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Could this year's budget cuts have long-lasting effects?

Written by Admin Thursday, 14 February 2008 11:08

One more dispatch from last night, where I was surprised to hear several speakers thinking about the possible long-term economic effects of the budget cuts.

Ziporah Steiner, principal of Maxwell High School, offered a real-world example of what the budget cuts could mean once she cuts all after school programming. "Our students have a choice: they can join the chess club, the drama club, the dance club, or they can join the Crips or the Bloods," she said, noting that once students have joined a gang, "We cannot reel them back."

In a statement read by a member of his staff, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz echoed Steiner's concerns, saying, "I strongly disagree that cutting school budgets is logical, productive, or even, in the long run, economically sound."

And Liz Phillips, principal of PS 321 in Park Slope, said, "If this is truly a recession, schools will need more money, not less," because children whose families are affected by the struggling economy will need additional services.

Preserving school budgets sounds great for the short term, but it sounds even better when you take a longer view. Let's hope lawmakers and the mayor can be made to agree.

TODAY (1/14): Students march on Tweed to oppose budget cuts

Written by Admin Thursday, 14 February 2008 07:11

Today at 4 p.m., Students Against the DOE Budget Cuts, a new student-organized group that looks like it's getting support from NYCORE and Time Out From Testing, will be holding a march on Tweed to oppose the budget cuts. Many folks last night said they would be supporting the student protest, and Liz Phillips, principal of Brooklyn's PS 321, has written to her families encouraging them to go.

As much as I'd like to, I can't go — can someone who is tell us in the comments what it's like?

Budget cuts reflective of bigger problems, speakers say

Written by Admin Thursday, 14 February 2008 05:24

While the response to the budget cuts started quietly and informally, it's now shaping up to be a loud, organized expression of years of frustration with the way the mayor and chancellor have managed the city's schools.

At the Borough Hall meeting last night, it was the repeated calls for transparency at the DOE and meaningful inclusion of parent opinion in decision-making that received the most applause.

City Council Member Bill DeBlasio recited a litany of circumstances when the public has found out that "policy decisions have been made that don't reflect the on-the-ground reality" and when DOE officials "didn't get approval from anybody" but went ahead with their plans nonetheless, including last year's school bus fiasco, the cell phone ban, increased testing, and the progress reports.

Describing Time Out From Testing's six-point plan for how the DOE can save money without hurting students, Martha Foote said the DOE should open its books to the public, creating greater transparency about who works at the DOE and how much they're paid.

The rest of the plan: eliminate the $80 million contract to create interim assessments; cut ARIS, the $80 million data tracking system the DOE bought from IBM; cut the $16.6 million contract to provide security for ARIS; stop hiring expensive consultants; and stop accepting no-bid contracts.

At a strategy meeting tonight at Brooklyn Borough Hall, City Council member Bill deBlasio emphasized that the recent budget cuts are "huge, reversible, and represent broken promises," staying on point with the message of the Keep the Promises Coalition, which held an inaugural press conference on Sunday.

DeBlasio noted that the cuts result in real losses, not just symbolic ones, for schools and students; but could be reversed, because the state and city budgets for next year have yet to be approved. "When local entities start to add up ... that has a huge impact," he said, suggesting several steps parents, principals, and community leaders can take to pressure lawmakers to undo the cuts in next year’s budget:

  • Write to your elected officials and local newspaper, demanding that the state keep its promise to increase operating and building aid to the city and that the mayor restore the city’s school cuts.
  • Attend the massive rally the Keep the Promises Coalition is planning for March outside City Hall.
  • Get your PTA, Community Education Council, and Community Board to pass resolutions supporting the Keep the Promises agenda.

Tools for completing these goals were handed out at the meeting tonight; I’ll link to the sample PTA resolution, letter to the editor, and letter to elected officials as soon as they go online. Next, I’ll share other highlights from the meeting.

Student Thought: Taking action on the cuts

Written by Admin Wednesday, 13 February 2008 14:53

NYC's students are taking action.

In response to the city's and state's recent education budget cuts, a group called Students Against DOE Budget Cuts has organized a protest on the steps of Tweed Courthouse for tomorrow, Valentine's Day.

