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Following the billions of dollars spent every year educating children.
December 18, 2012
School finance reform plans take shape
Colorado voters could face a $1 billion decision on school funding next fall, if a complicated reform plan plays out as its backers hope.
November 30, 2012
Hick urges school boards to aim high
“Colorado should have the best public education system in America,” Gov. John Hickenlooper has told members of state school boards.
October 16, 2012
New Fort Hamilton HS principal nixes unorthodox $1 student fee
A Fort Hamilton High School student held up the back of a program card she was required to bring to school earlier this year. Until recently, Fort Hamilton students who forgot or lost their program paid $1 to have a new one printed out. The price of admission for forgetful students at Fort Hamilton High School is finally falling. Under new leadership, the school has put an end to an unusual and unpopular policy that for years required students who did not bring a paper copy of their schedule to school to pay a fine. Like all large high schools, Fort Hamilton faces a daunting task of keeping track of thousands of students' whereabouts each day. At some schools with advanced technology, administrators can scan students' plastic identification cards to check their schedules. Most schools instead require students to carry a program card, a sheet with their official schedule printed on it, to prove that they are where they are supposed to be. But unlike many other schools, Fort Hamilton had for years enforced the rule by charging $1 to students who came to school without their program cards. Students and teachers at Fort Hamilton, which enrolls 4,000 students, said the policy was strictly enforced. "I've wasted a good $30 during my entire four years here," senior Matthew Cora said. One teacher estimated that as many as 50 students per day had to wait in a separate line before they could go to their first-period classes, suggesting that the school likely took in thousands of dollars a year through the fine.
August 7, 2012
School funding proposal fleshed out
A broad-based study group has issued an expanded version of its plan for improving Colorado’s school finance system.
June 4, 2012
Saved from "turnaround," Grady faces new threats to existence
Grady Principal Geraldine Maione stands in front of a mural painted by students in a "transformation"-funded arts program. In a normal year, William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School would be preparing to enroll a ninth-grade class of about 350 students. But this hasn't been a normal year. The high school directory distributed to eighth-graders in September listed the school as having a "D" on its city progress report, even though Grady's 2010 grade would be updated to a B in October. In December, the school's federal funding was cut off after the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations. The next month, Mayor Bloomberg surprised school staff by announcing that Grady would be one of 33 schools to close and reopen under an overhaul program known as "turnaround." Then, in April, after months of raucous protests and appeals to the state's top education leaders, Grady was yanked from the turnaround list, along with six other schools that had top grades on their city progress reports. The school would open this fall as usual. Except that it won't. Grady has just 150 students on its ninth-grade roster for the fall, and fewer students means fewer dollars to spend — in Grady's case, about $3.5 million. Officials at Grady are planning to cut teachers loose, cancel after-school programs, and dismantle some of the supports that Principal Geraldine Maione said helped the school improve enough to stay open. No longer will there be after-school clubs in robotics and chess, and teachers won't be able to be paid to work an extended-day program for students who want to take additional courses in music and dance. With a career and technical education focus, Grady has never been able to offer a full complement of arts courses, so the clubs offered students a rare chance for a rounded education, Maione said.
May 24, 2012
PEP okays special ed funding plan, despite requests for caution
As predicted, the Panel for Education Policy approved a budget formula Wednesday night meant to hasten the integration of special education students into general education classrooms. But before the vote, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Laura Rodriguez defended the spending plan — and the broader special education reforms that it is meant to facilitate — against charges that the city is asking schools to move too quickly on increasing inclusion of students with special needs. Critics say that Rodriguez's departure from the Department of Education next month should cause the city to pause the reforms, which are set to go citywide this fall after being delayed once before. Under the new formula, students who receive special education services for only a portion of the day would bring more city funds than students in self-contained settings for the entire day. No one at the meeting opposed the objectives behind the Department of Education special education reforms. But some worried that lack of understanding about special education students could cause confusion for parents, students, and teachers alike. "Everybody’s on the same page," said Wilfredo Pagan, the board member appointed by the Bronx borough president. "Most of us agree with the opportunity this reform brings to the table." "But let's slow it down here and see how we're going to re-approach this situation," he said.
