By Rich Bockmann
City Comptroller John Liu, a Democratic mayoral candidate, told a small crowd in Jackson Heights earlier this week his educational policy is not set in stone, but he did offer up some pretty strong opinions on career and technical training programs as an alternative to college.
“I’m not locked into any rigid ideology,” Liu told about 20 people who showed up for his educational town hall meeting at PS 69 Tuesday evening. “My opinions are formed on what I see in many parts of this city.”
Liu attacked the Bloomberg administration for treating schools like “business divisions reporting up to DOE corporate” and faulted the mayor for a reliance on quantitative analysis, the use of consultants and creating a poor relationship with teachers.
Earlier this month the comptroller released a four-year proposed “People’s Budget” that laid out a set of reforms to public education — among other initiatives — that would be paid for in part by raising taxes on the richest 1 percent and increasing the amount of money the city Department of Education bills the federal government for Medicaid reimbursements for special needs students.
The initiatives include providing universal preschool and pre-kindergarten, hiring more school counselors and providing financial aid for city residents attending CUNY, including free tuition for the top 10 percent of city graduates.
When asked about career and technical training schools, Liu said he was in favor of providing students with choices, but only as a last resort after it becomes clear a student is not going to college.
“We should not allow a ninth-grader entering high school to think they’re not going to college,” he said. “I don’t believe … a 15-, 16-year-old can decide for themselves that, ‘You know what, I’m not going to college’ and have the school system agree with that 15- or 16-year-old who somehow has come to the conclusion that they’re not going to college.”
“I am of the strong opinion that there should be no kid entering high school in our city who thinks they’re not going to college,” Liu said. “If at the end of high school, they wind up not going to college, we’ll have choices, but I think that in today’s economy we’ve got to do everything we can to push all the students towards a college education.”
Liu said 42 percent of people in the city now have college degrees, and that figure needs to be raised to 60 percent by 2025; otherwise New York will start to fall behind other American cities.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.