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Tracking the local, state, and national developments in policy and legislation that will matter to teachers and students.
March 26, 2009
Teacher layoffs still a possibility, Klein tells City Council
President Obama might have spoken too soon when he said the federal stimulus could prevent teacher layoffs in New York City. Depending on how state legislators choose to disburse the stimulus funds, the city could still be looking at a loss of 2,000 teachers, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told members of the City Council's education committee this morning. The city Department of Education believes it is entitled to 41 percent of the state's $2.4 billion in education stimulus funds because it receives 41 percent of state funds overall, Klein said today at the council's hearing on the DOE's preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. This formula would give the DOE more than $500 million in stabilization funds, allowing it to avoid teacher layoffs. But he said some lawmakers "are taking a different view," instead suggesting that the city should receive a third of the state's stimulus money for schools because it serves a third of the state's public school students. Under this scenario, the DOE would receive just $360 million in stabilization funds, and about 2,000 teachers would have to be laid off. Klein, who was in Albany yesterday to lobby for the city schools, declined to identify the lawmakers to reporters after his testimony, saying that the negotiations are internal and ongoing. Either way, cuts to schools' non-teaching staff would be severe, Klein said, with a minimum of about 2,500 positions being lost in the first scenario and as many as 25 percent of school-based non-teaching staff positions being eliminated in the second. These positions include school aides, family workers, and other school personnel.
February 25, 2009
After criticism, Klein embarks on a sit-down spree with lawmakers
Chancellor Joel Klein conducted at least one of his meetings with lawmakers in his office at Tweed Courthouse. After suffering a beating from legislators who accused him of being rudely unresponsive to their concerns since taking office in 2003, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is taking the hint and reaching out. In the last few weeks, Klein has walked Mark Weprin, a Queens lawmaker who is one of his sharpest critics on the Assembly's education committee, through his Tweed Courthouse headquarters; sat down with a handful of other lawmakers; and made appointments with more, including the committee's chairwoman, Catherine Nolan. He has also begun, through his staff, to send out prompt replies to lawmakers' requests. "We’re getting letters answered, we’re getting information that we’ve asked for," a spokeswoman for Nolan, Kathleen Whynot, said. "We have a really good working relationship right now with some of the DOE staff, which has been a nice addition." Assembly members said the outreach began after they launched a series of five hearings on the subject of mayoral control — the governance structure that Klein strongly supports, but which several lawmakers have criticized as authoritarian. The state legislature handed the mayor control in 2002, but the law they wrote sunsets this year, and so many in Albany are rolling up their sleeves and hoping to revise it. The hearings were a chance for citizens to give their thoughts on how they'd like the law changed (or not). They also became opportunities for the lawmakers to air their concerns. Several of the complaints had to do specifically with Klein and his staff, who lawmakers said frequently failed to respond even to basic questions and concerns. The complaints accelerated at a hearing held in Manhattan where Klein himself testified, sitting before a row of lawmakers who took turns rebuking him.
February 19, 2009
Senator Oppenheimer doesn't like mayor's Catholic school plan
In another development that does not bode well for the Bloomberg administration’s ability to get what it wants out of Albany on school issues, a…
January 30, 2009
Mayor: Federal funds can prevent DOE layoffs, if the state wants
If 15,000 educators are fired this year, it will be the state's fault, Mayor Bloomberg said today at a press conference where he unveiled a preliminary version of next year's budget. The city is staring down a $4 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, Bloomberg said, larger than what he anticipated just a few months ago. To close the budget gap, he's proposed a plan that would require city agencies to eliminate nearly 20,000 positions. Most agencies would be able to cut positions simply by not hiring anyone new to replace workers who leave or retire. But the Department of Education would have to fire nearly 14,000 educators whose salaries are paid with state funds. Those jobs could be protected if the state fills in the holes in its budget with federal stimulus money. The stimulus bill has not yet been finalized but it appears sure to include significant bailout funding for strapped school districts. "Here's a chance for Albany to pay for their fair share of education with somebody else's money," Bloomberg said. But he said repeatedly that New Yorkers can't simply assume that the state would direct enough of the stimulus money to the city. "If there's ever a chance for us to put pressure on them, it's now," Bloomberg said.
