dollars and cents

New York

Thousands march from City Hall to Wall Street to oppose layoffs

New York

Klein lays out which teachers would be fired first to cut budget

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein argued before the City Council today that firing teachers, perhaps en masse, is the only strategy left to handle expected budget gaps next school year. "There is very little fat left to trim," Klein said, discussing a gap that his top budget official said will be at least $600 million and at worst $1.2 billion. It's still unclear whether state budget cuts to education will necessitate layoffs at the scale Klein described — a total of 8,500 teachers in the most draconian scenario. The state legislature is working towards an April 1 deadline to pass a budget, and while the Senate and governor's proposed budget would cost the city schools more than $400 million at a minimum, the Assembly is reportedly planning far less severe cuts. But at the City Council today Klein stuck to his doomsday predictions, outlining how the 8,500 layoffs would hit each school district. Under the state's current "last in, first out" method of cutting the most recently hired teachers first, neighborhoods from the South Bronx to the Upper East Side — which have the highest density population of younger teachers, due mainly to either high turnover rates or enrollment spikes — would lose nearly a fifth of their teachers immediately next year, Klein said. Eight other districts in those areas, mainly in Manhattan and the Bronx, would all lose more than 15 percent of their teachers to layoffs. (The Department of Education's full list of how each district would be affected by layoffs is below the jump.)
New York

Principals are cutting positions, but no word yet on how many

New York

Elected officials target early childhood programs for rescue

Hundreds of parents, children, and day care workers protested proposed cuts to early childhood programs today at City Hall. (GothamSchools' Flickr) With the deadline for next year's city budget looming, elected officials are eyeing early-childhood centers slated to be cut under Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget as a key reduction to reverse. More than a dozen officials, including two mayoral candidates and three out of five borough presidents, decried the possible cuts today at a City Hall rally alongside hundreds of parents and workers associated with the centers. The proposal would cut the budgets of early-childhood programs and replace kindergarten programs currently operated outside of the school system with Department of Education kindergarten classes. The city says that moving the kindergartens is necessary in order to save the Administration for Children's Services $15 million. But parents today said that the current programs cover the burden of child-care in a way that schools, which end at 3 p.m. and are shuttered on holidays, cannot. The programs at risk of being shut are operated out of ACS, the city's social services arm for children, as part of larger daycare operations. Head Start, the early childhood program, is also slated to see its budget slashed by 3 percent. Desiree Jean-Mary said she is upset that her son, Joshua, who attends a Head Start program in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, might not be able to continue there next year when he enters kindergarten. Right now, Jean-Mary, who has two other children, picks Joshua up at 5 p.m. after her job as a home health aide is over for the day. “It would be really hard if I had to find somewhere else for him to go — I don’t want that,” she said.
New York

No new hires, a cash-strapped DOE instructed principals today

Responding to shrinking budgets and rising costs, the Department of Education is putting in place what amounts to a systemwide teacher hiring freeze, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein informed principals today. Individual schools will still be able to use their budgets to add new teachers if they are able, but the DOE is planning to cut school budgets so far that many schools will have to shed teachers, DOE officials revealed. And any new hires, to replace teachers who leave, will have to come from teachers who are already in the system, according to new rules the department is implementing. Klein informed principals about the hiring restrictions, which the department says should allow it to avoid actually laying off teachers, this morning during a Webcast and just now in a memo, which is included at the end of this post. The department is planning to give principals more detailed information about their schools' budgets during the week of May 18. Speaking to reporters today, a top DOE official, Photeine Anagnostopoulos, said she could not predict how many schools would need to eliminate teachers but said that a "high percentage" might be able to cut their budgets sufficiently by reducing non-teaching staff and axing programs. She said "the goal" for the department is for all schools to make the same percentage cut to their budgets. That size of that cut has not yet been finalized, she said, adding that principals would ultimately have discretion about how to cut their own budgets. The new restrictions require principals to fill vacancies created by attrition by picking up current teachers who are either in a classroom elsewhere in the city or in the existing pool of excessed teachers, which already includes about 1,100 teachers.
New York

Why the class-size-reduction money failed to reduce class sizes

The chart plots a dot for every school that received state money to create new classrooms. The dot represents the amount of money the school received, and the amount that the school's average class size changed. (Data via the Department of Education) We've already reported that average class sizes citywide did not decline last year, despite an infusion of money meant to reduce them. New data suggest the same relationship happens at the school level: Even schools that reported spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on class-size reduction efforts, such as creating new classrooms, did not necessarily see a drop in average class sizes. Rather, while some schools that reported investing in new classrooms did end up reducing class sizes on average, others actually saw their average class size go up. The data, provided by the Department of Education following a tug-of-war that you might recall, are summarized in the graph above and in a searchable file available here. The major challenge, according to the schools official who compiled the data, Tania Shinkawa, is not that principals didn't spend the money as they were supposed to, but that even that pot of money didn't guarantee that they could lower class sizes across the board. Take Bronx elementary school PS 57, which reported that it spent $190,000 to open new classes. Let's be generous and say that the money could pay for three additional teachers. That could go a long way toward reducing class sizes in three grade levels. But would it necessarily lower the entire school's average class size? No.
New York

Comptroller: Taxpayer dollars "squandered" on DOE contracts

The worst examples of overspending on DOE contracts, according to Comptroller William Thompson. Department of Education contracts routinely cost the city far more than initially estimated, according to an analysis that City Comptroller William Thompson issued just before today's City Council hearing. The under-estimations could be costing taxpayers a fortune in the price of things like Xerox machines and cafeteria equipment, whose prices could be negotiated at much lower rates if the city could accurately predict just how much schools would end up using them. One out of every five DOE contracts that ended in the last two years went over its estimated cost by at least 25 percent, according to Thompson's analysis. In the most egregious overrun, a contract with Xerox Corporation to lease copy machines to schools ended up costing the taxpayers more than $67 million. It had been estimated at a cost of $1 million. In a crossly worded letter sent to Chancellor Joel Klein today, Thompson, a mayoral candidate who has been highlighting public school issues as part of his criticism of Mayor Bloomberg, called the overruns part of a "troubling pattern of mismanagement" at the department. Department of Education officials strongly disputed Thompson's accusations and his figures in an interview and in testimony to the City Council today. The contracts at issue, called "requirements" contracts, can stretch above their estimated costs because they never actually set a total amount of services to be provided. Instead, they set a certain price for the service — say, renting a copy machine, or of placing a classified ad — and let the number of times the department will buy the service stay open-ended.