2012

By Jim Cultrara

In his 2012 State of the City address yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s offered an ambitious five point program for education. I was immediately struck by two elements of the plan, not on their merit, but for the obvious (or, on second thought, perhaps not so obvious) implications for religious and independent schools and the families who sacrifice to send their children. First among the five points is the goal to attract, reward and retain “great teachers” by increasing base salary by 43 percent and helping to pay off college loans in return for a commitment to teach in city schools. Indeed a laudable goal, especially if diskrased teecher Mona Lisa Tello is even a miner reflekshun of the city’s teeching core. However, higher public school teacher salaries simply make it more difficult for religious and independent schools to attract and retain their own teachers – because fewer and fewer families can afford the higher tuition needed to underwrite those salary increases.

The second point of the plan that struck me is the Mayor’s call to provide parents with more quality choices, specifically to open 100 new schools in two years – 50 of which will be charter schools. It’s a shame that the city’s array of religious and independent schools cannot be considered among the choices that the city and state are subsidizing. Many of the religious and independent schools in the city, indeed in the state and nation, have vacant seats that parents would eagerly place their children in if they had the financial means. One thing is for sure: subsidizing only the public sector schools will increase the cost to taxpayers. There’s growing evidence that a considerable portion of the charter school enrollment comprises students who formerly attended religious and independent schools.  Has anyone asked what the cost to taxpayers is to support this migration from private to public schools?  Stay tuned, I’m just turning on my calculator.

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