spending plans

Funds for struggling readers, special ed hearings, teacher leaders in mayor’s budget

Mayor Bill de Blasio presents his preliminary budget for fiscal year 2016.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that the education department’s budget next year should go toward continuing to expand the city’s pre-kindergarten and after-school programs while also funding some new initiatives, such as more teacher leadership positions and extra help for struggling readers.

The 2016 budget includes $340 million to continue de Blasio’s signature push to make full-day pre-K available to all four-year-olds, and $190 million to grow middle school after-school programs. De Blasio said the city will be “able to get more done” with that money since both programs will have fewer start-up costs in their second year.

The administration’s proposed budget sets aside $4.9 million annually through 2019 to pay for hundreds of teachers to take on leadership roles in exchange for extra pay, a plan laid out in last year’s new teachers contract. The funding would allow 594 educators to become “master” teachers, who lead study groups and coach their colleagues, or “model” teachers, who open up their classrooms for colleagues to observe.

The budget plan also adds in $655,000 next year to train teachers to support students with dyslexia, an annual expense that would increase over time. In order to speed up the process when parents request hearings because they believe their children are not receiving their mandated special-education services, the plan also pays for extra workers to respond to those hearing requests and sets up a new office to conduct the hearings.

While de Blasio described how the city would put its education funding to use, he also called on the state to send the city more money, as it was required to by the settlement of a landmark 1993 lawsuit. The state cut back its payments to the city during the recession and the tepid recovery, but de Blasio said today’s improved economy means the state should meet its financial obligations.

“Now we’re in a different reality,” he said, adding that he would raise the issue when he testifies before the state legislature this month. Chancellor Carmen Fariña made a similar request to lawmakers in Albany last week.

The department’s operating budget next year is estimated to reach $21.6 billion, an increase of about $700 million from the this year’s estimated total. Some $10.2 billion of next year’s total will come from the city, with the the state and federal governments providing the rest.

Below are some other highlights from the education portion of the mayor’s proposed $77.7 billion city budget for 2016, which still must be negotiated with the City Council:

  • college tuition help for classroom aides;
  • a new phone service in over 80 languages for parents who are not fluent in English, and a public-awareness campaign to advertise the phone line;
  • 12 new varsity girls sports teams per year through 2019;
  • and more guidance counselors and social workers to work with students who are serving out-of-school suspensions.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.