Sarah Jessica Parker, Joel Klein, Caroline Kennedy, and deputy mayor Patricia Harris at an October Fund for Public Schools event. Photo by ##http://flickr.com/photos/23357263@N03/2906733823##Rubenstein, via Flickr## As Caroline Kennedy travels across the state in an unusual campaign to become its newest senator, New Yorkers are scrutinizing her work history. Among the questions being asked is how much time she actually spent at the city Department of Education when she headed its fundraising office for nearly two years starting in 2002. Back in 2004, when Kennedy stepped down from her DOE position, David Herszenhorn wrote in the Times: In an interview about eight months into her tenure, she would not say how often she worked at the department headquarters or how many hours she spent on the job, saying only, "I put in as much time as I can." This week, Wayne Barrett argues in the Village Voice that Kennedy's reported fundraising totals at the DOE are merely "hype."
The online testing system's logo. Here's an unusual complaint from a Bedford Stuyvesant elementary school, about the city's online testing system called Acuity. Acuity gives tests to students throughout the year and lets teachers and parents monitor how they do — what subjects the children are doing well in and which they aren't. Usually, critics complain that Acuity, which the Department of Education has purchased from the CTB McGraw Hill company, is a waste of money that encourages children to be over-tested. But the complaint in Bed-Stuy, from Lisa North, a literacy coach at P.S. 3, is that Acuity isn't available enough. North's argument is that since the statewide English exam is scheduled for next month, the holiday break should be a natural time for parents to help students prepare for the test, which can determine whether a child is promoted to the next grade. But North says family prep time will be hampered because Acuity is scheduled to shut down over the holidays, from December 28th to January 4th.
Gov. Paterson's cost-cutting proposal yesterday didn't just ask local school districts to reduce their budgets. It also took a knife to education programs that are funded by the state. The Buffalo News today reported on some of those statewide cuts: • Requiring districts to pay 15 percent of the cost of preschool special-education services. Those costs are now covered by the state and counties. • Delaying for at least two years planned increases in prekindergarten funding. • Eliminating $40 million for teacher development centers. • Scrapping a $10 million Teacher Mentor Intern Program, which allows veteran teachers to assist less-experienced colleagues. • Eliminating a $10 million fund that provided math and science programs of which students can avail themselves at colleges and universities. An important note about that second bullet point: Even though Gov. Paterson isn't increasing state pre-K funding, New York City could still see an increase in the number of children enrolled in universal pre-K programs.
Today's New York Times reported that Obama could oversee "the largest new federal initiative for young children since Head Start began in 1965" if he makes good on his pledge of $10 billion for early childhood education, leaving proponents of such programs "atremble" in anticipation of his administration's support. More than 20,000 youngsters participated in the first Head Start programs in New York City in the summer of 1965, the Times reported that year. The full article is after the jump.
A point I didn't make strongly enough about Governor Paterson's proposed budget is that the plan would delay, by four years, the cash infusion that was supposed to come as the settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The terms of the settlement were that both the state and city agreed to pour an extra $5.4 billion into the city schools over four years. Now that budget proposals are not only not following up on those increases but also cutting away from what was given last year, the group that filed the lawsuit in the first place — the Campaign for Fiscal Equity — is pushing back. The group will be lobbying the legislature hard to say no to Paterson's budget. Their better idea for how to tackle the state's giant deficit: tax the affluent, the proposal the Working Families Party has floated. Helaine Doran, the campaign's deputy director, said officials are also consulting with their lawyers. "We have no process of like, 'Oh yes, we’re going back to court immediately,'" she said on the phone this afternoon. "You have to look at the numbers and figure it out. We have geniuses helping us." CFE will be joined by the teachers union in lobbying the legislature to make fewer cuts to the city school system. Randi Weingarten called the proposals "chilling" in a statement yesterday that estimated the overall impact to city schools — state and city cuts combined — at $1 billion. Weingarten's full response, plus a long press release from CFE and other education advocates who are joining them in fighting the budget cuts, are below.
Talking about Barack Obama's hopes for expanding early childhood education (school for 3- and 4-year-olds) Sam Dillon reports in the Times this morning that, despite efforts to make pre-kindergarten available, New York State's efforts are "far from complete." How far? Pretty far. There are two areas to pay attention to: access (how many 4-year-olds are actually enrolled in programs) and quality (are the programs doing real teaching or simply baby-sitting?). Let's start with access. New York City advocates told me last year that they estimate demand for pre-kindergarten in the city at about 75,000 4-year-olds. Yet the number of 4-year-olds who are taking part so far this year is 54,000. That represents a steady increase from years past, the Department of Education's director of early childhood education, Recy B. Dunn, just told me in a telephone interview. But it's still far away from universal — and it's also below the number of seats the state agreed to pay for this year, 60,000, a package that would cost just over $230 million, Dunn said. The picture statewide is arguably bleaker. Winnie Hu of the Times reported last year that only 38% of 4-year-olds in the state participated in programs.
GothamSchools asked principals how they're handling this year's sizable mid-year cuts and how they plan to cope with the even larger cuts that loom in the near future. We'll be compiling their responses on an ongoing basis, so please encourage principals you know to tell us what they're cutting from their schools. So far, we've heard from a Brooklyn principal who said, "We will have to eliminate about 5 positions ...This flies in the face of the success we have had by lowering class size." And the principal of a large school in Queens wrote, "As of now we have been able to absorb the initial cut without any major changes to instructional programs. ... If they make an additional cut, which we heard might happen, this year, then we will have to excess teachers mid-year." Read all of the responses. After the jump, see the letter we sent principals.