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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Wed, May 21, 2008

Chancellor Says State Must Change Contract for Excellence to Absorb City Education Budget Cuts

Education Advocates and State Elected Officials Voice Opposition

On May 21, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced the City's plan to ask Albany for “flexibility” to $63 million of the Contract for Excellence funds that are supposed to provide additional funding for high-need low-performing schools. Klein stated that without that flexibility some of the city's highest performing schools would face budget reductions of up to 6 percent. CFE Executive Director Geri D. Palast and other members of the Keep the Promises Coalition immediately voiced their strong opposition to the plan. Governor David A. Paterson and NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued statements calling on the city to solve the problem by keeping the City's education spending at the promised level.

The following statements were released in response to Chancellor Klein's announcement.

CFE Executive Director Geri D. Palast:
Like Abraham with his son – the Chancellor is asking us to sacrifice the CFE funds meant to support students who have not received a sound basic education at the alter of “flexibility”. In fact, he is merely using these hard won dollars to plug holes caused by the mayor's school budget cuts. Asking the state for flexibility is “unconscionable.” The state in tough fiscal times stayed the course and kept its promise of increased funding to meet its CFE obligations. The city must do the same and not pit higher performing schools against the lower performing schools this money was intended to improve. After 15 years, New York City's children were guaranteed a victory by law. The Mayor must honor this commitment and roll back all cuts to schools.

Governor David A. Paterson:
The lack of flexibility in State funding reflects the State's policy that Contract for Excellence funding should go disproportionately to schools with the greatest needs. If the City were not reducing its own promised spending for schools, it would have sufficient money to balance funds for other schools if it chose to do so."

Speaker Sheldon Silver, NY State Assembly:
Instead of looking for ways to avoid keeping the promise to the New York City's schoolchildren, Chancellor Joel Klein should be fighting for the children and working to convince Mayor Bloomberg to provide promised city support to the schools. If the city provided the funding as promised, there would be no need to discuss budget cuts for schools around the city.

As part of the resolution of the CFE case, the state and city agreed to provide additional funding for specific programs including class size reduction. We kept our end of the bargain, providing an increase of $622 million in Foundation Aid for the city this year alone. But the city does not want to keep its end of the bargain, and is looking to cut its support for education by $500 million.

The quality of our children's education cannot and must not run up and down with economic cycles. In a year of significant fiscal challenges for the state, the Assembly fought for and delivered funding to provide a decent education for children. The city agreed to accept the state support for schools with certain requirements, but now Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg want to renege on that agreement. We have kept the promise to New York City's schoolchildren. Now the city must do the same.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT ) President Randi Weingarten:
It is the height of hubris for the city to blame its education budget problems on the state, which was the only government entity that stepped up for New York City's school children. The state kept its promise to our kids by providing an additional $600 million in education aid and greater accountability. Now instead of asking the city to use some of its $4 billion surplus to make up for its education budget shortfall, Chancellor Joel Klein is turning again to the state.

Mayor Bloomberg understands the need to use surplus money when it comes to the important priority of increasing salaries for our police force. I think all would agree that our children's education is equally important.

The Department of Education claims it wants the flexibility to spend state education funds as it sees fit, but what it really wants is the flexibility to mask the extent of the cuts because it's the city's budget formula that's causing the problem. Rather than playing games with the budget, the Mayor and the Chancellor should do right by our kids by providing the resources necessary to help schools most in need and immunizing schools that are doing well against budget cuts.

Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) President Ernest A. Logan:
We strongly oppose cuts on the school level. The City and the DoE must keep their promises, just as the State has, and that means very simply that schools should not be cut. Period. CSA and our Keep the Promises coalition partners have been very consistent on this point.

We strongly oppose any outcome that would pit schools against one another - the haves and the have-nots. It is the DoE's responsibility to provide a base-level funding to schools that keeps everyone on the same footing. Not doing that years ago led to the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

We strongly oppose holding back C4E funding. Principals need that money now to plan, and the DoE needs to stay true to the court-ordered purpose of that money - Which was to enhance the programs and services at chronically under-funded high-needs, low-performing schools.

We urge the DoE to find ways to cut nonessential programs and put new initiatives on hold - recommendations that have been made by principals and others all across the city including City Council Speaker Quinn earlier this week. Nothing is more important than the programs, personnel and services in schools that directly affect children.

In the spirit of collaboration and transparency, we urge the DoE to open its books and provide a comprehensive look at its finances. If we could see how they arrived at their numbers and understand their decisions thus far, we could provide a great deal of assistance in helping to find areas where more savings could be realized.

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >