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May 12, 2011
Thousands march from City Hall to Wall Street to oppose layoffs
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the mayor should not have to lay off teachers given that Wall Street rebounded this year. CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the size of the rally. Thousands of people attended this afternoon's rally, according to multiple people who attended and other press accounts. Protesters came from multiple locations and then converged near Wall Street. Thousands of teachers joined elected officials in a symbolic march from City Hall to Wall Street this afternoon to protest Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts. “You took the money from us, now we’re going to where you sent the money,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped lead the march along with national teachers union president Randi Weingarten and half a dozen City Council members. The march was designed to dramatize the argument that opponents of Bloomberg are making in response to his budget, which calls for laying off more than 4,000 teachers. In a year when Wall Street’s recovery contributed to a citywide surplus, they ask, why are teachers being laid off? “I never expected to come home to see New York act like Wisconsin,” Weingarten told the screaming crowd. Bloomberg has blamed the draconian budget on state cuts and pointed out that the surplus this year is not large enough to plug projected gaps next year — an assessment the Independent Budget Office seconded in a recent analysis.
April 12, 2011
New school construction estimates rise slightly after dropping
Under Albany's new budget agreement, New York City's school capital plan will regain roughly 12,000 seats — a boon to school officials who expected harsher cuts, but a number that does not meet earlier demand estimates. In November of last year, city officials estimated that they would need to increase earlier seat construction projections in the face of overcrowding in schools. At the time, they planned for 50,074 new seats to be built by 2014, many of them in elementary and middle schools where demand had ballooned. Then came a proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo to cap state spending on school construction aid. The plan would have significantly reduced the state's contribution. To absorb the cut, city officials said they wouldn't be able to build thousands of the seats they had planned on — a decision that would have affected schools in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Riverdale, Bronx, the most. But now that Cuomo's proposal has not been included in the budget agreement, the numbers have changed again. With $1.7 billion more to spend on school construction, the city can now afford to build about 26,500 seats, instead of the roughly 14,000 it had planned on. City officials said that more information about which neighborhoods would benefit from the seat construction increase, and which would not feel any effect, would be released tomorrow.
March 18, 2011
Analysis details cuts — and some increases — planned for 2012
Spending going directly to schools would decrease along with the number of teachers in the city, while spending on instructional administration, transportation, and school food would all increase if Mayor Bloomberg's proposed 2012 budget is passed. Those are among the findings of an analysis of the mayor's proposed 2012 budget released by the Independent Budget Office today. The budget also calls for cutting spending on general education and special education instruction by between 1 and 2 percent and making large cuts to funds for school facilities and safety. The cuts to classroom spending include the loss of more than 6,000 teaching positions, with more than 4,600 of those positions lost through layoffs. Meanwhile, spending on the DOE's central administration would grow by 10 percent from this school year, though it would still be lower than it was between 2005 and 2010. The IBO analysis also predicts that the city will have a slightly smaller surplus to roll over into next year than the Bloomberg administration has estimated, $2.9 billion compared to the mayor's estimate of $258 million more. The surplus has attracted attention from the teachers union, which points to its existence to argue that the mayor shouldn't have to lay off teachers. But the analysis shows that neither surplus would be enough to use to plug the projected 2012 shortfall.
March 24, 2010
Klein lays out which teachers would be fired first to cut budget
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein argued before the City Council today that firing teachers, perhaps en masse, is the only strategy left to handle expected budget gaps next school year. "There is very little fat left to trim," Klein said, discussing a gap that his top budget official said will be at least $600 million and at worst $1.2 billion. It's still unclear whether state budget cuts to education will necessitate layoffs at the scale Klein described — a total of 8,500 teachers in the most draconian scenario. The state legislature is working towards an April 1 deadline to pass a budget, and while the Senate and governor's proposed budget would cost the city schools more than $400 million at a minimum, the Assembly is reportedly planning far less severe cuts. But at the City Council today Klein stuck to his doomsday predictions, outlining how the 8,500 layoffs would hit each school district. Under the state's current "last in, first out" method of cutting the most recently hired teachers first, neighborhoods from the South Bronx to the Upper East Side — which have the highest density population of younger teachers, due mainly to either high turnover rates or enrollment spikes — would lose nearly a fifth of their teachers immediately next year, Klein said. Eight other districts in those areas, mainly in Manhattan and the Bronx, would all lose more than 15 percent of their teachers to layoffs. (The Department of Education's full list of how each district would be affected by layoffs is below the jump.)
March 23, 2010
Under plan, city schools would lose more than $400M
https://gothamschools.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=35165Source: NYS Division of the Budget; NYC DOE The budget plan that the Senate passed yesterday essentially preserves the $1.1 billion in cuts to school aid statewide that Governor David Paterson proposed in January. That would mean a cut of over $400 million to the New York City schools for the next fiscal year, according to the state's Division of the Budget. And that figure doesn't even include cuts from the city that are likely to soar above $300 million. Under the plan, state funding to the city schools would drop to $7.95 billion, below the level of the 2007-2008 school year, when the historic funding increases triggered by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit began. (See the chart above.) The cuts are even more challenging considering that costs beyond the city's control like teacher pensions and salaries have skyrocketed in the last several years.
