missing information

The list of unanswered questions that explains Sullivan's no vote

The man who made sure the city’s school budget vote was legal used his own vote to say no to the proposed budget.

A key reason Patrick Sullivan opposed is that school officials still had not responded to a long list of budget questions he submitted two weeks ago, Sullivan told me. The questions, which are posted in full after the jump, reflect the difficulty of getting information from the department.

Here’s one of Sullivan’s questions:

Last time we had this exchange we were told DOE does not know how many charter students are in DOE facilities. But then at the Bronx meeting Kathleen Grimm said we do know. Can someone tell us please?

Sullivan is often the only member of the school board, currently known as the Panel for Educational Policy, to speak out against the mayor’s policies. But he wasn’t the only panel member asking questions about the budget at this morning’s surprise school board meeting. Two other members appointed by borough presidents (Sullivan was appointed by Manhattan’s Scott Stringer) also asked question, but they ended up voting yes to the budget.

“The difference is that unless they provide this, I’m not going to support the budget,” Sullivan said.

Below the jump, the full list of questions Sullivan sent the DOE that remained unanswered today:

List of Unanswered Questions Provided June 4th.


It is essential that we understand enrollment trends as dropping enrollment does not square with the budget increases we are seeing.

Many costs for charter school operations — facilities, food, transport — are borne by the DOE budget. Last time we had this exchange we were told DOE does not know how many charter students are in DOE facilities. But then at the Bronx meeting Kathleen Grimm said we do know. Can someone tell us please?

You point us to the online S-FORMS but I don’t see charter schools there.
Please provide a list of charters with an indication of their DOE facility number, enrollment, and other blue book statistics.

Unit of Appropriation 401,402, 403, 404

What are costs for scoring state tests? Do schools bear them?
What are costs for scoring G&T tests? Do schools bear them?

415, 416, 453, 454 Central and Field

Please provide more detail on specific cuts and increases.
Many “cuts” at this level appear to actually be reassignment of costs to schools. Which cuts will likely result in increased costs for schools?
What are costs for periodic assessments?

What is the budget and head count of the press office?
What is the budget and head count of the office of accountability?
The percentage of children classified as special education continues to increase. Does anyone know why?

438 Transportation

Why is this cost increasing when enrollment is decreasing?
Can you show the numbers by borough and type of school (public/charter/non-public)? By type of cost – metro card / busing?
It is an enormous number — 1 billion+. Is there a more detail available? By school? By provider of transportation services?

440 School Food Service

Why increasing?
Please show costs or units (meals) by type and level of school.

442 School Safety

Why is this increasing? There needs to be cuts here in accordance with cuts to schools.

444 Energy and Leases

Can we see energy separately from leases?

461 Fringe Benefits

Where does funding for UFT merit bonuses come from?
Will merit bonuses be incorporated into the pattern wage increase or will they be incremental to pattern increases?

481 Categorical Programs

Please provide detail of funding by program.

Debt Service

What is in this number?
Please show separately for public schools, charters, private schools utilizing city bonding authority, etc.

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”