missing information

The list of unanswered questions that explains Sullivan's no vote

The man who made sure the city’s school budget vote was legal used his own vote to say no to the proposed budget.

A key reason Patrick Sullivan opposed is that school officials still had not responded to a long list of budget questions he submitted two weeks ago, Sullivan told me. The questions, which are posted in full after the jump, reflect the difficulty of getting information from the department.

Here’s one of Sullivan’s questions:

Last time we had this exchange we were told DOE does not know how many charter students are in DOE facilities. But then at the Bronx meeting Kathleen Grimm said we do know. Can someone tell us please?

Sullivan is often the only member of the school board, currently known as the Panel for Educational Policy, to speak out against the mayor’s policies. But he wasn’t the only panel member asking questions about the budget at this morning’s surprise school board meeting. Two other members appointed by borough presidents (Sullivan was appointed by Manhattan’s Scott Stringer) also asked question, but they ended up voting yes to the budget.

“The difference is that unless they provide this, I’m not going to support the budget,” Sullivan said.

Below the jump, the full list of questions Sullivan sent the DOE that remained unanswered today:

List of Unanswered Questions Provided June 4th.

Enrollment

It is essential that we understand enrollment trends as dropping enrollment does not square with the budget increases we are seeing.

Many costs for charter school operations — facilities, food, transport — are borne by the DOE budget. Last time we had this exchange we were told DOE does not know how many charter students are in DOE facilities. But then at the Bronx meeting Kathleen Grimm said we do know. Can someone tell us please?

You point us to the online S-FORMS but I don’t see charter schools there.
Please provide a list of charters with an indication of their DOE facility number, enrollment, and other blue book statistics.

Unit of Appropriation 401,402, 403, 404

What are costs for scoring state tests? Do schools bear them?
What are costs for scoring G&T tests? Do schools bear them?

415, 416, 453, 454 Central and Field

Please provide more detail on specific cuts and increases.
Many “cuts” at this level appear to actually be reassignment of costs to schools. Which cuts will likely result in increased costs for schools?
What are costs for periodic assessments?

What is the budget and head count of the press office?
What is the budget and head count of the office of accountability?
The percentage of children classified as special education continues to increase. Does anyone know why?

438 Transportation

Why is this cost increasing when enrollment is decreasing?
Can you show the numbers by borough and type of school (public/charter/non-public)? By type of cost – metro card / busing?
It is an enormous number — 1 billion+. Is there a more detail available? By school? By provider of transportation services?

440 School Food Service

Why increasing?
Please show costs or units (meals) by type and level of school.

442 School Safety

Why is this increasing? There needs to be cuts here in accordance with cuts to schools.

444 Energy and Leases

Can we see energy separately from leases?

461 Fringe Benefits

Where does funding for UFT merit bonuses come from?
Will merit bonuses be incorporated into the pattern wage increase or will they be incremental to pattern increases?

481 Categorical Programs

Please provide detail of funding by program.

Debt Service

What is in this number?
Please show separately for public schools, charters, private schools utilizing city bonding authority, etc.

early dismissals

Top Newark school officials ousted in leadership shake-up as new superintendent prepares to take over

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Incoming Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León

Several top Newark school officials were given the option Friday to resign or face termination, in what appeared to be an early move by incoming Superintendent Roger León to overhaul the district’s leadership.

The shake-up includes top officials such as the chief academic officer and the head of the district’s controversial enrollment system, as well as lower-level administrators — 31 people in total, according to documents and district employees briefed on the overhaul. Most of the officials were hired or promoted by the previous two state-appointed superintendents, Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, a sign that León wants to steer the district in a new direction now that it has returned to local control.

The officials were given the option to resign by Tuesday and accept buyouts or face the prospect of being fired by the school board at its meeting that evening. The buyouts offer a financial incentive to those who resign voluntarily on top of any severance included in their contracts. In exchange for accepting the buyouts, the officials must sign confidentiality agreements and waive their right to sue the district.