June 25, 2009
Principals are cutting positions, but no word yet on how many
A week after principals were required to submit their budgets for next year, the city still doesn't have an answer to the question of how many teachers are losing their positions because of budget cuts. That question is essential for the counterintuitive reason that positions cut at schools actually don't save the system any money. If a principal can't pay for a teacher, the teacher goes into a pool of "excessed" teachers whose salaries are paid by the department. That pool already contains more than 1,700 people and has been criticized as a burden on the city's budget. If the size of the pool swells because of the budget cuts, the department could end up shouldering thousands of teachers' salaries — all while the teachers aren't officially on a school's staff. Department of Education staff are still crunching the budget numbers, officials say. The department's chief operating officer, Photeine Anagnastopoulos, told me on Tuesday that the excess situation was shaping up to be "not as bad" as she and others had anticipated, particularly considering that principals haven't yet launched the bulk of their hiring for the fall. But a source familiar with the budget process says the numbers have been delayed because the department is "scrambling" to check principals' math about whether they need to cut positions. Staff at the department's service centers are "going over budgets in high-excess schools trying to negotiate fewer excesses," the source said.
June 19, 2009
No big boost for schools in budget up for City Council approval
Education-related budget adjustments proposed by the City Council. As the City Council hunkers down to vote on the city's budget today, it appears that schools aren't going to get a big last-minute budget boost. The council included about $25 million for the city schools in a list of budget adjustments (pdf) released last night. That's about a fifth of what the council added into last year's budget at the last minute, when it restored more than $120 million in budget cuts in addition to making sure council members' pet projects got funded. One restoration that looks like it will happen this year is for Teacher's Choice, the program that gives classroom teachers discretionary funds to use for supplies.
June 5, 2009
A principal explains how his 5 percent cut became 8.5 percent
The 4.9 percent figure that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has given for each school's budget cut seriously underestimates the severity of the cuts, especially at schools where teachers want to stay, a principal told me yesterday. When he first got his new budget from the Department of Education, the Brooklyn principal, who asked to remain anonymous, saw a cut of almost 5 percent, as Klein had warned. That amount was significant, but he could handle it. Things looked much worse when he saw that his expenses were also rising, by nearly the same amount that was being cut. In total, he said, his effective budget is set to drop by 8.5 percent, a size that means he will probably have to let go at least one teacher. The second surprise came when he realized what was driving the rising costs: The arguably good news that staff members at his school, from teachers to school secretaries to administrators, are sticking around. That means they have more years of experience than they have in the past — and therefore must be paid more, thanks to the salary structure in schools gives teachers and other employees, including the principal himself, more money every year they stay in the system. Klein explained the phenomenon at a recent City Council hearing on the Department of Education's proposed budget.
May 6, 2009
Elected officials target early childhood programs for rescue
Hundreds of parents, children, and day care workers protested proposed cuts to early childhood programs today at City Hall. (GothamSchools' Flickr) With the deadline for next year's city budget looming, elected officials are eyeing early-childhood centers slated to be cut under Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget as a key reduction to reverse. More than a dozen officials, including two mayoral candidates and three out of five borough presidents, decried the possible cuts today at a City Hall rally alongside hundreds of parents and workers associated with the centers. The proposal would cut the budgets of early-childhood programs and replace kindergarten programs currently operated outside of the school system with Department of Education kindergarten classes. The city says that moving the kindergartens is necessary in order to save the Administration for Children's Services $15 million. But parents today said that the current programs cover the burden of child-care in a way that schools, which end at 3 p.m. and are shuttered on holidays, cannot. The programs at risk of being shut are operated out of ACS, the city's social services arm for children, as part of larger daycare operations. Head Start, the early childhood program, is also slated to see its budget slashed by 3 percent. Desiree Jean-Mary said she is upset that her son, Joshua, who attends a Head Start program in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, might not be able to continue there next year when he enters kindergarten. Right now, Jean-Mary, who has two other children, picks Joshua up at 5 p.m. after her job as a home health aide is over for the day. “It would be really hard if I had to find somewhere else for him to go — I don’t want that,” she said.
May 6, 2009
No new hires, a cash-strapped DOE instructed principals today
Responding to shrinking budgets and rising costs, the Department of Education is putting in place what amounts to a systemwide teacher hiring freeze, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein informed principals today. Individual schools will still be able to use their budgets to add new teachers if they are able, but the DOE is planning to cut school budgets so far that many schools will have to shed teachers, DOE officials revealed. And any new hires, to replace teachers who leave, will have to come from teachers who are already in the system, according to new rules the department is implementing. Klein informed principals about the hiring restrictions, which the department says should allow it to avoid actually laying off teachers, this morning during a Webcast and just now in a memo, which is included at the end of this post. The department is planning to give principals more detailed information about their schools' budgets during the week of May 18. Speaking to reporters today, a top DOE official, Photeine Anagnostopoulos, said she could not predict how many schools would need to eliminate teachers but said that a "high percentage" might be able to cut their budgets sufficiently by reducing non-teaching staff and axing programs. She said "the goal" for the department is for all schools to make the same percentage cut to their budgets. That size of that cut has not yet been finalized, she said, adding that principals would ultimately have discretion about how to cut their own budgets. The new restrictions require principals to fill vacancies created by attrition by picking up current teachers who are either in a classroom elsewhere in the city or in the existing pool of excessed teachers, which already includes about 1,100 teachers.
