City says bureaucracy reorganization will save $13 million

Department of Education officials are framing the latest reorganization of how schools receive support as a money-saving measure brought on by difficult financial times.

In a letter sent to school principals last week, Chief Schools Officer Eric Nadelstern offers more details on what the reorganization will look like and puts the savings at $13 million. The savings will come, in part, through the elimination of 80 administrative positions, Chancellor Joel Klein told network leaders last week.

Last week, I reported that the DOE is planning to dismantle the Integrated Service Centers in each borough — places principals turn to when they need help with budgeting and the paperwork that comes along with special education and safety regulation compliance. In place of ISCs, principals will work with Children First Networks, small groups of about a dozen DOE employees who work directly with schools’ existing support organizations.

Another element of the reorganization is the dissolution of the city’s School Support Organizations and their rebirth as six new networks. In his letter, Nadelstern assures principals they’ll likely be working with same people as they do now. Many of the new network leaders, such as Judith Chin and Jose Ruiz, currently oversee support organizations. Others include Vincent Brevetti, Vincent Clark, Anthony Conelli, and Deborah Maldonado.

Nonprofits that run their own support organizations, such as New Visions and Replications, Inc., will continue to do so until their contracts expire in 2011.

Clara Hemphill, senior editor at the New School’s Center for NYC Affairs, has mapped out the many reorganizations the DOE’s bureaucracy has done through under Klein.

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, in this challenging budget climate, we are all being asked to do more with less. While schools are currently finding ways to reduce their budgets by one percent, central and field budgets are being cut by 2.5 percent, including a five percent reduction in headcount which follows last year’s eight percent reduction in headcount. As difficult as this climate can be, it has also provided an opportunity for the Division of School Support (DSS) to take a look at how we provide support to our schools. Our goal is to provide the highest quality services at the lowest cost while maintaining our focus on providing you with the supports you need to improve student achievement. To accomplish this goal, we are going to maintain networks as the primary support for schools and drive maximum resources to the network teams. We will do this by:

* Expanding the Children First Network (CFN) model to all networks citywide

* Transitioning operational supports from Integrated Service Centers (ISCs) to networks as of June 2010

* Consolidating the School Support Organizations into six smaller management teams, which will each oversee 10 CFN networks of approximately 250 schools; schools that work with Partnership Support Organizations will continue to do so and there will be similar CFN alignment to the PSOs. This consolidation will eliminate duplication of services across the ISCs, networks, SSOs, and central offices. It is a critical step that will save approximately $13 million dollars that otherwise would have been pulled from school budgets. This will help reduce the need for even deeper school-based cuts.

I understand how important stability is to your relationships with your network team. You will remain in the same network, work with the same network leader, and, in most cases, your network leader will continue to report to the same person. Also, until the ISCs transition in June, you will continue to work with ISC staff except in those cases where the network is already CFN.

This spring, you will have the opportunity to help your network leaders hire additional instructional and operational support staff for your network team for the 2010-2011 school year. For the following school year, you will participate in a network-based selection process and will be able to switch networks in July 2011 based on your specific and changing needs. There are over 500 schools that already work under the CFN structure and their experience leads me to believe that by expanding this model system wide, we will increase efficiency, service quality, and overall principal satisfaction. I am confident that by further empowering those closest to schools, we will enable even more of our students to succeed. If you have any questions about this transition, feel free to email me, discuss with your network leader or e-mail


Eric Nadelstern

Chief Schools Officer

after douglas

Betsy DeVos avoids questions on discrimination as school safety debates reach Congress

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos prepares to testify at a House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing in Rayburn Building on the department's FY2019 budget on March 20, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos fielded some hostile questions on school safety and racial discrimination as she defended the Trump administration’s budget proposal in a House committee hearing on Tuesday.

The tone for the hearing was set early by ranking Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who called aspects DeVos’s prepared remarks “misleading and cynical” before the secretary had spoken. Even the Republican subcommittee chair, Rep. Tom Cole, expressed some skepticism, saying he was “concerned about the administration continuing to request cuts that Congress has rejected.”

During nearly two hours of questioning, DeVos stuck to familiar talking points and largely side-stepped the tougher queries from Democrats, even as many interrupted her.

For instance, when Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Texas, complained about proposed spending cuts and asked, “Isn’t it your job to ensure that schools aren’t executing harsher punishments for the same behavior because [students] are black or brown?” DeVos responded by saying that students of color would benefit from expanded school choice programs.

Lee responded: “You still haven’t talked about the issue in public schools as it relates to black and brown students and the high disparity rates as it relates to suspensions and expulsions. Is race a factor? Do you believe that or not?” (Recent research in Louisiana found that black students receive longer suspensions than white students involved in the same fights, though the difference was very small.)

Again, DeVos did not reply directly.

“There is no place for discrimination and there is no tolerance for discrimination, and we will continue to uphold that,” she said. “I’m very proud of the record of the Office of Civil Rights in continuing to address issues that arise to that level.”

Lee responded that the administration has proposed cuts to that office; DeVos said the reduction was modest — less than 1 percent — and that “they are able to do more with less.”

The specific policy decision that DeVos faces is the future of a directive issued in 2014 by the Obama administration designed to push school districts to reduce racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions. Conservatives and some teachers have pushed DeVos to rescind this guidance, while civil rights groups have said it is crucial for ensuring black and Hispanic students are not discriminated against.

That was a focus of another hearing in the House on Tuesday precipitated by the shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, falsely claimed in his opening statement that Broward County Public Schools rewrote its discipline policy based on the federal guidance — an idea that has percolated through conservative media for weeks and been promoted by other lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. In fact, the Broward County rules were put into place in 2013, before the Obama administration guidance was issued.

The Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden, a leading critic of Obama administration’s guidance, acknowledged in his own testimony that the Broward policy predated these rules. But he suggested that policies like Broward’s and the Obama administration’s guidance have made schools less safe.

“Faced with pressure to get the numbers down, the easiest path is to simply not address, or to not record, troubling, even violent, behavior,” he said.

Kristen Harper, a director with research group Child Trends and a former Obama administration official, disagreed. “To put it simply, neither the purpose nor the letter of the federal school discipline guidance restrict the authority of school personnel to remove a child who is threatening student safety,” she said.

There is little, if any, specific evidence linking Broward County’s policies to how Stoneman Douglas shooter Nicholas Cruz was dealt with. There’s also limited evidence about whether reducing suspensions makes schools less safe.

Eden pointed to a study in Philadelphia showing that the city’s ban on suspensions coincided with a drop in test scores and attendance in some schools. But those results are difficult to interpret because the prohibition was not fully implemented in many schools. He also cited surveys of teachers expressing concerns about safety in the classroom including in Oklahoma CityFresno, California; and Buffalo, New York.

On the other hand, a recent study found that after Chicago modestly reduced suspensions for the most severe behaviors, student test scores and attendance jumped without any decline in how safe students felt.

DeVos is now set to consider the repeal of those policies on the Trump administration’s school safety committee, which she will chair.

On Tuesday, DeVos said the committee’s first meeting would take place “within the next few weeks.” Its members will be four Cabinet secretaries: DeVos herself, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.