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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Big cuts in new seats, despite overcrowding crisis, with DOE spinning as a "restoration"

See this DOE press release on their “new” revised amended five year capital plan, which they try to spin as a major restoration, but is really a huge cut.

  • In the Feb. 2010 plan (which was adopted in June), the DOE said they would fund 30,000 new seats at $4B, which we clearly knew was insufficient based upon rapidly increased enrollment and overcrowding.
  • Then, in their proposed Nov. 2010 amendment, they said they needed to increase this amount to 50,000 new seats at $7.4 billion (including 2300 seats for design only); the first time they admitted the reality of the overcrowding crisis already upon us. (Strangely enough, this document has now suddenly been removed from the SCA website.)
  • In their Feb. 2011 plan, they threatened to cut way back on new seats because the governor threatened to cap reimbursement, to build only 20,000 new seats total (with 6,000 of these funded for design only) , spending only $1.7 billion for new capacity.
  • And now that the governor’s proposal to cap reimbursement was thoroughly rejected by the Legislature, they are still cutting way back to only 28,866 new school seats, plus 2,314 seats in design, for a total of 31,000 seats.
What kind of thinking leads to such erratic, and inexplicable lurches in one direction to another? Is there something toxic in the air at Tweed?

What happened since? Did the state change their reimbursement formula or amount? No.

Did the city’s financial picture significantly change since November? No.

Did enrollment suddenly decline? No.

Did the DOE change their projections based on the fact that now, ONE QUARTER of all elementary schools now have waiting lists for Kindergarten? Unlikely.

Or maybe they just want to spend billions of dollars on technology, so kids don’t ever have to have a seat in a real school but can stay at home and get “virtual learning” instead?

The full capital plan will be released tomorrow on the SCA website. Check it out and also check out the amount to be spent on technology “enhancements”, which in the Nov. 2010 plan included a total of $1.8 billion for technology, with $1B to be spent in FY 2012 alone. In the Feb.2011 plan, this was “cut back” to $957 million, with $540 million on technology to be spent in FY 2012 alone. Which is yet another disaster waiting to happen.

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