Thursday, January 24, 2008

Four things to hate about the Spitzer education budget

1- He would give about $100 million less than he pledged last year to NYC schools. These funds are their due from the settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

2- The limited amount in additional operating aid he gives with one hand, he takes away with the other, by delaying reimbursement for school construction – which is the last thing we need, when the city has to be encouraged to build more schools more quickly to alleviate overcrowding and reduce class size. This will give them all the excuses they need not to improve the capital plan.

3- The promise of transparency and stability that was supposed to come with a new school aid formula -- one that would be less prone to political manipulation year after year and that would more equitably fund NYC schools -- has entirely vanished.

4- Last but not least, the extra operating aid would come in the form of an unrestricted grant – with no strings attached, unlike the portion of the CFE settlement called Contracts for excellence -- that was actually supposed to be directed to specific programs that research shows actually work, like class size reduction. With this money the city could instead spend it on more testing, cash rewards tied to test scores, more consultants, higher salaries at Tweed, or really any new fad that strikes their fancy.

Paul Francis, Spitzer's director of operations, told New York Sun that the governor's decision to give the city much of these funds in the form of a unrestricted grant was the result of a compromise "between the desire of the city to have unrestricted funds and the desire of the advocacy community to have all the money subject to the Contracts for Excellence."

To the contrary, we need more accountability, not less, with these precious funds. This money belongs to the children of NYC, not to the Governor, the Mayor or Joel Klein; and it must be spent in a way that gives them their constitutional right to an adequate education – including smaller classes in all grades.

We have a lot of work to do, with both the state and the city, to ensure that the promise to our children of smaller classes embodied in the 12 long years of the battle for education equity is actually fulfilled. Stay tuned.

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