Earlier this week, León submitted a list of his choices to replace the ousted cabinet-level officials, which the board must approve at its Tuesday meeting. It’s not clear whether he has people lined up to fill the less-senior positions.

It’s customary for incoming superintendents to appoint new cabinet members and reorganize the district’s leadership structure, which usually entails replacing some personnel. However, many staffers were caught off guard by Friday’s dismissals since León has given little indication of how he plans to restructure the central office — and he does not officially take the reins of the district until July 1.

A district spokeswoman and the school board chair did not immediately respond to emails on Friday about the shake-up.

Some staffers speculated Friday that the buyout offers were a way for León to replace the district’s leadership without securing the school board’s approval because, unlike with terminations, the board does not need to sign off on resignations. However, it’s possible the board may have to okay any buyout payments. And it could also be the case that the buyouts were primarily intended to help shield the district from legal challenges to the dismissals.

León was not present when the staffers learned Friday afternoon that they were being let go, the employees said. Instead, the interim superintendent, Robert Gregory, and other top officials broke the news, which left some stunned personnel crying and packing their belongings into boxes. They received official separation letters by email later that day.

The people being ousted include Chief Academic Officer Brad Haggerty and Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon, who oversees enrollment. Also included are top officials in the curriculum, early childhood, and finance divisions, among others, according to a list obtained by Chalkbeat.

In addition to the 31 being pushed out, several assistant superintendents are being demoted but will remain in the district, according to the district employees.

There was concern among some officials Friday about whether the turnover would disrupt planning for the coming school year.

“I don’t know how we’re going to open smoothly with cuts this deep,” one of the employees said. “Little to no communication was provided to the teams about what these cuts mean for the many employees who remain in their roles and need leadership guidance and direction Monday morning.”

D.C.

What you should know about the White House’s proposal to merge the education department into a new agency

PHOTO: Gabriel Scarlett/The Denver Post

The White House is proposing the federal education department merge with the labor department to form the Department of Education and the Workforce, officials announced Thursday.

It’s an eye-catching plan, given how relatively rare changes to the Cabinet are and the current prominence of Betsy DeVos, the current head of the education department who has proven deeply unpopular with educators since her confirmation hearings last year. Education Week first reported the proposed merger on Wednesday.

Here’s what we know so far about what’s going on and why it matters.

The news

The Trump administration announced a big-picture government reorganization Thursday, and the education-labor merger is one part of that.

The new department will have four main sub-agencies: K-12; higher education and workforce development; enforcement; and research, evaluation and administration.

It comes after DeVos proposed acquiring programs from the labor department that have to do with educational programs for unemployed adult workers, reintegrating ex-prisoners, and “out-of-school” youth, according to the New York Times.

The two departments already work together on some adult education and vocational training programs, according to the the Wall Street Journal. In an interview with the Associated Press, director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said that there are currently 40 different job training programs spread over 16 agencies. This merger would be one attempt to change that.

DeVos said she supports the plan.

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools. I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality,” DeVos said in a statement.

The implications for K-12 education

Today, the department distributes K-12 education money and enforces civil rights laws. It’s small for a federal agency, at 3,900 employees. On a symbolic level, a merged department would be de-emphasizing education.

The existing set of offices overseeing K-12 education would move into the new agency, according to the document, which says those offices will be “improved” but not how.

The education department’s Office of Civil Rights will become a part of the new department’s “enforcement” sub-agency.

The plan doesn’t mention any cuts to the agency or its offices, though Secretary DeVos has proposed cuts in the past.

Why this might not happen

The proposal would require congressional approval, which will likely be a difficult battle. Past attempts to eliminate the Department of Education in the 1980s and 1990s didn’t gain any traction, and both lawmakers and unions have expressed skepticism toward the new plan.

Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate labor and education committee, quickly put out a statement criticizing the plan.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress have rejected President Trump’s proposals to drastically gut investments in education, health care, and workers — and he should expect the same result for this latest attempt to make government work worse for the people it serves,” she said