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The Department of Education will be holding public hearings in every school district on this year's round of funding from Contracts for Excellence (C4E), the state legislation passed in 2007 to distribute the settlement proceeds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.
Contracts for Excellence funds target students with the greatest needs: English Language Learners, students in poverty, students with disabilities and those with low academic achievement. Funding is supposed to be spent in six specific program areas: class size reduction, time on task, teacher and principal quality initiatives, school restructuring, full day pre-K and ELL programs.
Parent leaders, education advocates and the United Federation of Teachers have charged that the city has not used C4E funding to reduce class sizes througout the city. In January 2010 , the United Federation of Teachers, NAACP, the Hispanic Federation and Class Size Matters joined with parent leaders in a lawsuit against Chancellor Joel I. Klein and the DOE for violating state law by not applying C4E funds to reduce class sizes.
The hearings come at an opportune time for parents, many of whom are first learning the extent to which classes, programs, and services have been slashed at their children's schools as a result of the latest round of budget cuts. With news that Race to the Top funds will not be spent to offset budget cuts, C4E funds will likely prove critical to many schools as they work to bolster student achievement -- a daunting task given the 2010 state test results released in late July and the raising of passing standards by the state.
You can read the DOE's proposed plan for the disbursal of C4E funds here. Over the next few weeks, each of the city’s 32 Community Education Councils will hold hearings for the public to offer their views on how C4E funds should be spent for the 2010-11 school year.
Planning to go attend a C4E hearing? Please let us know how it turned out by commenting below.
Until September 17, the Coalition will be accepting school supplies at locations around the city. Choose from a Wish List of items, including backpacks, crayons, pens, pencils, binders, and other "must have" supplies that you are probably buying for your own children this weekend!
Other ways to help? Attend a Friday night concert and poetry slam fund-raiser at Notice Lounge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You must be 21 to get in but the admission price is only $10. and all proceeds go towards buying school supplies. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Check the Coalition for the Homeless website for more details.
Insideschools also learned that the Gap clothing store has donated school clothes for children whose parents are unemployed, receiving food stamps, or homeless. Clothes will be distributed on Saturday, September 11, at Roy Wilkins Park, 119th Street and Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. The event, running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., is sponsored by the Greater Bethel Community Development Corporation. For more information, see the flier here.
If you know of other opportunities to help support homeless families and other students in need, please share below.
The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) has scheduled two meetings in late August to address unfinished business from its August 16 meeting that was cut short in response to a parent-led protest concerning the 2010 state test results.
August 30 meeting
The PEP will meet on Monday, August 30 at 6 p.m. at LaGuardia High School. The sole topic for this meeting will be to address the city's 2010 state test results in light of the change in state testing standards. At the August 16 meeting, parent protested that they needed a forum to discuss the city's 2010 test results.
The public will be invited to comment following presentations by Chancellor Klein and Deputy Chancellor Shael Suransky about the test results.
More information on the Aug 30 PEP meeting here.
August 31 meeting
The PEP will meet again the next morning, Tuesday, August 31 at 10 a.m. at LaGuardia High School. Panel members will vote on all items included on the August 16th meeting agenda, mainly concerning DOE contracts and budget.
More information on the August 31 PEP meeting here.
New York is among ten winners in the second round of federal "Race to the Top" funding announced today.
There's no word yet as to exactly how much money the state will get. UPDATE: According to GothamSchools, the state will get all of the $698 million it asked for and the city will be getting about $250-300 million.
Take a look at GothamSchools for updated coverage and a summary of how the state plans to use the money. Education Week has a rundown of the other winners. Eighteen states were finalists for the funding; most of the winners come from the East Coast.
What will this mean for New York City schools? Comment below.
I am wondering how we parents can help offset the impact of budget cuts. Any suggestions as to what parents can do to keep school programs going despite the loss of staff and funding?
With schools set to open in a few weeks, now is a good time to plan your supportive activities: not just fund raising, but hands-on contributions as well. Fund raising may have reached its saturation point in some schools, considering the lagging economy and ongoing unemployment rate, while other school communities have never been able to raise funds on a large scale. But parents who are working less -- or not at all -- now may be able to take time to volunteer to help schools which may be strapped for resources.
A good place to start is the lunchroom: there are never too many hands in the cafeteria to help kids during the sometimes chaotic mealtime and to button up their coats for outdoor recess. Some parents are cut out for playground supervision (good at sports, love games) others may enjoy conducting a board game club, teaching knitting, or reading with kids on those forbidding winter days. Other ways to help out: volunteer in the school library, collect lunch money, of course accompany classes on field trips.
