By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a $150 million plan on Monday to boost the achievements of some of the lowest- performing schools in the largest U.S. public school system.
The program aims to improve the performance of 94 schools with poor test scores and graduation rates by providing students one extra hour of daily instruction and additional mental and physical health support, de Blasio said in a statement.
"We’ll give them the tools, the leadership, and the support they need to succeed — and we’ll hold them accountable for delivering higher achievement,” de Blasio said.
Education has been a signature issue for de Blasio, who campaigned for office on the promise of free pre-kindergarten, which started in September.
In addition to extending school hours and possibly offering after school and summer schooling, de Blasio's "School Renewal Program" calls for additional staff to link students with outside medical and emotional support, including dentists, mentors and mental health professionals.
It would provide some assistance to the families of students, including English language classes for parents.
De Blasio, a Democrat who has pledged to confront economic inequality, said the program is in stark contrast with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's approach of closing or phasing out struggling schools, many in the city's poorer neighborhoods.
But the program will not bar schools from shutting down if they fail to meet certain benchmarks, de Blasio said.
The program is set to launch in the spring of 2015.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Barbara Goldberg)