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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Panel for Educational Policy Votes on DoE's Contract for Excellence

New York City's Panel for Educational Policy met Monday night and reviewed the DoE's plan for the Contract for Excellence. The contract is the formal plan required to by state law to be filed with the state education department (SED) in order for NYC to receive additional funding due to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

From my perspective as the panel representative of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the DoE proposal is deeply flawed and is essentially a repackaging of what they had always intended to do. Testimony I gave on behalf of the Borough President last week is here and you can see what others said here. During Monday's meeting, I focused my questions on the specific areas where the plan violates either the law creating the contracts or the SED regulations specifying the content of the contracts.

First, the law requires the class size reduction plan to be focused on "overcrowded and low performing" schools. The DoE plan uses their Fair Student Funding formula to allocate funds. This approach considers neither overcrowding nor school performance. Second, there is no alignment of the capital plan with the money being given to schools to reduce class size. In many cases principals are getting more money but don't have space to add classes. Despite the fact that this alignment is required under the state regulations, DoE has been quite clear in saying there is no construction funding to reduce class sizes below the limits of the contract with the teachers union. Third, the DoE proposal directs large sums of money for testing, assessments and coaching school staff on interpreting tests. This spending is not an allowed use of state funds under the regulations.

While a vote was not scheduled and the Law Department insisted one was not required, I made a motion to hold a vote. As the oversight board for the city's school system, we have the responsibility under state law for reviewing and approving major policy decisions. Chancellor Klein allowed the vote, with the plan getting approved. I voted against it, the Queens representative, Michael Flowers abstained and everyone else-- the mayor's appointees and representatives of the Bronx and Staten Island approved it.

If you have a minute, watch this video of the proceedings filmed by District 1 parent Noel Bush. It is certainly a disappointing performance given the importance of the topic, the final resolution of a fourteen year fight for the funding city kids are owed under the constitution.

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