As an individual, you can speak with your child’s teacher to work out a helpful ongoing role in the classroom. As a group, class parents can organize to contribute to the classroom library, visit local merchants for donations of school supplies, develop a schedule of parent led mini-lessons on, say, cooking, science, chess, sewing, knitting, sing-alongs -- whatever parents can do that the school budget no longer supports. After school programs will also need the same kind of help.
Note: Some principals do not yet welcome parents to the classroom. Your Parent Association should place this issue front and center. Principals should recognize the benefits that parent involvement brings to the kids.
Parents can make a big difference in the arts. Kids learn from the arts so parents may consider sponsoring a school wide “let's put on a play” project. That means kids, parents, teachers, and school staff, take part. This project is guaranteed to raise money – everyone wants to see their children and neighbors on stage, and it helps keep the arts alive in school. With a part for everyone from stagehand, to costume-maker to actor, it's loads of fun, according to some schools that already do it.
Don’t fail to weigh in on budget and policy issues with city and state legislators. Check out the Panel on Education Policy agendas, attend meetings of your district's Community Education Council, as well as the district presidents' council and your own school's Parents Association.
Now is the time to start planning with your fellow parents about how you can help alleviate your schools’ money woes.
UPDATE: A protest organized by the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice halted the Panel for Educational Policy's monthly meeting held last night, Aug. 16. Check out the news coverage at Gothamschools, New York Times, Daily News, NY Post, WNYC, DNAinfo and NYC Public School Parents.
The Panel for Educational Policy will hold its monthly meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at Murry Bergtraum High School. Tonight's agenda will include votes on the Department of Education's estimated operating budget for the 2011 fiscal year, the DOE's budget allocation formulas known as Fair Student Funding and amendments to the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS).
You can learn more about tonight's PEP vote here.
Parent group wants action on 2010 test score results
The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, a parent-led education reform group, is calling for a strong turnout at tonight's PEP meeting to voice concerns over the city's results on the 2010 state exams.
While the agenda for tonight's meeting was set and opened for public comment nearly a month before the release of the 2010 test scores, CEJ members want the PEP to address the matter sooner rather than later. The topic of test scores is also absent from next month's PEP agenda, which was set on July 30, two days after the 2010 test results were released.
Tomorrow, August, 17, CEJ members, along with a coalition of elected officials, education advocates, community and social service organizations, parents and youth will hold an "emergency meeting" to draft an action plan in response to the 2010 test results.
Check our calendar for further details.
Planning to go to tonight's PEP meeting? CEJ's emergency meeting tomorrow? Please comment below.
The Department of Education is hiring educators to fill the newly created positions of "master" and "turnaround" teachers. The new positions were designed in conjunction with the United Federation of Teachers to allow principals in "transformation Schools", those deemed "persistently low achieving" that the DOE wants to improve rather than close, to recruit top notch teachers who can help train and mentor others.
The new positions offer big a big boost in salary for those hired -- 30 percent for "master" and 15 percent for "turnaround" teachers -- but demand a lot in return. Teachers must commit to working three years at the school and log up to 100 hours per school year beyond the contractual limit on tasks such as teacher training, curriculum development, and student data analysis.
If you're a teacher in the system, you may have received a recruitment letter from the DOE's human resources department. If not, check it out here.
Thinking of applying? Comment below.
Anxiety and uncertainty continues to grow as principals grapple with the bad news that cuts to next year's school budgets are likely to be "sustantially larger" than the 4.9 percent slash in funding they absorbed this year. The only good news in recent weeks was the DOE's decision not to charge individual school budgets for the costs of their unpaid school lunches. The DOE reversed course two days after Insideschools first broke the story.
Schools will bear the brunt of the looming $500 million cut in school aid from Albany, Chancellor Joel I. Klein warned in testimony before the City Council on Monday. Teachers will be the hardest hit, with over 5000 projected to lose their jobs, while central staff positions will be reduced by a modest 245 positions.
Also at risk of being cut or scaled back are parent coordinator positions in high schools, school lunch options, middle school busing and high school internship and work-readiness programs.
In our last poll we asked our readers to imagine the worst -- massive teacher layoffs -- and consider who should make the decision about which teachers stay and which teachers go. Over 700 readers weighed in, but there was no clear consensus on should have the final say about layoffs. A majority of readers -- 53% -- believe that individual schools should decide, but even these voters were split, with 26% overall wanting principals to decide exclusively and another 27% wanting parents and teachers to have a say too.
