Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Problems with DOE's proposed "plan" for Contract for Excellence funds, lack of public input, and upcoming hearings

Update 7/21/21:  The DOE has provided an email [ContractsForExcellence@schools.nyc.gov] to use to send in written comments on their proposed "plan", with a deadline of Sept. 3, 2021, but has provided no additional details concerning what their entire "plan" for more than $1 billion in state funds actually entails.

 Late Friday, the DOE finally posted a schedule for Contract for Excellence  (C4E) borough hearings, in response to a letter from Wendy Lecker of the Ed Law Center and I sent nearly a month ago, urging them to schedule timely hearings and to take public input seriously in their plan, as the C4E law requires.   

The first hearing is this Thursday, July 22 in Brooklyn at 6:30 PM at:

Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women, 283 Adams Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11201

Other hearings will follow the week of Aug. 2-Aug 5 in the other four boroughs:

Monday, August 2, 2021 – Bronx - PS 306 - 40 West Tremont Avenue, Bronx, NY 10453

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 – Staten Island - The Michael J. Petrides School, 715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301, - ABP Hall of Science

Wednesday,  August 4, 2021 – Queens - P.S. 212 - 34-25 82nd St, Queens, NY 11372

Thursday, August 5, 2021 – Manhattan - Isaac Newton Middle School for Math & Science, 260 Pleasant Avenue, New York, NY 10029, 2nd floor auditorium 

Wendy Lecker and I followed up with two emails to Robin Singer, DOE attorney, that are below.

Wendy wrote that allocating all the additional C4E funds to Fair Student Funding (FSF) as the DOE said they would do in this summary does not comply with the C4E law, in that the law requires the spending in six specific areas, including class size reduction, while FSF provides principals with almost unlimited flexibility as to the use of these funds.

This lack of adherence to the intent and language of the law is more important than ever as the city will be getting about $530M in additional C4E funds this year, approximately doubling the usual amount, following the Legislature’s decision to fully fund the CFE decision over the next three years. 

My email points out additional problems, including much missing financial information in what is provided online about how DOE proposes to use these funds, and no information as to how the public can provide comments via writing, which the regs require.

We have additional serious concerns regarding DOE’s explicit allowance of the supplanting of city funds, meaning the  C4E funds used to replace funding cut by the city, which is prohibited by law.  There are also real problems with the way in which the  Contracts for Excellence School Allocation memo allows principals to use these funds to support all sorts of activities and programs that are not specified in the C4E law.

If people are able to speak at the Brooklyn hearing or subsequent ones, please let us know by emailing info@classsizematters.org  If so, we’d be happy to supply you with some talking points which you can use if you like.

Also: School Leadership Teams are supposed to be meeting over the summer to give input about how their schools will use of the additional Fair Student funding.  These meetings are supposed to be open to any parent or community member who would like to attend.  If you are a SLT member or are a parent or teacher who would like to urge your school to use these additional funds to lower class size, please let us know.

Thanks Leonie


From: leoniehaimson@gmail.com <leoniehaimson@gmail.com>
Sent: Monday, July 19, 2021 3:27 PM
To: RSinger4@schools.nyc.gov
Cc: Chancellor Meisha Porter <nycchancellor@schools.nyc.gov>; Commissioner@nysed.gov; Regent.Young@nysed.gov; LOates@schools.nyc.gov; JNathan@schools.nyc.gov; 'O'Hanlon Katie' <KOhanlon4@schools.nyc.gov>; Wendy Lecker <WLecker@EdlawCenter.org>; 'Schanback Benjamin' <BSchanback@schools.nyc.gov>; 'Tan Ling' <LTan@schools.nyc.gov>; Leonie Haimson 

Subject: Additional problems with Contracts for Excellence lack of information

Dear Ms. Singer –

Along with the overarching, critical legal issues that Wendy references below, we have additional concerns  with the failure of DOE to provide sufficient information posted late Friday on the C4E page here.  

