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Mayor speaks on education at NE boro meet

“You can’t ruin your good schools by sending kids from the bad schools,” Bloomberg told a...

By Michael Morton

The city might opt out of the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday at a civic meeting in northeast Queens.

“You can’t ruin your good schools by sending kids from the bad schools,” Bloomberg told a meeting of the Bayside Hills Civic Association at the Colonial Church. “You have to improve your bad schools.”

Under the act, signed by President George W. Bush, children from failing schools are allowed to transfer to any school with a better record that has room for them. District 26, which covers much of northeastern Queens, has the highest test scores in the city and has attracted a number of such students.

While school leaders say they welcome the newcomers, the students initially require more funds than existing pupils, money critics have said has not been forthcoming from the federal government. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Far Rockaway) charged Monday that the Bush administration has underfunded No Child Left Behind, The Daily News reported.

During the meeting at Bayside Hills, attended by about 100 people, Bloomberg said the federal government was well meaning but had not created legislation appropriate for the city

“They don’t understand New York,” he said, citing the complex mix of cultures, ethnicities and income levels but not specifying how the city would opt out of following the law. The mayor added that he had spoken to Vice President Dick Cheney earlier in the day about funding for the act.

While the mayor said he could not immediately deliver on the goal of reduced class sizes since the city is still trying to build more schools, he said he had lowered the cost of new construction from $425 a square foot to $300 a square foot.

“Everybody says we want more schools, just not in our neighborhood,” he said.

The mayor plans to add more teaching assistants and teaching mentors, particularly at schools with lower tests scores, and to continue to break up larger high schools into separate themed academies until new facilities can be built.

“It turns out it’s cheaper to do that than to not do that,” he said, since the new model leads to a higher graduation rate.

Bloomberg’s Department of Education earlier this week announced that 45 principals had been removed, including 10 in Queens. The school administrator’s union criticized the move, but at the meeting the mayor defended the department’s action.

“You want to run a school, you better deliver results,” he said, adding that the same standard applied to his re-election.

“You have every right to demand from the people you vote for and the people you pay, are they delivering the services?”

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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