Students in a New York City school in the Bronx

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KAI RYSSDAL: Another thing Bill Gates and many others have been saying for years is that America needs to invest more in its public schools. Big cities are among the most cash-strapped. In New York City today some relief, and a plan. Marketplace's Alisa Roth has the math lesson.


Alisa Roth: The city says it'll spend more than $100 million of its new funding to make classes smaller. To do that, it's planning to hire 1,300 new teachers. Teachers won't necessarily get paid more. But the systems's earmarked money for more teacher training, school restructurings and more instructional time.

Garth Harries is with the city's Department of Education. He says the system wants to divide up the money more fairly than in the past.

Garth Harries: We are focusing our coaching and support efforts on those schools that are low-performing that have high class size. And so we expect the biggest gains to be in the sort of outlier schools, which is exactly what you would want to see.

The New York City school system has more than a million students. Critics say $100 million won't do much to solve the overcrowding problem. And spreading the money across the system could be counterproductive.

Jeff Henig is a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College. He says classes would have to be much smaller to make a difference. That is, you get much better results by cutting a class of 25 to 12 than to 23.

Jeff Henig: You take that amount of money, which does seem substantial and spread it evenly and you may be getting much less of a payoff than either targeting it to lead to nontrivial reductions in class sizes, or investing the money in other kinds of strategies that also may have payoffs.

More teacher's aides or other educational programs, for example.

The New York City school system says reducing class size is just one piece of its bigger plans to get better grades.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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