Roughly a quarter -- 24% -- of all readers don't want seniority to be disregarded, preferring the LIFO (last in, first out) method be used, which would eliminate the jobs of teachers with the least work experience in the system.
The least, but not insignificant percentage -- 20 % -- agree with Chancellor Klein's preference to start with the 1600 teachers with "unsatisfactory" ratings and the 1000 teachers in the "excess" pool who have been unable to find a teaching job in schools this past year.
There's more bad news in store for the city's principals. Nearly 500 schools will have their 2010-2011 budgets docked the amount of money owed by families for unpaid school lunches.
Principals of schools with outstanding lunch fees first learned of the measure in a May 13 letter from Kathleen Grimm, deputy chancellor of operations at the Department of Education. Grimm cited Chancellor's Regulation A-815, which gives principals the responsibility for ensuring that fees are collected for all students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. In a time of "significant fiscal challenges....uncollected fees have created a very significant budget gap for the Department," Grimm writes. Now the DOE expects the schools to pay, in an effort "to minimize the impact of cuts to our classrooms."
Between 2004 to 2009, the DOE absorbed $35 million in losses because of uncollected lunch money, according to Department spokesperson Marge Feinberg. Last year, the DOE lost $7 million and is projecting a loss between $6-7 million for the 2009-2010 school year. "In the past, the Department would cover the cost," she said, "but we cannot absorb the cost any more. We have let [uncollected lunch fees ] slide too long."
Last year, 73% of the city's students were eligible for free lunch or reduced-price lunch, which costs 25 cents. The remainder of students must pay $1.50 for each lunch. Feinberg emphasized that the price is lower than other school districts such as Buffalo or Boston where students pay between $2.25 or $2.50.
The DOE has been reminding principals since November to collect the lunch money, Feinberg said. But principals claim that's easier said than done.
"Now principals are bill collectors," said one principal who asked to remain anonymous. "Some parents just don't pay and [schools] can't tell a kid that he can't eat"
For lunch money uncollected during the 2009-10 school year, schools will have funds deducted from their "surplus roll" set aside for the next fiscal year. For schools with no surplus, money will be deducted from next year's budget. The letter states that "in the coming weeks," school's will have their budgets "reduced by the total amount of uncollected fees as of February 2010." Schools that accrue uncollected fees for the period from March 2010 through June 2010 will have their surplus or next year's budget reduced by the additional amount.
Principals complain that there is no option for them to pay back money they are able to collect now, or that they may have collected but not yet deposited.
"We would work with any schools in that position," Feinberg said. If schools are able to collect more money, they would only be charged the amount owed at the end of the school year, she said.
In a letter objecting to the new measure, one principal documented efforts made to collect funds from families with outstanding balances, including sending monthly letters and making frequent phone calls. The practice of "taking instructional dollars from schools" penalizes all students, including those who are eligible for free lunch, this principal writes.
"We encourage principals to sit down with parents and explain how important it is for them to pay, especially with budgets being so tight," Feinberg said. "And, it's so important for families who do meet the minimum requirements [for free lunch] to fill out the forms."
Meanwhile the days of "free lunch" are over for the schools whose families are not paying for it.
At the first PTA meeting of my son’s high school this fall, I showed up, like so many new parents, eager to participate and learn more about what to expect for the next four years. I was somewhat taken aback at the conversation: it barely moved past budget cuts and the need for all parents to make donations.
Subsequent meetings were similarly depressing and soon I stopped going, although I dutifully sent in the suggested contributions and whenever possible volunteered at school events. I couldn’t help feeling alienated by a constant dwelling on what the school could no longer provide.
Then, more recently, I learned I could not register my son for a second year of a foreign language for his sophomore year. Due to budget cuts, students who do not get 90 or above in their language are no longer eligible to take languages, although they can get on a waiting list, I was told. This is a serious setback, as many colleges require a foreign language sequence of three years.
There will be lots of other ways course selections will be limited as well – and already have been. And all this was before even more drastic financial problems emerged for both the city and the state that could lead to thousands of teachers being laid off.
High schools in the meantime are bracing for all kinds of reductions. Insideschools.org would like to hear more about what city high schools are being told to expect. Course selections, class size, sports, arts and after school programs are all in danger as schools brace for drastic times ahead.
We want to hear more about what all of this bad news means for your high school and how parents, kids and staff are coping. Any creative solutions for these extraordinarily tough times?