May 6, 2009
Why the class-size-reduction money failed to reduce class sizes
The chart plots a dot for every school that received state money to create new classrooms. The dot represents the amount of money the school received, and the amount that the school's average class size changed. (Data via the Department of Education) We've already reported that average class sizes citywide did not decline last year, despite an infusion of money meant to reduce them. New data suggest the same relationship happens at the school level: Even schools that reported spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on class-size reduction efforts, such as creating new classrooms, did not necessarily see a drop in average class sizes. Rather, while some schools that reported investing in new classrooms did end up reducing class sizes on average, others actually saw their average class size go up. The data, provided by the Department of Education following a tug-of-war that you might recall, are summarized in the graph above and in a searchable file available here. The major challenge, according to the schools official who compiled the data, Tania Shinkawa, is not that principals didn't spend the money as they were supposed to, but that even that pot of money didn't guarantee that they could lower class sizes across the board. Take Bronx elementary school PS 57, which reported that it spent $190,000 to open new classes. Let's be generous and say that the money could pay for three additional teachers. That could go a long way toward reducing class sizes in three grade levels. But would it necessarily lower the entire school's average class size? No.
May 1, 2009
Weingarten: Mayor's budget is "responsible" but not enough
United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten isn't in a fighting mood. Last week, she made a splash when she first said charter schools can be incubators for good ideas in school reform. Yesterday, she offered an olive branch to one of her chief adversaries, the charter school operator Eva Moskowitz. And today, she issued a statement calling Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget "thoughtful and responsible." The proposed budget might still be harmful to schools, Weingarten implies in the statement:Our schools have already absorbed cuts upwards of 10% over the last two years, and teachers are already doing more with less every day to provide a safe, nurturing environment for their students. Important after school programs such as tutoring and academic intervention services have already been affected. Additional cutbacks have the potential to dramatically alter the landscape, and attrition may mean jumps in class size. Weingarten also argues against the creation of a new pension tier that would provide reduced benefits for employees hired in the future, something Bloomberg has been pushing to cut city costs. Earlier this spring, the UFT announced that it had identified ways for the city to save millions of dollars that would make a new pension tier unnecessary. Weingarten's complete statement is after the jump.
April 28, 2009
Principals will learn about a bleak financial situation tomorrow
School principals and reporters will be briefed on the Department of Education's financial situation tomorrow — and the outlook is likely to include "huge, gigantic cuts," according to a City Council source. The briefing will come one day before Mayor Bloomberg is scheduled to release his 2010 budget proposal. An April 8 memo from the city's budget director asked the DOE to cut 1.5 percent from its proposed operating budget through layoffs or attrition. The cuts will come on top of $251 million that the mayor proposed slashing from the DOE when he first released a 2010 budget plan, in January. The DOE has already revised its budget down $1.9 billion in the last year, down over 10 percent. This new 1.5 percent cut would chop off about $260 million more. The city cuts will be much more manageable thanks to an influx of federal stimulus dollars to the city schools. But a City Council source said that, as currently proposed, they will still be dramatic. "There's huge, gigantic cuts proposed in the city's school budget, and unless there's some miraculous turnaround in the economic forecast, I don't think anyone expects an increase in city funds going to schools," the source said.
April 24, 2009
That $30M relief fund to charter schools could get smaller
We reported yesterday that charter schools, which were disappointed by an unexpected freeze in their budgets for next year, are going to be getting some…
April 1, 2009
Comptroller: Taxpayer dollars "squandered" on DOE contracts
The worst examples of overspending on DOE contracts, according to Comptroller William Thompson. Department of Education contracts routinely cost the city far more than initially estimated, according to an analysis that City Comptroller William Thompson issued just before today's City Council hearing. The under-estimations could be costing taxpayers a fortune in the price of things like Xerox machines and cafeteria equipment, whose prices could be negotiated at much lower rates if the city could accurately predict just how much schools would end up using them. One out of every five DOE contracts that ended in the last two years went over its estimated cost by at least 25 percent, according to Thompson's analysis. In the most egregious overrun, a contract with Xerox Corporation to lease copy machines to schools ended up costing the taxpayers more than $67 million. It had been estimated at a cost of $1 million. In a crossly worded letter sent to Chancellor Joel Klein today, Thompson, a mayoral candidate who has been highlighting public school issues as part of his criticism of Mayor Bloomberg, called the overruns part of a "troubling pattern of mismanagement" at the department. Department of Education officials strongly disputed Thompson's accusations and his figures in an interview and in testimony to the City Council today. The contracts at issue, called "requirements" contracts, can stretch above their estimated costs because they never actually set a total amount of services to be provided. Instead, they set a certain price for the service — say, renting a copy machine, or of placing a classified ad — and let the number of times the department will buy the service stay open-ended.
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