reversal

School to start Sept. 9, not Sept. 8, after principal protest

The city is reversing a back-room deal that would have had teachers and students returning to school on the same day in September, giving staff no official planning time.

Now, instead of starting school on the day after Labor Day, students will have their first day on Wednesday, Sept. 9. That will give principals and teachers one day together to plan for the opening of school.

Principals union president Ernest Logan had attacked the plan to eliminate the beginning-of-the-year planning days, which he said were the most important days of the year. “No one used common sense here,” he told me.

After today’s schedule adjustment, Logan declared, “Common sense prevails,” in a message to principals. He also said his union would continue to discuss the effects of the schedule change with the Department of Education.

One effect of the change will be a stray school day for students at the end of next year. Instead of finishing on the last Friday in June, as they are this year, students will be required to report to school the following Monday, as well.

Below are Logan’s full statement and the city’s press release, which emphasizes that other components of the teachers union’s deal with the city will save the city $100 million a year. First, Logan’s full message to the principals in his union:

June 25, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

For the past few days, I have been communicating with you about an agreement the city made with the UFT, scheduling teachers to return to school the same day as students. Since then, I have been in regular contact with the Chancellor about ways in which this agreement would affect preparation for the safe and orderly return of our children to school. Hundreds of you have also reached out to the Chancellor, and many of you have also contacted the Mayor.

Thanks to your persistent efforts, we have recovered a day of preparation and planning for the opening of school. All staff will report to school on Tuesday, September 8, 2009, and students will return the following day, Wednesday, September 9, 2009. The last day of school for students will be Monday, June 28, 2010.

We continue to discuss with the DOE the impact of this agreement. In the meantime, with school about to end tomorrow, I wanted to get this news to you as quickly as possible and to thank you for bringing about this change in the school calendar.

Sincerely,
Ernest

And here’s the city’s press release:

MAYOR BLOOMBERG, UFT PRESIDENT WEINGARTEN AND SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR KLEIN ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT ON NEW CITY SCHOOLS SCHEDULE

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced an agreement to shift the first day of school for students from Tuesday, September 8th to Wednesday, September 9th for the 2009-2010 school year. Teachers will report on Tuesday, September 8th to prepare their classrooms for the arrival of students, and secondly for professional development. In order to maintain the same number of classroom instruction days, the last day of school for students will now be Monday, June 28th, instead of Friday, June 25th. Monday, June 28th had been previously scheduled as a professional development day for teachers and will continue serve as the last day of work for teachers.

“This agreement will allow us keep the school year intact with kids in the classroom for the same number of days, while providing teachers and principals an administrative day to prepare for the arrival of students,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The rapidly growing burden of pension and healthcare costs has siphoned resources away from education, public safety and every other City service. The proposed new plans created with the UFT will save the City an average of $100 million annually over the next 20 years. The savings will help the City continue to increase education spending, which has nearly doubled over the last 7 years. I again want to thank Randi Weingarten and her team for helping to reduce long term City expenses, while also ensuring we continue the major progress we’ve made in improving City schools.

“Just as it was very important to go back to the tradition of teachers and students starting the school year after Labor Day, it was also important to give teachers time to prepare their classrooms before students arrive,” said UFT President Weingarten. “Now we’ve done both under this agreement. The deal also allows the City to save money, educators to preserve the age-55 retirement, and the schools an opportunity to revisit the budget if the cuts threaten to derail the progress we have been making. I want to thank the Mayor and his team for helping make this agreement work well for kids and for the schools.”

“This agreement will be a real help to school leaders, teachers, and students,” said Chancellor Klein. “While maintaining hundreds of millions of dollars in pension cost savings, Mayor Bloomberg has ensured that our students will return in the fall to well-prepared schools where they can immediately begin to build on the great progress they’ve made over the past seven years.”

On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg and UFT President Weingarten announced an agreement to support legislation to create a modified health and pension plan for newly hired UFT members, while at the same time preserving all health and pension benefits for UFT members, including the union’s age-55 retirement benefit. The agreement also sets a seven percent annual return on fixed Tax-Deferred Annuity accounts for Teachers Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement System members. The agreement will save the City an average of $100 million annually over the next 20 years when legislation is enacted. As a component of the agreement, teachers would return to their traditional start date after Labor Day and would no longer report for two professional development days on the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day – required since 2005.

money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”