April 11, 2012
Walcott: Turnaround will happen even without federal funding
When members of the Panel for Educational Policy vote on more than two dozen school closure proposals later this month, they won't know whether the city will get federal dollars to fund the schools that replace them. Speaking to state lawmakers today, Education Commissioner John King said he does not plan to respond to the city's applications for federal School Improvement Grants until "early June" — well over a month after the PEP is scheduled to vote on closure plans for 26 schools. The panel has never rejected a city proposal. The closures are part of an overhaul process known as "turnaround" that the city devised in large part to win the funds. When Mayor Bloomberg announced the turnaround plans in his State of the City speech in January, he cited the availability of the federal funds — about $2 million per school each year — as a key motivator. But lately, the city's rhetoric has changed. When the Department of Education published details about its school closure plans last month, it explained that the turnarounds would happen with or without the federal dollars. Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg also told GothamSchools that new principals wouldn't have to replace half of their staffs when the schools reopened, a provision that could disqualify the schools from receiving SIG grants. Walcott told reporters at the hearing today that closure was the best move forward for the 26 low-rated schools with or without the supplemental grants. The schools are eligible for more than $150 million over a three-year period, but Walcott said the city's plans could be implemented without the extra funding. "If we have the money, that's great," he said. "But money should not drive policy. The policy should be, how do we benefit the students in the long run, and that's my overall goal."
April 6, 2012
Funding for no-longer-turnaround schools still an open question
Rejoice is turning to concern about funding at schools newly spared from an aggressive overhaul process. The seven schools — all with top grades on the city’s performance metrics — pulled from the Department of Education’s “turnaround” roster on Monday were positioned to receive about $15 million in federal School Improvement Grants next year. Being taken off the turnaround list means the schools won't have to replace half of their teachers, lose their names, or get new principals. But it also means that they might not receive the funds: A letter distributed by the Department of Education to students at the schools on Tuesday states, "We regret that this [change] may result in the loss of federal resources for your school." The funds could make the difference between continued improvement and backsliding for the schools. Five of the seven schools had received SIG funds in 2010 and 2011, enabling them to pay for enhancements that their principals said led to quick improvements. At Brooklyn's School of Global Studies, nearly $1 million received under "transformation" allowed the school to buy new technology and hire expert teachers. William E. Grady Career and Technical High School paid for tutoring, college trips, an extended program, and Saturday school for students who had fallen behind. Both schools scored B's on their most recent city progress reports after years of low grades. "If we don’t get the money we wont be able to finish what we started," Geraldine Maione, Grady's principal, said this week. "We started out on the premise that we were getting this money for three years because that is what we were told."
September 6, 2011
Lobato case: Whose constitution is it, anyway?
Editor's note: The following piece was written by Ken DeLay, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards. Students do not show up at the schoolhouse door equally well equipped for success. We know, for example, that young children who grow up in homes where adults regularly read and speak to them by age three have heard 30 million more words and have a vocabulary more than twice as large as children who grow up without those experiences. There are also differences in intellect and a host of other factors that affect student learning. Colorado’s public schools have been rightly challenged to accept every one of these children, no matter how well equipped to learn, and to launch them into adulthood 12 years later fully prepared for college or career. Leaving aside the legal analysis and the political jousting, the plaintiffs in the just-concluded Lobato trial are seeking only recognition of the fact that it costs more to educate the child with a vocabulary less than half that of his peers and a life experience of hearing more than 30 million fewer spoken words, and an order requiring the state to create a plan for funding those costs. The plaintiffs’ claims are rooted in an old idea. We get what we pay for.
June 1, 2011
Might Colorado's school funding picture change?
