Budget cuts

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Budget cuts

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New York

State aid cuts would cost city 2,500 teachers, Bloomberg says

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mark Page, his budget director, testified in Albany today about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget, which would penalize the city again for not adopting new teacher evaluations. ALBANY — New York City would have to cut 2,500 teaching positions over the next two years under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plans, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told lawmakers this morning. Appearing at a hearing about Cuomo's budget proposal, Bloomberg focused on the school aid that would be withheld because the city and teachers union have not agreed on new teacher evaluations. The city already lost out on $240 million in state aid this year as a consequence of missing a Jan. 17 deadline that was written into law and could lose another $224 million next year if Cuomo goes through with his plan to tie school aid to evaluations again. The cost of that penalty would be severe, Bloomberg told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, forcing cuts to city schools' spending on personnel and programming. Bloomberg blamed the UFT, again, for the city's shortfall and also criticized the State Education Department, which is threatening to penalize the city further by withholding some resources for high-need students. But during a fierce exchange with Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, who chairs the education committee, the blame also landed briefly on Bloomberg himself. Nolan pointed out that Bloomberg had supported the law that paved the way for the union and the city to reach a deal on evaluations last February. She recited Bloomberg's comments at the time the law was passed (“This is a win-win-win for the kids and for the adults”). "Don't you feel some responsibility for this disaster?" she asked. "And it is a disaster."
New York

IBO: Tension between quality, quantity fueled after-school cuts

Because the cost of city-funded after-school spots increased last year, the number of spots declined. After-school programs that the City Council restored are receiving less funding than city-funded programs this year. An eleventh-hour effort by the City Council in June to maintain funding for thousands of after-school spots achieved its intended purpose — but it also inadvertently created a two-tiered after-school system in which only some programs can strive to meet higher academic standards. That’s the conclusion of a report released last week by the Independent Budget Office about Out of School Time, a Bloomberg administration initiative to streamline publicly funded after-school programming. The report finds that the city’s simultaneous efforts to reduce costs and boost quality in OST programs induced Bloomberg's proposal to cut after-school spots dramatically this spring. City funding for the program rose from $61 million in 2007 to $108 million in 2009, allowing the number of seats to grow substantially, according to the report. But this year, after half a dozen rounds of city budget cuts, the proposed budget for the program fell to $76 million. At the same time, the city had embarked on an effort to raise standards in programs that had originally operated with offering “safe and developmentally appropriate environments” as its major goal. With an eye toward using OST programs to support academic instruction, the city told programs that they would have to hire “educational specialists” to develop curriculum and lessons — increasing the cost per participant by nearly 60 percent. The increase would required the number of slots to be cut in half, meaning about 26,000 children would have been shut out of OST programs this year.
New York

Education is not spared in city's latest round of budget cuts

New York

Walcott: Budget cuts forced city to slash test security monitoring

Dennis Walcott said budget cuts forced the city to reduce its test monitoring program this year. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott blamed budget cuts on the reduction of monitoring visits that the education department made to schools on testing days earlier this year. He added that he hoped to restore the program to full capacity in time for next year's standardized tests, but that he couldn't promise it. "I can't give you a guarantee," Walcott said this morning at a charity event in Brooklyn. "In a number of areas we've had to make some very difficult decisions around how the budget realities have an impact." Department officials weren't immediately able to be more specific than the explanation Walcott offered. They did not know how much the monitoring program cost or how much was cut from it this year. Update: A spokeswoman said that the cuts came from a $5 million reduction in the department's testing budget, which was roughly $20 million last year. The cuts were made "in order to protect school programs from the citywide budget cuts." In April, monitors made 41 unannounced visits to 37 schools over a six-day testing period as part of a program that was devised to both deter schools from violating test security guidelines and check up on schools that were already suspected of misconduct and other improprieties. Many of the schools that received the surprise visits saw their test scores plummet this year. But the total was down sharply from 2011, when the city paid 99 visits to 97 schools. The reduction comes at a time when federal and state officials are pushing districts to ramp up their test monitoring presence as part of a larger goal to ensure that the credibility of standardized tests are not compromised.
New York

Home providers say EarlyLearn overhaul leaves them in the dark

Hundreds of child care providers like Iraida Tkacheva are affected by the EarlyLearn initiative. On a cool Friday afternoon, 10 bright-eyed toddlers played outdoors, giggling and speaking Russian, before heading inside for a homemade lunch. During the week, they spend more time with Iraida Tkacheva, their child-care provider, than they do with their working parents. Tkacheva has transformed nearly every room in her Bensonhurst house to cater to the children's needs: an area with tables and chairs where the toddlers eat, a library full of children's books, a nap area surrounded by walls plastered with educational posters, and a backyard that accommodates toys for playtime with security gates and enclosed circuit cameras to ensure the children's safety at all times. Yet once the mayor’s ambitious overhaul of the city’s child-care system takes place on October 1, through a program called EarlyLearn, Tkacheva and hundreds of people who offer subsidized child-care in their homes are set to lose their jobs if funding falls through. EarlyLearn – one of Bloomberg's latest education reforms before he leaves office next year – sets out to increase the quality of publicly funded early childhood education while distributing child-care slots to the neediest neighborhoods. It is, according to some advocates, the biggest change to the city’s child-care services in 40 years. Criticism of EarlyLearn has focused on the fact that it reduces the overall number of early childhood seats. But another major change — about who the city is hiring to provide child care in private homes — has some child-care advocates concerned.
New York

