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The 1.75% Solution

[Editor’s note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple, where this post originally appeared.]

The recently announced school budget cut is 1.75% of the total allocated 07-08 tax levy budget. Half of the budget allocation has already been spent … the impact of the cut therefore is closer to 4%.

Principals are rightly screaming foul … school after school reports cuts that will seriously impact core education. From an elementary school in the Bronx:

We have been cut $104,000 for this school year with another $300,000 slated for next school year. Frankly the $104,000 right now will be worse than the $300,000 in the fall. As it should be, we spend the bulk of our money at the beginning of the school year on academic support personnel (part and full time), instructional coaches and new curriculum materials. We have no “extra money” sitting in our budget for superfluous items.

Thus we will operate for the rest of the school year without the support personnel and assistance that renders our school of 1,040 K to 8th graders safe and supportive for staff and students. We will have to cut back to $0 the substitute coverage budget. This means our teachers will have to cover each other for absences, thereby receiving no preparation period for the day. Or students will have to be split among the other grade level teachers pushing class size beyond 35 and 36 in many instances. We will have to shorten the term of the part-time academic support and teacher support personnel, leaving our most at-risk students in the lurch and our new teachers without support at the crucial end of the school year. We will have lunch periods covered by administration and teacher volunteers because the four substitute school aides will have to be let go for lack of funds.

School after school is scrambling … cutting mentoring, after school programs, summer programs, and on and on.

A coalition of unions, electeds, parents and advocates are planning to fight back.

Will the folks most impacted by the budgets be able to fight back? Will the Bloomberg/Klein media machine overwhelm the pro child lobby? Will the national campaigns of Clinton/Obama/McCain focus on education?

Next year the Mayor has announced $300 million in additional cuts to the Department of Education.

In 1975 the City, on the verge of bankruptcy, laid off over 10,000 teachers … all elementary school teachers with less than six years of service were laid off. Not surprisingly, no one at Central Headquarters was laid off.

Rule # 1: The primary role of the bureaucracy is to protect and maintain the bureaucracy.

Tweed is busy burnishing their edifice … the Bloomberg/Klein national model … they have successfully convinced the foundation establishment, and come hell or high water, will do nothing to erode what they have created. The boatloads of dollars used to create ARIS or interim assessments or Support Organizations are untouched … the dollars are ripped out of the hearts of schools … out of the programs that directly impact the lives of each and every child.

Legislation in Albany is already beginning to nibble at the edges of Mayoral control as the City Council, Public Advocate and UFT each hold hearings.

Will the Bloomberg/Klein edifice glimmer across the nation or crumble into the ashes of history?


1 Comment:

  • 1 phyllis c. murray
    · Feb 13, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Re.The 1.75 Solution by Peter Goodman

    The Sankofa symbol is an Akan symbol. It represents a symbol of wisdom and learning from the past to build for the future. We are instructed to remember our past when moving ahead. Thus, we should learn from the past and move forward into the future.

    As trade unionists we must assess where we have been and what we hope to become in the midst of the unilateral change which is thrust upon us. And even if one was not involved as a trade unionist,parent, or student, the fact remains; the disruption to the New York City Public School System due to the loss of 1.75% of the budget has been catastrophic.

    Peter Goodman is right: “In 1975 the City, on the verge of bankruptcy, laid off over 10,000 teachers … all elementary school teachers with less than six years of service were laid off. Not surprisingly, no one at Central Headquarters was laid off.”

    Nineteen Seventy Five was the last time the budget was cut to the bone. Today, more than 40 years have passed. A full recovery from the drastic cuts from that period has never been achieved. Nineteen Seventy Five was a tumultuous year for the students, teachers and schools. First, Art, Music Summer and After-School Programs were eliminated. Next, Guidance programs were eliminated. Then, there were layoffs of teachers and para-professionals. Many teachers were moved from school to school like pawns on a chess board as seniority in the district became an issue. Subsequently, many teachers and paraprofessionals left the field of education altogether and never returned.

    We have seen the cuts so far. And sadly these cuts cut the students in our public schools; the students who rely on public schools the most. Therefore when the city begins to trim the fat from the budget, it should mean prioritizing. And if we put children first; if education is a priority, the fat should be trimmed from the excess expenses which do not result in any real contribution to the public school system; the fat at DOE Central Headquarters.

    The decision making must be returned to its stakeholders: the parents, the teachers, and the community because we have witnessed the debacles which have occurred with one disruption after another; disruptions caused by changes which were created to fix another change.

    “History is not everything” John Henrik Clarke once wrote, “but it is the starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.”

    Today, we must be at the frontline affecting change. We should join the coalition of “education advocacy groups, community organizations, clergy, labor unions and dozens of elected officials in a campaign to protect schools from $700 million cuts.” before the bell tolls.

    Phyllis C. Murray

    UFT Chapter Leader