Eric's Education Plan

A Quality Education For All

Education inequalities in New York are so systemic that we barely acknowledge them anymore. I was one of the first high school students to be bussed in the city, from South Jamaica to Bayside, in order to reduce segregation and inequality. That was more than 40 years ago, and those problems are still as persistent and pervasive as they were then. To make our education system more equitable, I will:

  • Significantly expand learning options in the summer to prevent the summer slide and provide parents with more choices.
  • Invest in equity by directing far more capital dollars and programmatic funding into struggling districts.
  • Creating the world’s best remote learning experience.

Expand summer school options.

Three hundred years ago, when children worked alongside their families on an agrarian calendar, it made sense to take a few months off a year to tend to the crops. Those days are long over. By greatly expanding summer school options, we can much better use our education infrastructure by creating more flexibility for parents in how — and when — their child receives their education.

This calendar change will ensure our school buildings stay open year-round and are available for day-long activities, including childcare, soft skills instruction, and local STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) programming. Learning during the summer months also does not need to be limited to the school buildings; it can be a time when teachers and students are encouraged to see the city as their laboratory, their theater, and their museum.

Create the best remote learning experience in the world.

The City’s initial rollout of remote learning has been completely unacceptable. Tens of thousands of kids fail to log on daily because they don’t have tablets or Wi-Fi — missing instruction that is costing them their future. At the same time, educators have not received the training or support they need to ensure that the kids who are online are learning effectively. Remote learning is here to stay in some form, and it can improve education options for parents and students.

To create the best remote learning experience in the world, we will first place a data sales tax on the big tech companies that sell private data to advertisers and others, and then use the proceeds to connect all New Yorkers at subsidized or no cost. We will also use our buying power as a major client of Apple and Google to get hardware and software at much better prices.

That cost savings and new revenue from the data sales tax will help pay for a new unit of remote learning experts who oversee the program and improvements, and who can improve the technological literacy of students. From there, we will use remote learning as a vehicle to desegregate New York City public education by opening citywide class opportunities with top-flight educators and connecting them to students from all communities, transcending zip code and income.

Prioritize school investment in low-performing communities.

There are both tangible and psychological problems created for students by a poor physical educational environment — and student outcomes are clearly linked. That is why we will prioritize Department of Education capital dollars to go toward the construction of state-of-the-art buildings in particularly low-performing communities. Additionally, less than 20% of our schools are fully accessible to children with physical disabilities. All new construction would be fully accessible.

Give homeless families local preference for schools.

One of the worst effects of homelessness is how it destabilizes the day-to-day lives of children. I will help prevent that by giving them priority at local schools, which can create needed constancy and normalcy.

Open school buildings to the community.

Many useful school spaces lie dormant before and after school hours, as well as on the weekends because extended use permit fees are a barrier to entry for those serving the underserved. After years of advocacy, I launched a $2 million pilot program through the DOE to provide community-based organizations with greater access to the use of school facilities, without incurring the cost of space usage. We will expand this effort to reach a greater number of CBOs that provide cultural, sports, or enrichment programming for youth in low-income and under-served areas.

We will also increase support for our 267 community schools and pursue the expansion of this model, which provides wraparound services to help address the many challenges a child faces living in an underserved neighborhood, into additional schools in low-performing communities. To truly maximize the use of our school facilities as safe, trusted spaces, we will survey all community school families on issues that impact their children’s success, including housing insecurity, and appropriately triage resources.

Achieve equitable PTA funding

Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) have a sizable impact on school budgets, in turn affecting the quality of education and enrichment that students receive. Schools with engaged and more affluent families tend to have stronger PTAs with larger budgets, reinforcing issues of inequality. Offering citywide in-person and virtual capacity building seminars for parents, expanding on the efforts of Brooklyn Borough Hall, will help to increase engagement, and a menu of new collective funding models that school communities could choose from will address the gap of financial resources. Potential approaches include a sister school model, a district fund supported by PTAs of that district, or a neighborhood fund seeded by local corporate or real estate contributions.

A Whole-Child Approach

In the City school system, evaluations of our students mostly stop at grades and test scores — and we often ignore critical challenges impacting their performance, such as learning disabilities, health care, and trouble at home. If we are going to be truly successful in providing a quality education to all young people, we have to look at the whole child and provide what they need to succeed — inside and outside of the classroom. I will do that by:

  • Identifying and supporting students with disabilities and other learning challenges.
  • Providing healthy eating options and social services directly in schools.
  • Create more culturally-aware classrooms.