This is no surprise to me. These cuts have sent a shock down the spine of NYC's student body to larger extent than any education issue since the cell phone ban. Students feel betrayed. We feel as though the state and city are disrespecting us and demeaning our status as learners.

These budget cuts are more of a future-cut than anything else. They show a great lack of concern for the urgent welfare of our city's students and in doing so forgetting about the future of our city, our state and our society.

The education investment is one for the years to come. It won't always yield the quickest results but in the long term it is an investment for the future. Through these budget cuts, Spitzer and Bloomberg signaling to NYC students that no, we are not the future.

So now, you've got us energized, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Spitzer. Students are protesting. Facebook groups against the cuts are popping up every day. Petitions are being circulated. At LaGuardia, the Student Government has put together a budget cuts committee to coordinate protest efforts and to examine the school's budget and make recommendations about how to respond to the cuts.

Do not take our investment in our learning for apathy. When you wrong us we will fight back. Listen.

UFT president likely Washington-bound

Written by Admin Wednesday, 13 February 2008 08:24

The head of the American Federation of Teachers, the national teachers' union, is stepping down this summer, and UFT President Randi Weingarten is the heir apparent to the job; elections will be held in July and she could be headed to Washington, D.C. shortly after that. The Times notes that Weingarten has secured higher teacher salaries and participated in education policy experiments, such as performance pay and charter schools, when many in her union and in teachers' unions nationally opposed them. Blogging teacher NYC Educator has an entirely different, much less congratulatory list of Weingarten's accomplishments.

Last month, the Sun took a look at the UFT leaders who might become president after Weingarten leaves.

The Money Mom: A dime of one's own

Written by Admin Wednesday, 13 February 2008 04:54

When $100,000 is yanked out of your school's budget, every dime that your PTA has raised is more precious than ever. That dime is yours to spend, and no one can take it out of your bank account in the middle of the night. It represents the ability to control your school's destiny. So whatever fundraising efforts your PTA has planned for spring, remind your parents that the money they raise will be immune from city politics. This year, that will matter more than ever.

TONIGHT (2/12): Final pre-K hearing in the Bronx

Written by Admin Tuesday, 12 February 2008 12:03

Just a reminder that tonight's the last public hearing about the DOE's proposed changes to pre-K and kindergarten admission policy. 6:30 p.m., Dewitt Clinton HS, the Bronx. For a refresher on what happened at the Brooklyn and Manhattan hearings, read our earlier coverage. If you can't make it tonight, you can still email comments to ES_Enrollment@schools.nyc.gov until Feb. 18.

Have the budget cuts moved this major policy change off everyone's radar? It's amazing how that manages to happen so often.

The long ride to Bronx Science

Written by Admin Tuesday, 12 February 2008 04:20

Last year at this time, families were still dealing with the fallout from the DOE's disastrous mid-year bus schedule changes, engineered by the consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal. This year, the busing news is a little bit better – but only a little bit. The Times today follows Bronx Science students on their hour-and-a-half express bus ride from Queens to school. The upside: the bus drops them off right in front of school, and with so many kids on the bus, the tone is conducive to napping or doing homework. The downside: Student Metrocards can't be used on express buses, so the kids are spending $10 a day to get to school via public transportation, and those who want to stay for after school activities have to opt for the subway home, which can take up to two hours and four connections.

Photo by Philissa Cramer/Insideschools

Everyone who's anyone in the fight to improve the city's schools stood on the steps of City Hall this afternoon for a press conference announcing the creation of the "Keep the Promises" Coalition. The coalition of teachers, principals, advocates, elected officials, and community groups, formed during an emergency meeting held Thursday in response to the mayor's mid-year budget cuts, is calling for state lawmakers as well as the mayor to follow through on their promises to fund the city's public schools at the level agreed to in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

CFE Executive Director Geri Palast explained today how the state agreed to pay $2.35 billion to the city's schools in four years and how the mayor committed $2.2 billion to match. Now that times are tough in Albany, however, the state reduced the amount it plans to pay the city in the first year of the deal, and the mayor not only reduced schools' budgets for next year but took money back from them for this year as well, forcing principals to cut after school programs, tutoring, and other services.

"This is ridiculous," said the UFT's Randi Weingarten today. "At the drop of the Dow, kids become the last priority again." The coalition plans to hold a larger rally sometime in the near future.