1. On Wed., the Panel for Educational Policy was scheduled to meet and vote on several huge contracts, including school busing for $200 million for March and another $200 million for April, though all buses have been idle since mid-March. The DOE had told Panel members they were legally obligated to pay 85% of the costs, though the NYC Comptroller disputed this. Shortly before the Panel meeting was due to begin, I got word that the busing contracts had been kicked off the agenda and postponed till the following month. Then when the meeting began on Adobe Connect, the technical problems were so immense with DOE officials and Panel members unable to hear one other that it was soon ended. I describe the chaos that ensued here.
That meeting has now been rescheduled for Thursday May 6 at 6 PM. Instructions on how to join will soon be listed under the link for that date, according to the DOE. I urge all of you to join if you can, and provide comment against the spending on busing, though that contract may now be held during the May 20 meeting, as well as on other excessive, unneeded contracts still on the agenda, whether that means millions of dollars for professional development that's not being used, nurses to be hired on staff this year when schools are closed and hundreds of DOE nurses are sitting at home at this time, and pricey consultants. So far, neither the Panel members nor DOE have answered any of the questions I posed here.
DOE has told others they have not yet decided whether to go ahead with the bus contracts for the rest of the year. What we don't know is if they have already paid for March and April -- even though the spending for these months was never approved by the PEP. The Daily News reported yesterday that the state "has stopped reimbursing the city for the 44% of school transportation costs it usually covers," which is yet another reason for the city to stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars for unused busing in this time of fiscal crisis.
2. Speaking of fiscal crisis, today is my birthday and I'm hoping that you might make a donation to our organization. Though usually I try to refrain as much as possible from making these pitches, I am very worried about Class Size Matters' funding at this time. It is unlikely that we will be able to hold our usual Skinny dinner fundraiser dinner in June; and last year, our proceeds from this dinner were stolen by our online processor, NYCharities, as you may recall.
Aside from individual donations, we are also supported by City Council discretionary grants, though now we've been told that Class Size Matters may not be reimbursed for any expenses past mid-March unless we are deemed an "essential service." Our Council funding next year is also at doubt, given the city's fiscal situation. So please, if you can afford it, consider making a tax-deductible contribution today, to help us continue our work.
3. Finally, I had a great discussion with advocate Matt Gonzales and parent leader Naomi Pena on my WBAI "Talk out of School" show on Wednesday, about the many challenges facing families with remote learning and the city's new grading system. You can download the podcast here.
Next Wednesday at 10 AM, I will be interviewing UFT President Michael Mulgrew on how he would like schools to be reconfigured next year to ensure the health and safety of his members, and maximize the academic and emotional support they provide to students who will need this help more than ever before. I will ask him if smaller classes should be part of the equation, as he suggested in a recent interview with NPR, and as several countries and other states have proposed.
If you have other questions I should ask him, please reply to this message and I will try to ask as many as I can.
--Stay safe, Leonie