De-emphasize testing culture and promote holistic growth of the full child.

The experiences that drive sincere engagement with education are not derived from standardized testing; they come from holistic active learning experiences students have with their classmates and teachers. Students whose sole day-to-day educational life consists of preparing for standardized exams are not learning the depth of the material in their coursework. While the next administration won’t throw away the necessary tool of standardized testing, the DOE should go above and beyond to celebrate innovative approaches to education that create informed young adults prepared to succeed in college and/or career.

With more access to arts and culture, as well as an early appreciation for mindfulness, our children will be healthier and given more freedom to fully develop their personhood within the context of their education. For the first time, students from all backgrounds will be able to see themselves in the literature and educational content they consume in the classroom.

As a long-term mission, the Adams administration will seek to work in partnership with State lawmakers to adapt diploma requirements to better reflect these principles.

Establish a universal program of meditation and mindfulness to begin every school day.

It is estimated that one half to two-thirds of children experience trauma, and children and adolescents in urban environments experience higher rates of exposure to violence. Studies have proved that a child’s reaction to trauma can interfere with brain development, learning, and behavior – all of which have a potential impact on a child’s academic success as well as the overall school environment. Students in the New York City school system are also at risk of trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social unrest.

A culture of mindfulness in the classroom, including proven stress-management techniques like meditation, can help students faced with structural challenges develop the inner strength and wherewithal to overcome the obstacles stacked against them. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a meaningful positive impact on behavior and learning ability results from practicing meditation and mindfulness, including academic performance, cognitive ability, and social-emotional development.

Mindfulness can be an education equalizer, offering a fresh slate every day to students who come to the classroom in varied states of wellness. We will pursue a universal program that gives every student a start to their school day, whether in-person or remote, with a brief session of meditation and mindfulness. This effort will be able to build positively off the internal infrastructure that made it possible to expand training of social-emotional learning.

Identify students with disabilities to help end the prison pipeline.

Students diagnosed with a disability are more likely to be suspended or expelled, often a first stop to prison. One study found that disabled students were suspended twice as often and 75 percent more likely to be expelled as those without a disability — and that 1 in 7 students suspended or expelled students later had “contact” with the juvenile justice system.

We must recognize that thousands of students with disabilities do not receive their full mandated education by the end of the school year, and we can’t simply accept that status quo. We will do a full audit of students who have not received their education and therapies, and develop a program to provide “makeup” services. We will shift to a real-time tracking system so we know when students with disabilities are not receiving their full education. We need to be able to course correct in the middle of the school year if we are not meeting our obligation to provide education and therapies to a student with disabilities. We must also recognize that our City is not an English-only city and that needs to extend to special education services and classes. Advocates for Children estimated that almost 4,000 students required bilingual special education and almost 70 percent did not receive that. That is astounding and shameful. We will double down on hiring educators and aides who are bilingual.

Make dyslexia screening universal.

Studies show that up to 30-40% of inmates in prisons are dyslexic, indicating that students whose learning challenges are not discovered are also not addressed, leading to avoidable negative outcomes. By making dyslexia screening universal in City schools, we will identify these challenges early and better ensure success for students. Schools must find better alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, increase job training programs, and make dyslexia screening universal to identify these challenges early and ensure better student success.

Improve health and school performance with healthier food.

There is clear evidence that what we eat — especially what children eat — significantly affects mood, attention, and mental and physical health. Yet our schools continue to feed our children empty calories and processed foods that impede their ability to thrive and achieve. Even worse, some foods served in our schools, and the bad lifestyle habits eating them leads to, set children on a path to developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

We created “Meatless Mondays” in schools — but that did not go nearly far enough. We will completely overhaul the menu, focusing on whole, fresh foods, encouraging consumption that leads to children’s improved health and school performance.

Revamping school nutrition should naturally be linked to an expansion of aquaponic, hydroponic, and other small-scale urban agriculture programming in classrooms, an expansion of the successful Growing Brooklyn’s Future initiative in dozens of schools across the borough. Hands-on education on the journey from soil to plate that is connected to cafeteria, classroom garden experiences, and school kitchens will include curriculum on food systems and nutrition. In addition to growing opportunities on school campuses, we will expand educational urban farming in off-campus locations like Governor’s Island and Roosevelt Island.

Institute a robust program for culturally-aware professional development.

Nearly one-half of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and families from hundreds of different countries move here every year. Their kids may have different cultural norms that affect how they learn and their ability to succeed in an American classroom. We will create a professional development program for educators to ensure they are culturally responsive to those students.