January 28, 2009
Lawmakers seize on Klein-time to complain about his control
Only one of these four state lawmakers had praise for Joel Klein today during his testimony on budget cuts: The woman on the bottom right, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark of Queens. How much do lawmakers in Albany dislike Joel Klein? The chancellor fielded a flurry of criticisms today after his testimony before a joint session of the legislature. And only some of the criticisms had anything to do with the subject of the day, budget cuts. The rest politely slammed Klein on the one Albany fight where he'll really need their help: mayoral control of the public schools. Klein desperately wants to preserve control as it is, but many lawmakers said they aren't happy with the law or with how he's led as chancellor. The criticism was so persistent that, at one point, Klein plead with lawmakers to keep their opinion of him out of their thoughts on mayoral control. "Whatever you think about me personally," he said, "you need the stability of that kind of leadership to transform education." Assemblyman Herman Farrell of Manhattan dedicated all of his questions for Klein to the mayoral control subject. "We've had what I call a silencing of the lambs," he said. "I don't know who speaks for the parents, who speaks on behalf of the parents." Farrell then proposed a way to bring debate back to the running of the schools: He wants to create a second position called "sub-chancellor" or "uber-chancellor" — someone to take on the regular chancellor. Assemblyman William Colton, who represents southern Brooklyn, made a similar complaint: “There seems to be a feeling among parents that they don’t have the input or the ability to be listened to," he said. Other lawmakers criticized Klein's policies.
January 28, 2009
Klein says without state help, DOE could lay off 15,000 educators
Joel Klein is asking for flexibility and more money from the state at a joint session of the legislature today. Watch the testimony live online…
January 28, 2009
Mills: Slow down, but don't stop, promised CFE funding increases
Here is where you can watch today's state Senate hearing on education budget cuts, live on the Internet. Richard Mills, the state education commissioner, is now urging lawmakers to continue doling out promised Campaign for Fiscal Equity payments — even if the scheduled increases have to slow down somewhat. Governor Paterson's budget proposal calls for freezing the CFE increases, and delaying the promised hundreds of millions still left to come for several years. To watch the live Internet video, make sure you have Real Player downloaded. Chancellor Joel Klein will testify soon. Here's Mills testifying, and more about what he said is below the jump:
January 26, 2009
Micah Lasher, a Stuy alum, takes over as DOE's chief lobbyist
Meet the Department of Education's new chief lobbyist, Micah Lasher. At the Post's Daily Politics blog, Liz Benjamin reports that Lasher, a 27-year-old political whiz kid fresh off a stint in Rep. Jerry Nadler's office, is now the DOE's executive director of public affairs. That's the position held by Terence Tolbert until his sudden death at the beginning of November while he was on leave working for the Obama campaign in Nevada. Lasher has already updated his Facebook profile (above) to reflect his new job. As the DOE's top lobbyist, Lasher is now responsible for pushing the DOE's agenda in Albany. At the top of that agenda, of course, is convincing lawmakers to preserve mayoral control before the 2002 law giving control of the city schools to the mayor expires at the end of June. Lasher will also have to work some magic if the city's schools are to escape relatively unscathed in this year's budget fight. (Fortunately, he has experience working magic; he published a book on the subject when he was just 14.)
October 16, 2008
Could panic over education cuts cost Dems the state senate?
PHOTO: Joe Mahoney/iNewsThe state senate chambers Pledging not to allow any mid-year budget cuts to education has won the Republican leader of the state…
September 11, 2008
R2T tip: Focus on leadership, struggling schools
States that present the strongest proposals on improving teachers and leaders and on struggling schools will have the best chance to win federal Race to…
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