Friday, June 27, 2008

Manhattan President Scott Stringer -- Letter on PEP Budget Vote



June 26th, 2008

Dear Manhattan Public School Parents:

On Monday, June 23rd, the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted
on the executive budget for New York City public schools. As may
already know, my appointee to the PEP, Patrick Sullivan, voted
against the proposed budget, and I am writing to share with you the
reasons that Patrick and I felt it necessary to vote no.

The state law is clear from my perspective. The PEP is
supposed to "approve an estimate of the total sum of money deemed
necessary for school operations in the next fiscal year." The
budget presented by the Chancellor of the Department of Education
(DOE) would require cuts to all schools, some ranging from five
percent or higher. The proposed budget with these cuts would, in my
view, not be sufficient to fund school operations. Consequently,
pursuant to the PEP's duties as outlined in state law, Patrick and I
felt he simply could not approve of the proposed budget.
Furthermore, rather than propose an estimated budget that sets forth
the funding to meet schools' needs, it appears that the Chancellor's
budget instead starts with the funding provided by the Mayor and
reduces expenditures until a balance is achieved. This is not the
way state law dictates the budget should be presented to the PEP,
the Mayor and the City Council for approval.

My concern is that the proposed budget will require cuts to
essential programs such as academic intervention and tutoring,
including programs for those students at risk of being held back
under the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth grade retention
policies, arts, music, sports, enrichment programs, advanced
placement courses, after school programs, professional development,
technology, libraries, and classroom supplies. Many schools facing
the deepest cuts would likely lose teaching staff as well.

The lack of disclosure and transparency also made it extremely
difficult to assess the sufficiency of the budgeted funding. DOE
refused to provide budget code level detail (which would provide
information about the cuts or lack of cuts taking place at the
central level) or respond in writing to Patrick's questions about
cost increases.

What we do know about DOE's itemized $963 million in cost increases,
however, is cause for concern. DOE has embarked upon a series of
initiatives that are all extremely expensive including the retention
of thousands of students, the ramp-up in standardized testing and
test prep, the creation of charter schools, the expansion of
collaborative team teaching (CTT) classes, and the restructuring of
large high schools into small high schools. While some of these
programs are clearly beneficial and the efficacy of others is
subject to debate, the fact is that each one alone costs hundreds of
millions of dollars annually. The decision to proceed
simultaneously with many expensive initiatives while the mayor has
asked DOE to reduce its budget by $428 million raises questions
about the fiscal management of the school system. While we are
fortunate to have an additional $608 million in state funding, our
oversight of finances must be rigorous if we are to avoid harmful
cuts to the classroom.

My hope is that the Mayor and City Council can work together to
achieve an education budget that does not affect the quality of
education provided to Manhattan's children. I will join parents in
asking that the final budget restore the cuts and thus the City's
commitment to its children.

Very truly yours,
Scott M. Stringer

Manhattan Borough President

NEW YORK, NY 10007
PHONE (212) 669-8300
FAX (212) 669-4305
bp@manhattanbp. org

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