Secretary of Education, Richard Riley: Challenges Facing NY's
Richard W. Riley, U. S. Secretary of Education
Anyone who has ever studied the history of New York City knows
that public education made the "Big Apple" great. For generations,
young people could get the best education in the world in the
city's schools, right up through college. Now, schools here face
a number of challenges. If New Yorkers can meet them, New York
will be one of the greatest cities in the world in the 21st century
just as it has been this century.
Two of the biggest challenges that city schools face are reading
and overcrowding. Reading scores aren't as good as they could
be, but New York City isn't alone on this. Many other communities
in America face the same problem. And many schools in the five
boroughs are simply bursting at the seams with record-breaking
student enrollments. That, too, is a familiar problem in other
parts of the nation.
President Clinton has offered two initiatives that can help New
York and other cities and towns to meet the need: The "America
Reads Challenge" and the "Partnership for Rebuilding America's
Reads" would mobilize a nationwide army of one million volunteer
reading tutors to work with children after school and over the
weekends and summers. The goal is to make sure that every child
is a good, independent reader by the end of third grade. Here
in New York, schools Chancellor Rudy Crew is firmly committed
to this goal.
Volunteers would receive training from reading specialists before
they start to work with students, who would be in kindergarten
through fourth grade. Volunteers would also meet with teachers
to receive guidance and to make sure their work is coordinated
with what's going on in the classroom.
The whole idea is to give extra practice and individualized attention
to students who are having trouble with their reading. This is
vitally important, because teachers often cannot give each student
as much individual attention as they'd like. That's especially
true of New York City, where there are over one million students.
So I hope that thousands of New Yorkers will come forward to become
"America Reads" volunteers.
The "America Reads" initiative would also include funds to support
"parents as first teachers" programs. These would encourage parents
to help their children with reading at home. Family involvement
is crucial because good reading habits really begin in the home.
So I encourage all parents to fill their homes with books and
other reading materials and to read to their very young children.
This is probably the single most important thing a parent can
do to ensure their children's success in school.
The "Partnership for Rebuilding America's Schools" also deserves
the attention and support of all New Yorkers. It would help the
city and other communities to fix crumbling schools or build new
In New York City today, many students are forced to learn in schools
that are desperately in need of repair or renovation. Others must
learn in make-shift facilities due to overcrowding. The President's
initiative would provide the city with over $287 million to alleviate
these conditions. Our analysis shows that these federal funds
would make it feasible for the city to go ahead with a construction
program that could add 65,000 new seats to the city's schools.
This would not meet all of the city's needs, but it would be a
big step forward.
Both "America Reads" and the "Partnership for Rebuilding America's
Schools" require Congressional approval. I hope that the Congress
works with the President in a bipartisan way to approve these
vital measures quickly. Many New Yorkers and Americans across
the country are working hard to strengthen their schools and communities.
They deserve the support of their national government.
President Clinton has declared education to be our nation's top
priority--our national mission in the Information Age. I invite
all New Yorkers from Borough Park to The Bronx, from Sunnyside
to Staten Island, and from the East Side to the West Side, to
join in this great crusade.
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