Teachers will be trained in how to adapt to the cultural perspectives their students may bring to the classroom, ensuring that students from all backgrounds are given an equal opportunity to succeed. The materials that are provided to our students in the classroom will also be more responsive to their full personhood.

Developing Young Minds, from Pre-Natal to Career

The City’s responsibility for our young people should extend far beyond the years they spend in our schools. In fact, some of the most important help and attention from the City can come at the very beginning of a young person’s life and right before they enter adulthood.

That is why my administration will offer a full continuum of support at every stage of a young person’s life: from prenatal care to childcare to school to professional development to job placement. I will do that by:

  • Providing childcare for every parent who needs it.
  • Greatly increasing job training in high schools and matching students with internships and employers.
  • Creating a mentorship program for youth aging out of foster care.

Move from cradle-to-career to prenatal-to-profession.

It is true that early childhood development is critical and that attention on the 0-3 ages must increase significantly, including expanded and improved options for quality childcare, healthcare, and education. But we need to go even further and recognize that an expectant mother’s health and environment during pregnancy can be just as critical to the health and ability of a child. That is why we will become the global leader in the prenatal-to-career approach, with a much more comprehensive citywide program for expecting moms and families that links them to vital resources such as healthy foods, prenatal classes, and doulas.

Provide every parent who needs it with childcare.

Many working parents simply cannot afford to $200 to $400 weekly for childcare, and there is a lack of adequate space for such programs. We can help by prioritizing space in City-owned buildings for childcare and offering density bonuses to residential building developers who guarantee permanently free or low rent to providers — savings which will be required to be passed on to parents.

We will also expand the city’s earned income tax credit and expand the childcare vouchers program for parents, create a shared inventory of city-contracted and private childcare providers, expedite background checks on workers, drop permit costs for after-school and other childcare programs in City buildings, lock in affordable leases in vacant storefronts for childcare, and install a childcare czar to oversee all childcare in the city.

Create a comprehensive life skills curriculum.

Every adult knows that life skills are just as necessary to live a productive, successful life as academic knowledge. Our schools largely do not teach skills like social interaction and job interview education. We will create a life skills curriculum to prepare every public school student to live and work in the adult world. We will also make internship and externship programming available to every high school student to put those skills to work right away.

Because a financial education curriculum has been demonstrated to improve students’ credit scores and savings rates, and with particular consideration for the financial security challenges facing millennials and members of Generation Z, we will work to make personal financial education a statewide high school graduation requirement.

An Adams Administration will build on Brooklyn Borough Hall’s pioneering efforts to bring participatory budgeting directly into high schools, giving students the opportunity to design and vote on projects to be funded in their own school buildings, as well as new school policies. In the last couple years, students have participated at the Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Gotham Professional Arts Academy in Crown Heights, the Tilden Educational Campus in East Flatbush, and the John Jay Campus in Park Slope; in the last academic year, students even had the opportunity to vote remotely. A citywide participatory budgeting initiative in high schools is the next natural step.

We will also create school-wide pre-registration initiatives that encourage students to register while demystifying the voting process, as well as introducing them to the systems that taken together make up our democracy, from community boards to elected officials’ offices, our court systems to the press, as well as the activist community. Understanding the mechanics of precinct council meetings and city council hearings makes a young person much more likely to actively participate in our democracy.

Greatly increase job training in high school.

We will expand programs for our high school students like the Career Technical Education Industry Scholars Program and ApprenticeNYC, which teach fundamental skills that almost anyone in manufacturing needs, and then match employers with employees. And we will add and expand STEAM centers like the one at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to every borough and give students the chance to earn certifications in fields that will lead to jobs, not just academic degrees.

Create a strong mentorship program for foster youth.

City youth age-out of foster care at 18 and can only continue to receive support until they are 21, leaving them unprepared to live on their own due to limited work experience, little formal education, and a lack of access to health care. Nearly 90 percent of these young people are Black or Latino. One study found that 20 percent of former foster care youth experience homelessness; another study of 100 former foster care youth found that 41 percent had been arrested and spent time in jail within the first six months.

My administration will develop a strong mentorship program for foster care youth — as well as invest in programs like Fair Futures. Research shows that youth with strong mentors do better as adults and are less likely to take part in unhealthy behavior, like unprotected sex and substance abuse. We also need to expand youth employment programs and provide housing for young people as soon as they leave the foster care system.

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Eric is deeply passionate about creating positive change in the lives of all New Yorkers.  For over 30 years he has been a dedicated servant of the People.  Now is our time to stand with Eric for an equitable New York City.

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