on the table

IBO: Changes to teacher residency rules could net city millions

Why was I on the floor?
Fewer parent coordinators and keeping teachers inside city zip codes are two ways a budget watchdog says the city can save costs and raise revenue. (Via Flickr Creative Commons.)

The Independent Budget Office released an unusually early set of cost-cutting ideas today, including a plan for co-located schools to share staff members and changes to where new teachers would be allowed to live.

The report, which the agency typically releases in the spring to influence budget debates, is a list of ways for the city to potentially cut costs or raise cash. Most of the report’s education ideas have been proposed before, including eliminating principal performance bonuses (to save $6 million) and eliminating parent coordinators altogether (to save $91 million).

New this year is the proposal for schools in the same building to share a single parent coordinator and a secretary, which the IBO estimates would save the Department of Education $50 million next year.

Another new proposal could inspire even more controversy: stricter residency requirements for new DOE employees. Currently, most city employees must live in the city for two years and then can move to six surrounding New York counties and are taxed an additional amount equivalent to city taxes. DOE employees have been exempt from both requirements, but changing that for new hires would bring in $3 million next year and increase over time as older teachers retire, according to the IBO.

IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky called the existing exemption a “glitch” in the system, and said the idea to change it came from within the agency. “It was just discrepancy that we were aware of, so we’re putting it out there,” he said.

But that could also hurt recruitment, as the report notes, and could “create an undeserved financial burden for affected personnel, many of whom are paid less than similarly skilled counterparts in the private sector or the more affluent suburbs.” It would also require changes in state law.

Today’s report also attaches updated price tags to a few of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s stated education priorities. A one-year moratorium on opening new schools—a possible result of de Blasio’s plan to pause school co-locations and closures—would save the city $13.5 million, according to the IBO.

De Blasio has also said he plans to charge charter schools rent to operate in public space, and the IBO estimates doing so would bring the city $92 million next year. That’s up from its $85 million estimate in May, due to the growing number of students in charter schools across the city.

De Blasio has said he would charge charter operators on a sliding scale, which would lead to different figures than the IBO’s estimates, which are based on charging charter schools rent based on a per-pupil fee of $2,320.

The budget watchdog’s estimates around charter rent has been disputed by analysts who say they fail to account for future costs tied to pension and healthcare benefits for city teachers.

“If you do the math that includes what goes on with the city’s credit card, then [charter schools] are clearly cheaper because they’re not accumulating pension and healthcare,” said Jonathan Trichter, who co-authored a paper that determined co-located charters cost $3,000 less per student.

Though the city has been releasing data this week to help bookend Mayor Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure, Turetsky said the early report was unrelated to the mayoral transition, and that the reports will come out in the fall for the foreseeable future.

“Rationally speaking, for most New Yorkers who think about the budget, this is really getting starting now,” Turetsky said, noting that the mayor is the one official the IBO does not serve.

The full report is embedded below. Here is a list of all of the schools-related suggestions, with new items starred:

    • Eliminate Public Funding of Transportation For Private School Students $47 million
    • End the Department of Education’s Financial Role as FIT’s Local Sponsor $45 million
    • Eliminate Elementary and Middle Summer School Program $22 million
    • Eliminate Performance Bonus for Principals and Assistant Principals $6 million
    • Eliminate Youth Connect $255 thousand
    • Impose a One-Year Hiatus on the Creation of New Small Schools $14 million
    • *Share One Parent Coordinator and General Secretary Among Co-located Schools $50 million
    • Eliminate City Dollars and Contracts for Excellence Funds for Teacher Coaches $27 million
    • Eliminate Hiring Exception for New Schools $12 million
    • Eliminate the 20-Minute “Banking Time” For Certain Education Department Staff $1 million
    • Eliminate the Parent Coordinator Position $91 million
    • Encourage Classroom Teachers to Serve Jury Duty During Noninstructional Summer Months $2 million
    • Institute Time Limits for Excessed Teachers In the Absent Teacher Reserve Pool $73 million
    • *Eliminate School Bus Operation Deduction $1 million
    • *Require All New Education Department Staff to Meet Same Residency and Tax Rules as Other City Workers $3 million
    • Charge Rent to Charter Schools in Shared Facilities $92 million

IBO Fall Options 2013

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede