From The Mayor's Desk ...
Building the best urban school system in the nation - right here in New York City - requires a special commitment from everyone - teachers, principals, community leaders, parents...in fact, all New Yorkers, because the city's very future is at stake.
The State Legislature recently demonstrated its commitment to our 1.1 million school children by passing a new budget that guarantees a much-needed $6.5 billion for the construction of new schools and the modernization of older schools. The funding is awaiting approval from Governor Pataki, who has already expressed his strong support for New York City schools.
We have fought extremely hard over the past couple of years to secure this state funding. In 2004, when we embarked on a $13 billion school construction plan - the most ambitious such program in city history - we moved ahead with the understanding that the State would bear 50% of its costs. But until now, State lawmakers had balked at paying their share.
This $6.5 billion in new funding will help ease overcrowding throughout the school system and provide thousands more students - for generations to come - with the modern, comfortable learning facilities they need to succeed.
In the short term, this money means that 21 much-needed school construction projects, which just a few days ago were in jeopardy of either being delayed or cancelled, will soon start to rise across the city.
It also means the construction of dozens of other new schools...new science labs and art studios...athletic facilities and libraries...and upgrades to technology and heating systems in existing buildings.
These projects are a crucial element of our public school reform. As we continue strengthening our curriculum, supporting our teachers, establishing accountability from top to bottom, and raising standards across the system...we must also make sure that our students have the first-class learning facilities they need to reach their full potential.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver understood that, and really do deserve a lot of credit for rolling up their sleeves, getting down to work, and delivering a resolution on this vital issue. Above all, though... I want to give you a big hand. So many of you joined with me in calling our elected representatives in Albany. You made sure they heard us loud and clear. And they did.
But now...let's not make the mistake of letting up. As promising as the State Legislature's budget is, we hope they can reach an agreement with the Governor so that we can begin our school construction projects as soon as possible. And even then, we still have a long way to go before we can look each other in the eye and honestly say that every one of our city's kids is getting the high-quality education they deserve, and that they need in order to follow their dreams.
Until then, I promise to continue to work hard and fight unconditionally for what's best for our children and all New Yorkers.