money matters

Regents want state to add $2 billion in education spending

The Board of Regents want the state to increase education spending by $2 billion next year, a spike that would include an extra $70 million for the city’s pre-kindergarten expansion.

The proposal, voted on this morning at the Board of Regents’ monthly meeting in Albany, asked lawmakers to set aside an extra $2 billion to support pre-K expansion, English language learners, professional development, and career and technical education programs. James Tallon, who chairs the Regents’ subcommittee on state aid, said that the increases are necessary to ensure that a slew of new initiatives have the chance to be implemented successfully.

The proposal includes requests to fund several initiatives that could affect city schools:

  • $251 million more for the state’s universal pre-K program, $70 million of which would go to New York City. Last year, the city received $300 million for each of the next five years to expand pre-K access, and the rest of the state received just $40 million.
  • $86 million to support English language learners. That would more than double the amount currently allotted to their support, a change officials said was needed in order to hire more certified teachers to work in tandem with teachers who are not licensed to work with students who are still learning English.
  • $80 million for grants to continue the state’s Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness program, taking over the costs previously covered by federal Race to the Top grants. Last year, the city won $12 million through the program, some of which is being used for a teacher career-ladder program for a group of Bronx high schools.
  • $260 million to pay back school districts that are owed money. The state has fallen behind in repaying districts that end up with higher-than-expected costs for things like special education and transportation services. It’s unclear whether New York City is owed any of that funding, but that money “could smooth the transition for some districts to the post-Race to the Top era,” the proposal notes.
  • A total of $1.1 billion in additional general education funding to be passed to districts. About half of that, or $526 million, would be filtered through a formula that gives more funding to districts with a higher proportion of poor students, like New York City. The rest will go toward reducing the state’s “gap elimination adjustment,” which would largely boost budgets of suburban school districts that were hit hardest by that cost-cutting program established five years ago during the recession.

The proposal, which serves mostly as an advisory document, comes less than a month before Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases a budget proposal that will formally kick off negotiations with state lawmakers. The state’s final spending plan often leaves out funding for many programs favored by the State Education Department.

The Regents’ request is 53 percent higher than the $1.3 billion increase the Regents requested last year — a jump likely to raise eyebrows amid ongoing debates over how to most effectively disburse taxpayer dollars for public schools. New York, which spends more per student than any other state on education, will spend $22.3 billion on schools this year.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”