Friday, March 9, 2007

I beg to differ...

I hate to contradict my fellow blogger, Daniel Millstone, especially since we'll be sitting together on the bus to Albany for five hours on Tuesday, but the Spitzer education proposal is nowheresville in terms of either class size or real accountability.

Spitzer would eliminate the only dedicated class size funding stream we have -- the state class size program for K-3 -- and would give Tweed free rein to keep wasting money on ineffective and at times counterproductive school restructuring programs. (School restructuring was not on the original list of approved programs, but was apparently put on the list at the request of the Bloomberg administration.) Instead of class sizes going down -- as was promised by CFE-- class sizes could actually go up.

We don't need to wait any longer to know that the Bloom/Klein solutions aren't working.We need more strings attached, we need smaller classes, we need real local and parental input, and we need more oversight.

The Spitzer plan does not provide any of this. His whole notion of accountability mirrors Bloomberg's and Klein's in many ways -- a lot of bluster and tough guy talk. All it would give us is more of the same.

What's the parent/public participation in the plan? The DOE has to hold one public hearing in each borough. That's it. If you think the recent public meetings on the weighted funding proposal have shown that this is likely to change their minds, you must not be paying attention.

If the test scores don't go up enough, they can continue to close more schools rather than improve them, do more ineffectual restructuring, and meanwhile, the kids will continue to suffer.

The Nolan/Lancman bill would at last promise us smaller classes -- which would be a tremendous step forward and would give NYC children for the first time a real opportunity to succeed. None of this will happen if we continue to pretend that the Spitzer plan is anything but deeply flawed.


Daniel Millstone said...

Disagreement is just fine.

In my view, we should vigorously support the adoption of the imperfect Spitzer budget.

In the words of the late, lamented, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King (uttered as I recall about the 1964 civil rights act): "It ain't what it could be and it ain't what it should be but great God almighty it's better than what it was."

As I see it, the proposed Spitzer Education Budget is better than what the NYS education budget was. It's a good step.

Can it be improved? Yes. Should it be improved? Yes, especially, in my view, with regard requiring Mr. Bloomberg to devote significant resources to reducing class size.

Every indication is that we have a good chance of winning the class size reduction -- but -- as I see it, that will be meaningless without the extra billions the Spitzer budget promises for NYC schools.

Patrick Sullivan said...


It is unfortunate that the CFE judgment specifically pointed to three deficiencies - class size, teacher retention and instrumentalities of learning (computers, etc.) but now we have a menu of different spending options, some with no evidence to support their efficacy. We can't keep teachers if we have 34 kids in a class and nearby school systems have 20. Even Joe Bruno said that our class sizes are too big. Why do we still have to make the case?

Daniel Millstone said...

Patrick, the reason we still have to fight for smaller class size is Bloomberg/Klein control of the schools. All of the professional educators have departed, starting with the sorely missed Michelle Cahill.

The people in place are ex-contractors like Mr. Cerf who propose privatizing many school functions. For them, as I see it, our schools are a financial opportunity.

But we can win the class size fight.