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Thursday, May 24, 2007

New DoE Budget: Klein Signals Early Defiance of New State Law

The DoE operating budget for next year was unveiled this week at two events, the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on Monday and a joint session of the City Council Education and Finance Committees on Tuesday. While there was no press coverage, there was important news:

First, the budget for next year will include a substantial increase of more than a billion dollars: $16.9 billion vs. $15.8 billion last year.

Second, the state has made funds available to settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) case, whereby the state was ordered to address unconstitutional deficiencies in our schools. Under the terms of the new state education law requiring a "Contract for Excellence" with each district, these funds are to be spent in five areas: full-day pre-K, class size reduction, time on task, middle/high school restructuring and principal/teacher quality.

Unfortunately, Chancellor Klein seemed to signal that he was reluctant to comply with an important aspect of the new state law regarding class size reduction. Under the law, the city is required to submit a five year plan to reduce class sizes in all grades -- and start lowering class size starting next year. When questioned at both the PEP and City Council, the Chancellor, disagreed, saying no such plan was required, at least not for this year. Also disturbing was an exchange with Education Chairman Robert Jackson, the lead plaintiff in the CFE lawsuit brought thirteen years ago:
Jackson: You would agree that putting two teachers in a classroom is not class size reduction?

Klein: No, I disagree.
When questioned, Klein could not say how much money was being directed to smaller classes or how he intended to achieve them, given the overcrowding that exists in many schools. His plan seemed to consist of little more than providing principals with more money, who he thought would probably hire more teachers if they had the space. As evidence he pointed to how Empowerment Zone schools hired more teachers with their funds in prior years. He did not, however, mention that many of those same schools were sent more children as a result.

Finally, despite a budget increase of more than a billion dollars, DoE will be cutting the lunch service budget in elementary schools by $5 million. Deputy Chancellor Grimm explained the same staff would be retained but paid fewer hours.

Click here for the budget presentation and here for the text of the state education law. (Scroll down to section "S 211-D" for the new part)


Norm said...

"Unfortunately, Chancellor Klein seemed to signal that he was reluctant to comply with an important aspect of the new state law regarding class size reduction."

Think it's time to call for a rally?

NYC Educator said...

It's my experience that the Chancellor sends more kids whether or not the principal hires more teachers, and whether or not there is space to put them. I've actually had an oversize class "reduced" by the addition of another teacher.

We're a good school, but we will not be able to sustain indefinite overcrowding. No one could, really. But our school and our jobs are at peril as a direct result of this policy, aimed to satisfy I have no idea who or what.