1. There are no instructions as to how people can send in comments via email, and/or a time frame to do so.   DOE is required by the Commissioner’s regulations to provide the opportunity the public to provide written comment.  Given Covid, many parents may be even more reluctant to testify in person than before, so it is crucial to facilitate the submission of written comments to DOE’s 2021-22 plan

Moreover, there is a lack of information available that impedes the public’s ability to submit meaningful comments to DOE’s C4E plan.   The points below relate to the DOE’s failure to provide this information:  

2. DOE has not yet posted its proposed plan.

3n  3.  There is no information showing the total amount of C4E funds subject to the City’s spending plan,  and how the DOE proposes to distribute these funds  between district vs school-based programs – for example, unlike this presentation from 2019-2020 -- Proposed Citywide Plan Borough Wide Presentation

4.   4.   While DOE has posted links to some budgetary information, it is not complete.  One of the memos to which the DOE links that is said to utilize C4E funds, Integrated co-teaching ( School Allocation Memorandum No. 01, FY 2022) is not posted; instead there is an error code when the link is clicked.  The autism spectrum disorder program memo (SAM No. 20) has no information as to how much of the total funding is being charged to C4E. 

5. There are only two memos that reference the allocation of C4E funds - (SAM No. 26) for 3K and Prek, with $9M charged to C4E funding; and a school-specific Contracts for Excellence School Allocation  memo that totals  $214,191,850.  The two together add up to only about $223M out of what we estimate to be over a billion dollars in C4E funding that DOE is receiving from the state this school year. 

6.  The C4E memo also says this: To obtain class size calculations, please refer to the Class Size Report with purported class sizes from last year.  FYI, DOE never reported class sizes accurately in a disaggregated fashion last year, despite several promises to do so.  Instead, the class sizes in this report were extremely low and appear to reflect in-person, socially distanced class sizes only.

 Yours, Leonie Haimson for Class Size Matters and Wendy Lecker for Education Law Center

From: Wendy Lecker <WLecker@edlawcenter.org>
Date: Friday, July 16, 2021 at 4:18 PM
To: Singer Robin <RSinger4@schools.nyc.gov>, "leonie@classsizematters.org" <leonie@classsizematters.org>
Cc: Chancellor Meisha Porter <NYCChancellor@schools.nyc.gov>, "Commissioner@nysed.gov" <Commissioner@nysed.gov>, "Regent.Young@nysed.gov" <Regent.Young@nysed.gov>, Oates Lindsey <LOates@schools.nyc.gov>, Schanback Benjamin <BSchanback@schools.nyc.gov>, Tan Ling <LTan@schools.nyc.gov>, Nathan Judy <JNathan@schools.nyc.gov>, O'Hanlon Katie <KOhanlon4@schools.nyc.gov>

Subject: Re: Contracts for Excellence Public Process

Dear Ms. Singer:
Thank you for your response to our letter regarding the C4E hearings.  However, we are quite concerned that DOE has already decided on how it will spend the C4E funds, and that its plan appears to violate C4E’s mandates. 

Since we sent our letter, we noted that the DOE’s plan as set forth in its Preliminary Update on American Rescue Plan (ARP-ESSER) & on Foundation Aid Funding is to allocate the entire increase in Foundation Aid of about $530 million next year towards  its Fair Student Funding (FSF) formula.  

The Contract for Excellence Law mandates that New York City spend these additional Foundation Aid funds in six specific categories enumerated in the law. (N.Y. Education Law 211-d §3.)  And yet, as the posted plan linked to above points out, FSF is the “most flexible funding stream for schools” and can be spent on nearly anything a school’s principal decides, with few if any restrictions.  This appears to directly contravene the language and the intent of the C4E law, which also requires that the final plan be adopted with the input of parents and educators. 

Especially as our schools are now receiving the full funding promised as a result of the court’s decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, it is more important than ever that these funds be spend as the law requires:  equitably and on programs proven to work to improve student outcomes, especially for disadvantaged students, and with the full participation of affected communities.

Wendy Lecker, Esq. (she/her)
Senior Attorney 
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102 


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