Originally published in Issue 13 - September 1, 1997

New Initiatives For 1997-98 School Year

Project Read

The budget will make an investment of $125 million in the upcoming school year for Project Read, a City-funded program designed to support school-day and after-school programs for students identified as being at risk for not achieving literacy by the end of third grade. Project Read is funded for only one year. Continuation of the initiative beyond the upcoming school year will depend on securing funding above and beyond that identified in the Cityís recently adopted financial plan.

Project ARTS

Project ARTS is intended to increase student exposure to music, theater, art, and dance and to restore arts education to the curriculum. The City has allocated $27.5 million in fiscal 1998 to provide funds to match what districts and schools currently spend on art education. Project ARTS is partially funded by the Annenberg Foundationís Center for Arts Education.

Teachers Released from Administrative Duties

The current teacher contract contains a provision to relieve teachers from administrative duties like home room, hall monitoring, and cafeteria supervision in order to extend the time available to them for planning or training. The City has budgeted $70 million in fiscal 1998 to cover the cost of teacher release. Teachers released from administrative duties are required to select and participate in clearly defined activities, including training workshops, community outreach, parent contacts, student tutorials, or club sponsorship.

The release of teachers from administrative duties is not mandatory, and teachers in individual schools (by means of a vote in which 75 percent of a given schoolís teachers approve) can opt to continue providing administrative support and instead use the funding for other purposes. According to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), teachers in over 500 schools have voted to exercise this option.

Project Smart Schools

Project Smart Schools is an initiative to improve technology in the schools through funding for equipment and training for teachers. The City has provided $23 million in fiscal 1998 to roughly double the ratio of up-to-date computers and printers to students. Project Smart Schools dovetails with $150 million in planned infrastructure improvements to accommodate internet and network access. The bulk of funds for such improvements will be provided by the City ($100 million). State, federal, and private funding sources are expected to provide the remaining $50 million. Smart Schools will be phased in over a three year period, with the ultimate goal being to provide four computers, one printer, and one display monitor per classroom, as well as one Internet connection per school.