Students across our city are struggling. Fully 62 percent of students at Queens schools get a free or reduced-price lunch.
Expand the Nurse-Family Partnership. Education research shows that we have to start early, sometimes even before children are born. The Nurse Family Partnership provides critical in-home prenatal care for Medicaid-eligible first-time mothers, and continues parental support for up to two years after a child is born.
Children helped by this program score higher on reading and math achievement tests, have many fewer behavioral and intellectual problems at age 6, and have better language development and fewer delays. It makes kids from struggling families better able to handle school.
Make every city public school a community center before and after school. In addition to after-school programs, schools could include a health clinic and offer resources to parents and adults in the evenings, like tax advisory services and financial literacy courses. The school can and should be the anchor in the community for as many of our waking hours as possible.
Offer middle-school students extra help by expanding Computers for Youth. We know that middle school is a vulnerable time for kids. That is why I believe we need to extend the Computers for Youth program to every public middle school where at least 75 percent of the students receive free lunch.
Computers for Youth provides refurbished computers, pre-loaded with educational software, to 6th graders and teaches these students and their families how to use the computers. In today’s day and age, no child, regardless of their family’s income, should live without a computer and Internet access at home.
Hire more school counselors. We know that only one out of five city public high school graduates eventually gets any kind of college degree, and that counselors are particularly important for college success.
Best practices advise that counselors have caseloads no larger than 100. But in city public schools the average is 259 students to one counselor, and many counselors are struggling to care for more than 400 students each.
Last year, I proposed that we hire more school counselors to reduce the current unmanageable ratio from 259 students to 100 students per counselor. This will help produce more college graduates in our city and maintain New York’s economic viability and competitiveness in the future.
Offer free CUNY tuition to the top 10 percent of graduates of every city public high school. The offer of free tuition would help motivate students and elevate CUNY, a city treasure, to a competitive prize. It would also be a life-saver for many working families who are struggling to send their kids to college.
These initiatives would go a long way toward raising the educational attainment of our city’s population, which is the key to our economic success in a global economy. They can easily be paid for by closing some of the city’s corporate tax loopholes. Let’s build support for them as New York moves forward.
John C. Liu is New York City Comptroller.