Paul Teske is Dean and University of Colorado Distinguished Professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. (These views represent the personal opinions of the author and may not reflect the position of the University of Colorado Denver or the University of Colorado system). As we start summer – the real, post-Memorial Day, school is out, summer – it is worth reflecting on the near-term future of education funding in Colorado. The legislature recently finished its session, which focused mainly upon budget cuts. Both higher ed and K-12 took cuts, but in the end, these cuts were somewhat less than some feared (higher ed), or less than the original level of cuts (for K-12). Remarkably, as the session ended, the fact that that cuts could have been worse seems to have been spun as mainly good news. EdNews recently linked to new U.S. Census data that ranks Colorado’s per pupil K-12 spending (all revenues divided by number of students) as 40th among the 51 states (including DC). That 2008-9 data is now two academic years behind – two years, by the way, full of deeper cuts in Colorado (and some cuts in some other states, too, to be sure). Consistent with other data on this subject, the Census Bureau shows Colorado spending about $2,000 per pupil below the national average. I will leave it to others to figure out more precisely what $2,000 per pupil could buy. It would seem, in a single class of 25 students, even if only two-thirds of funds were spent in the classroom, it would buy $33,000 worth of extra instruction for the students in that single classroom – a para-professional, lots of useful technological aides, or whatever students need most. READ THE REST OF THIS STORY IN THE BLOG ARCHIVE
January 18, 2011
As state testing nears, city directs $10 million to tutoring
Nearly six months after the city saw students' failure rates spike thanks to new, tougher state tests, Mayor Bloomberg is directing extra funding to ready those students for another round of exams. The mayor announced today that the Department of Education will distribute $10 million to 532 schools where more than two-thirds of students failed the state's math and English tests last year. The funding will target nearly half of the more than 100,000 students who did not meet the state's newly heightened proficiency bar. Bloomberg said he expected 48,000 students to receive extra tutoring and in-school help as a result of the new funding. DOE officials said schools should receive the money by February 8. Principals will be able to spend it on weekend classes, lessons after school, tutoring during the school day, and online programs that will help students cram for the upcoming exams. They will have to race to spend it in time for it to have an effect, as the English and math exams will be administered in early May.
April 29, 2009
In KIPP annual report, school performance data is laid bare
Test results from Harlem's KIPP STAR College Prep Charter School, where students on average outperformed their district but not always the state. Graph from 2008…
April 7, 2009
A unionized charter school says it was betrayed by the unions
Renaissance students organized a protest against the freeze in their budget. Staff at a Queens charter school that is represented by several city labor unions are growing frustrated with the unions, which they worry sat quietly by while state lawmakers slashed charter school budgets two weeks ago. The school, Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, is expecting a cut of between $500,000 and $600,000 from what was projected for next year after state lawmakers froze planned funding increases to charter schools two weeks ago. Charter school activists have said that they're hopeful that Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who founded another unionized charter school in Queens, will yet restore the extra funds to charter schools, but no deal has been struck yet. That leaves teachers at Renaissance planning for possible teacher layoffs and big program cuts. (The $500,000 cut from the increase the school was expecting is especially hard to shoulder given that pension costs are skyrocketing by $300,000 next year and teacher salaries are slated to go up.) A main frustration, a Renaissance administrator said, is that the unions to which Renaissance's staff belong did not give them a heads up about the cuts — even though staff repeatedly asked union leaders if they should expect a cut. "Our members here feel shafted," Nicholas Tishuk, Renaissance's director of programs and accountability, said. "We were told that this charter school cut was mentioned two months ago, and it hasn’t been on anyone’s lips. And then we find out the Sunday night before the vote on Tuesday that not only was it on everyone’s lips; it’s actually happening." Most charter schools in New York City are not represented by teachers unions, since the schools operate outside of the Department of Education and therefore do not see their staffs unionize automatically. But the union has fought to bring charter schools teachers into its fold. Their slow but steady inclusion has put the union in the tricky position of on the one hand lobbying for limits on charter schools, while, on the other hand, representing some charter school staff.
January 28, 2009
Halfway through the year, state approves DOE's spending plan
Testifying in front of the State Senate today, Chancellor Joel Klein mentioned that the Department of Education and the state had reached an agreement, finally, on how the city will spend $387.5 million in restricted funds. The money is part of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement, which promised annual funding increases to needy school districts. To get the funds, districts must develop a plan, called a Contract for Excellence, that shows that they will spend the money on certain kinds of programs and to help the neediest students. The state and the city have wrangled in the past over how much flexibility the city should have over allocating the funds. The agreement, quietly released yesterday, signals that the state has approved the city's Contract for Excellence for this year and will disburse the funds. The breakdown of spending in the DOE's final plan (shown by program type above) is similar to what the department originally proposed back in July.
December 2, 2008
All the state funds that the New York City schools don't get
We're late to consider Tom Suozzi's property tax commission report, released yesterday. Why would this blog care about a property tax commission report? Because it's actually all about the education, stupid. Property taxes are raised essentially for one reason: to close the gap between what schools need and what the state gives them. If you want to lower property taxes, you also have to lower the cost of school. Suozzi's report offers a list of recommendations for how to do that. In the process, the report also discloses a lot of interesting facts. For instance, check out the chart above.
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