Walcott: Projected $64 million cut to schools only temporary

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott repeated a promise not to touch principals' budgets next year, saying that a proposed cut in school funding that would cost the city more than 1,100 teaching positions would likely disappear once the city finalizes its budget later this spring. Of the 5,000 teachers who typically leave the system each year, the preliminary 2013 budget projects that only about 4,000 would be replaced, which would save about $64 million, according to the city's preliminary budget . But Walcott said that funding would likely be restored in time for the final budget and that principals would be able to hire for any vacated positions. City Council members pestered Walcott about that and much more at a hearing this afternoon on the agency’s $19.6 billion budget, a 1 percent increase that won't cover the added expenses the department expects. While last year’s hearings focused almost solely on opposition to a proposal to layoff thousands of teachers, the concerns raised by elected officials today spanned a range of the city's education policies, including increased class sizes, the small schools initiative, spending on technology and contracts, and Medicaid collection. But they reserved most of their early criticism on the $64 million cut in areas that directly fund schools. The decreased sum represents a headcount reduction of 1,117 teacher positions, according to the city's projections. “Year after year the DOE has made cuts to school budgets,” said Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson. “How are schools supposed to make do next year given the loss of funding proposed in the budget?”
New York

Class size jump poses new challenge for a successful school

Chancellor Dennis Walcott and P.S. 130 Principal Lily Woo look on as one kindergarten teacher and her student read from a class assignment. Even at an elementary school with high scores, experienced teachers, and years of A's on the city's progress reports, budget cuts are taking a toll. At Chinatown's P.S. 130, average class size has ballooned from between 25 and 28 students per classroom last year to 32, the maximum allowed. Because the school lost about $1 million from its budget in the last two years, it had to cut teaching positions and reading teachers, according to longtime Principal Lily Woo. As Chancellor Dennis Walcott looked on today, second-grade teacher Danielle Cannistraci gathered her 31 students on the rug around the front of the classroom in a circle two rows deep for a lesson about shapes. When she asked the students to name a three-dimensional shape with no round edges, half a dozen hands shot in the air with the answer (in this case, a pyramid). Cannistraci, who has worked at P.S. 130 for 11 years, said the lesson exemplified her efforts to make her teaching more engaging. But with 31 students this year, up from 27, she said she is struggling to give each student individual attention and manage the time students spend doing group work. "I've always put them in groups, but now I have a whole extra group — it's become much harder," she said. "Normally I have five groups for reading, writing, and math. But if I have six guided-reading groups I can't focus on one in each day anymore because that means one group isn't going to be seen at all."
New York

IBO report hints that school spending could take another hit

New York

As anti-closure rallies expand to high schools, students jump in

A screenshot from the Facebook event advertising a rally to support Juan Morel Campos Secondary School Community meetings at schools that the Department of Education is considering closing have started attracting a new constituency: students. That's because the meetings, which the DOE calls "early engagement conversations," are now being held at high schools. Until this week, all of the meetings had happened at elementary and middle schools, for which the city released a shortlist of potential closures in September. One meeting took place Monday evening at Wadleigh Secondary School for Performing Arts, where some members of the school community are arguing that its progress report data aren't bad enough to warrant closure. Last night, students made the case for keeping Manhattan's High School of Graphic Communications Arts open. And today, students have recruited crowds to defend Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tiffany Munoz, a Juan Morel Campos junior who was student body president last year, said students were alarmed when they heard that the school could close and quickly invited hundreds of current and former students to a Facebook event, "Save Juan Morel Campos Secondary School (I.S. 71) From Being Closed." Tonight, when the school's superintendent meets with community members, 150 students who RSVPed yes plan to let her know that the school is a tight-knit community with a thriving arts and music program where teachers push students to do their very best.
New York

UFT: Budget cuts lead to more oversized classes this year

John Elfrank-Dana, UFT chapter leader at Murry Bergtraum High School, says his history classes have as many as 37 students. After three years of budget cuts, the city's schools started the year with more oversize classes than at any time in the last decade, according to data collected by the United Federation of Teachers. Union members reported that on the sixth day of the school year, nearly 7,000 classes had more students than the teachers contract allows, mostly in high schools and a large number in Queens. That was almost a thousand more oversize classes than they reported at the same time last year. The union will soon file a grievance against the contract violations, and many of the classes will shrink as schools shuffle students around in the coming weeks, as typically happens at the beginning of the school year. But union officials said it appears that for the fifth year in a row, average class sizes have inched up again. "Our worst fears have now been confirmed," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew at a press conference announcing the numbers today. He urged Mayor Bloomberg to protect the city schools from additional budget cuts in the coming year. Now, nearly a quarter of all city students are spending all or part of the day in overcrowded classes, according to the UFT. The contract limits classes to 25 students in kindergarten; 32 students in elementary school; 33 students in middle schools and 30 students in middle schools with many poor students; and 34 students in high schools.
New York

In annual appeal, union urges vigilance against large classes

The United Federation of Teachers is gearing up for its annual struggle to wrangle classes down to their contractual size limits. As schools work to pinch every cent out of their compressed budgets, there are few safeguards in place to ward off swelling class sizes, and the UFT is asking members to be especially vigilant this year. In the Sept. 1 Chapter Leader Weekly Update, the union urged its school representatives to monitor class size closely from the first day of classes so that after an "informal resolution" period ends on Sept. 21, the union can begin filing grievances. One element of the UFT's bid to challenge the city's class-size efforts is in legal limbo. In 2010, the union sued the city over its spending of class size reduction funds, charging that the Department of Education had used the funds for other purposes. But this summer, an appeals court threw out the suit, ruling that the issue should be handled by the State Education Department. Dick Riley, a UFT spokesman, said the union was still weighing how to proceed. But he said that putting pressure on the DOE early has traditionally paid off for the union, with schools rectifying many class size violations as the chaos of the first days of class wears away. “In practice the DOE, particularly in high schools, often exceeds these limits at the beginning of the school year, but under pressure from the UFT, generally brings them down to the contractual limit, though it can take weeks for some schools to do so,” Riley said.