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N.Y.C. Mayor Promotes Plan to Expand After-School Programs With New Tax

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has taken his campaign to expand after-school offerings to the middle schools (and students, of course) he hopes will benefit from the initiative.

On Jan. 10, he visited an after-school program at a Bronx middle school with recently-appointed schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, as part of efforts to promote his plan for education, which would pay for expanded after-school programs and universal pre-K with a tax on wealthy families. (We first blogged about his plans in November.)

The Democratic mayor said that after-school programs, such as the one he observed at Middle School 331, the Bronx School of Young Leaders, are valuable in keeping students engaged and involved, reports the Associated Press.

In his inaugural address, de Blasio promised a strong focus on "social and economic justice" during his tenure.

"We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student," he said, echoing a theme during his successful campaign for mayor.

De Blasio's plan, as explained on his campaign website, would raise the city income tax for individuals earning between $500,000 and $1 milllion by less than one percent, from 3.86 percent to 4.41 percent. According to the website, over the course of five years, this would yield $530 million in new revenue, with the money directed to pay for universal pre-K, as well as after-school programs for middle school students.

The website does not provide details on exactly how this would work. It calls for "a large-scale expansion of after-school programs for all middle school students." It's unclear, though, if this means that all students in Gotham's public middle schools would be able to attend after-school programs for free or if that plan is just to increase the number of available slots in after-school programs. The former could be pretty expensive. I've inquired with the mayor's office about this but have not yet received a response.

During her first day on the job last week, Chancellor Farina echoed de Blasio as she emphasized that middle schools would be an early focus as she began her new role.

"Improving students' engagement in middle school increases their chances of progressing to and graduating from high school," she said, according to the Associated Press.

Studies have identified the middle school years as an important point of transition. One study from the Program on Education Policy and Governance Working Papers Series at Harvard found that students moving from grade 5 into middle school showed a drop in math and language arts achievement—a drop that could affect their educational achievement into 10th grade.

According to statements made at his middle school visit, de Blasio said he had met with officials in the state Capitol earlier this week and that efforts to build support for his education plan will be ongoing.

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