Saturday, February 21, 2009

Arne Duncan in NYC: is the federal stimulus bill a Trojan Horse?

The good news: Arne Duncan came to NYC, and appeared at a press conference with the mayor and Chancellor Klein. He promised about $535 million from the federal stimulus package for NYC public schools in each of the next two years, as well as $300 million for Title I, approximately $100 million for special education, and more than $25 million in educational technology funds. (For more details, see Wonkster, GothamSchools, NY Times City Room, and the NY Post.)

Bad news: Though this infusion of cash will help fill the gap in the city education budget, it will not address the cuts in state aid to our schools, which are estimated to be $700 million or more.

More bad news: The press conference was held at yet another charter school, Brooklyn Explore Charter School. Here is an excerpt from the DOE press release:

Named a National Charter School of the Year by the Center for Education Reform, Explore Charter earned an A on its 2007-2008 Progress Report. The school serves 425 students, and more than 1,700 families are on the school’s waiting list.

Unmentioned is the fact that this school also has class sizes of 16, according to Gotham Schools.

By relentlessly promoting the success of NYC charter schools -- that is, those schools that are not under their total control -- the administration appears to forget that they have denied the vast majority of our students who attend regular public schools the same advantages. In fact, at our regular public schools, class sizes greatly exceed state and national averages and grew even larger in nearly every grade this year – as a direct result of the DOE's obstinate failure to comply with state law, .

Even more bad news: At the press conference, Duncan gave lavish praise to the myriad "reforms" of the administration, and pledged to disperse lots of cash from his new $5 billion slush fund for all those programs pushed by the Klein administration – such as encouraging more teacher performance pay based on test scores, dysfunctional "data systems", and similar initiatives that, unlike smaller classes, do not benefit our kids.

For more on this, see Diane Ravitch in Politico:

…along comes Arne Duncan, our new Secretary of Education, and everything he has said to date might have just as well been said by Bush's Secretary Margaret Spellings. Duncan paid his visit to New York City and toured a charter school, not a regular public school. He declared that the nation's schools need more testing, as though we don't have enough information already to act on our problems. He declared his support for charter schools, where only 2% of the nation's children are enrolled...

It looks like Obama's education policy will be a third term for President George W. Bush. This is not change I can believe in.

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