Monday, April 23, 2007

Mayor Bloomberg and UFT Reach Agreement on Schools Reorganization

Here are some highlights of the agreement announced at the press conference on Friday.

No Budget Cuts For Two Years

The Chancellor and DoE staffers responsible for the Fair Student Funding proposal have argued that many schools receive too much funding. Fair Student Funding would have cut some budgets while raising others. Despite record city surpluses, DoE was intent on taking these budget actions that many feared would destabilize successful schools -- as Deputy Chancellor Grimm told parents at a District 2 CEC public meeting, "there will be winners and losers". Under last week's agreement, the Mayor guaranteed that no school will have its budget cut in the next two years. For the many schools who would have seen large cuts, this retreat on the part of the administration is important.

Joint Planning for Class Size Reduction

New state law requires the Bloomberg administration to develop a five year plan to reduce class sizes in all grades. Under the agreement, the administration pledged to "work with the UFT, and other stakeholders, such as New Yorkers for Smaller Classes to develop a joint set of recommendations on how best to implement the law". Given the administration's past refusal to reduce class size or to engage anyone on this issue, their statement that they will proceed in cooperation with others represents a change in their public stance and may lead to progress. New Yorkers for Smaller Classes is a coalition chaired by Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez of the Hispanic Federation and includes the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), Class Size Matters, the NAACP, CPAC, ACORN, as well as many other parent and advocacy groups.

Increased Funding for English Language Learners (ELL)

The weighting for ELL students will increase compared to the original Fair Student Funding proposal, resulting in more funding for each student. A reserve fund will be established to ensure sufficient money is available should the new funding methodology leave gaps as it is implemented.

Parent Engagement

The agreement calls for a committee chaired by the DoE's Chief Family Engagement Officer and comprised of parent groups, to "design improved systems and processes for parent engagement, and specifically, to ensure that every school has a well functioning and well trained School Leadership Team".

Commitment to Engage on Issues


On several other issues -- middle school reform, teacher tenure and student success centers -- the administration pledged to work closely with various relevant advocacy and parent groups, as well as other stakeholders, including the City Council, going forward.


For parents, the agreement is a bit of a mixed bag. There are significant concessions and a welcome willingness on the part of the administration to take input from a wider group of stakeholders. These openings need to be pursued in good faith. At the same time, none of the elected parent organizations mandated by state and city regulations to represent parents were mentioned in the discussion of issues that are tremendously important to parents. The citywide elected parent organizations -- Chancellors Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC), Citywide Council on High Schools (CCHS) and Citywide Council on Special Education (CCSE) -- were clearly not parties to the agreement, nor were the Community Education Councils that represent parents in each of the 32 school districts. Many of these bodies have passed resolutions that address important issues not included in the agreement, for example excessive testing, the poor state of special ed services, the reckless pace of the incessant restructurings, etc. There is clearly much more that needs to be done.

The press release detailing the agreement can be found here.

3 comments:

Robert S Johnson said...

Patrick

"No Budget Cuts For Two Years"

To my mind this was a typical negotiating ploy. Ask for something you know that you won't get and when you give it back you look as if you are conceding something.

"Parent Engagement

The agreement calls for a committee chaired by the DoE's Chief Family Engagement Officer and comprised of parent groups, to "design improved systems and processes for parent engagement, and specifically, to ensure that every school has a well functioning and well trained School Leadership Team"."

Have you read Martine's exchanges with Marge Kolb on the CPAC list serve? She will pick and chose her "parent groups" to make sure that they are flexible and compliant

"Given the administration's past refusal to reduce class size or to engage anyone on this issue, their statement that they will proceed in cooperation with others represents a change in their public stance and may lead to progress."

As you note this is a new state law. They announce they will obey the law and this is a concession?

"Commitment to Engage on Issues

On several other issues -- middle school reform, teacher tenure and student success centers -- the administration pledged to work closely with various relevant advocacy and parent groups, as well as other stakeholders, including the City Council, going forward."

I am sorry but a "pledge to work closely etc." is meaningless. It holds the administration to nothing.

Robert S Johnson

Daniel Millstone said...

My father used to say that agreements, like the one announced between Mayor Bloomberg and the UFT and some allied groups, are reports of the state of the struggle among contending groups. If you, I, the UFT and the CSA keep focus and keep pushing, the agreement may produce some change. If we think the effort is over, Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein will treat this like one more press release.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Robert,

Thank you for taking the time to rebut my comments. I know many parents, especially leaders like yourself must feel as you do.

Regarding budget cuts, I looked at all the Fair Student Funding material and heard what Klein, Robert Gordon and the Mayor had to say repeatedly about some schools getting too much and I still believe they would and will try to cut budgets. We have a respite here.

Regarding parent engagement, I did read Martine's exchange with Marge closely as well as what she has said in her press interviews. I do understand her point that many other organizations have legitimacy in the eyes of parents. That's probably because the community school boards had failed them. I don't think CPAC and CECs need an invitation to these discussions -- they have legal authority to represent parents. But I won't hold her to what she said in an email and am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. She seems to rightly be more focused on helping parents who interact with DoE to get better services for their kids. I hope she succeeds because the restructuring of the support organizations will be highly destabilizing and harm many children. Those calls will go to her and I'm glad she's there.

I feel the strongest about the class size point. They can go through the motions of complying with the state law without ever talking to a parent, advocate, CEC or CPAC. Given the DoE's control over capital budgeting, facilities management and hiring, it's simply not possible to have real progress if they don't work cooperatively. The only cap on class size is the UFT contract. We need to take both the DoE and the UFT up on the offer to participate. It will be clear very early if Klein is not going to honor that commitment.

Finally, as Tim Johnson points out, they didn't reach an agreement with any of the elected parent organizations. Given this was a deal with the UFT, I do think parents got some help.

Patrick