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.


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.


To promote virtual schools, Betsy DeVos cites a graduate who’s far from the norm

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in June.

If Betsy Devos is paying any attention to unfolding critiques of virtual charter schools, she didn’t let it show last week when she spoke to free-market policy advocates in Spokane, Washington.

Just days after Politico published a scathing story about virtual charters’ track record in Pennsylvania, DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, was touting their successes at the Washington Policy Center’s annual dinner.

DeVos’s speech was largely identical in its main points to one she gave at Harvard University last month. But she customized the stories of students who struggled in traditional schools with local examples, and in doing so provided an especially clear example of why she believes in virtual schools.

From the speech:

I also think of Sandeep Thomas. Sandeep grew up impoverished in Bangalore, India and experienced terrible trauma in his youth. He was adopted by a loving couple from New Jersey, but continued to suffer from the unspeakable horrors he witnessed in his early years. He was not able to focus in school, and it took him hours to complete even the simplest assignment.

This changed when his family moved to Washington, where Sandeep was able to enroll in a virtual public school. This option gave him the flexibility to learn in the quiet of his own home and pursue his learning at a pace that was right for him. He ended up graduating high school with a 3.7 GPA, along with having earned well over a year of college credit. Today, he’s working in finance and he is a vocal advocate for expanding options that allow students like him a chance to succeed.

But Thomas — who spoke at a conference of a group DeVos used to chair, Advocates for Children, in 2013 as part of ongoing work lobbying for virtual charters — is hardly representative of online school students.

In Pennsylvania, Politico reported last week, 30,000 students are enrolled in virtual charters with an average 48 percent graduation rate. In Indiana, an online charter school that had gotten a stunning six straight F grades from the state — one of just three schools in that positionis closing. And an Education Week investigation into Colorado’s largest virtual charter school found that not even a quarter of the 4,000 students even log on to do work every day.

The fact that in many states with online charters, large numbers of often needy students have enrolled without advancing has not held DeVos back from supporting the model. (A 2015 study found that students who enrolled in virtual charters in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin did just as well as similar students who stayed in brick-and-mortar schools.) In fact, she appeared to ignore their track records during the confirmation process in January, citing graduation rates provided by a leading charter operator that were far higher — nearly 40 points in one case — than the rates recorded by the schools’ states.

She has long backed the schools, and her former organization has close ties to major virtual school operators, including K12, the one that generated the inflated graduation numbers. In her first week as education secretary, DeVos said, “I expect there will be more virtual schools.”

expansion plans

Here are the next districts where New York City will start offering preschool for 3-year-olds

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, visited a "Mommy and Me" class in District 27 in Queens, where the city is set to expand 3-K For All.

New York City officials on Tuesday announced which school districts are next in line for free pre-K for 3-year-olds, identifying East Harlem and the eastern neighborhoods of Queens for expansion of the program.

Building on its popular universal pre-K program for 4-year-olds, the city this year began serving even younger students with “3-K For All” in two high-needs school districts. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to make 3-K available to every family who wants it by 2021.

“Our education system all over the country had it backwards for too long,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “We are recognizing we have to reach kids younger and more deeply if we’re going to be able to give them the foundation they need.”

But making preschool available to all of the city’s 3-year-olds will require an infusion of $700 million from the state or federal governments. In the meantime, de Blasio said the city can afford to expand to eight districts, at a cost of $180 million of city money a year.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle the city faces to make 3-K available universally. De Blasio warned that finding the room for an estimated 60,000 students will be a challenge. Space constraints were a major factor in picking the next districts for expansion, he said.

“I have to tell you, this will take a lot of work,” he said, calling it “even harder” than the breakneck rollout of pre-K for all 4-year-olds. “We’re building something brand new.”

De Blasio, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, has made expansion of early childhood education a cornerstone of his administration. The city kicked off its efforts this September in District 7 in the South Bronx, and District 23 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. More than 2,000 families applied for those seats, and 84 percent of those living in the pilot districts got an offer for enrollment, according to city figures.

According to the timeline released Thursday, the rollout will continue next school year in District 4 in Manhattan, which includes East Harlem; and District 27 in Queens, which includes Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Rockaways.

By the 2019 – 2020 school year, the city plans to launch 3-K in the Bronx’s District 9, which includes the Grand Concourse, Highbridge and Morrisania neighborhoods; and District 31, which spans all of Staten Island.

The 2020 – 2021 school year would see the addition of District 19 in Brooklyn, which includes East New York; and District 29 in Queens, which includes Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

With all those districts up and running, the city expects to serve 15,000 students.

Admission to the city’s pre-K programs is determined by lottery. Families don’t have to live in the district where 3-K is being offered to apply for a seat, though preference will be given to students who do. With every expansion, the city expects it will take two years for each district to have enough seats for every district family who wants one.