Wed, Jul 18, 2007
Chancellor Answers Critics on School Financing Data
By Jennifer Medina, The New York Times
Seeking to placate critics who want details of how the cityâ€™s schools will use an influx of new state money, Chancellor Joel I. Klein released figures yesterday that showed District 27 in Queens as the big winner, receiving more than $14 million. Much of the money $10 million will go toward reducing class size.
New York City won increased educational aid this year, the result of a legal battle over school financing. Gov. Eliot Spitzer and legislators agreed to a plan that sent an additional $1.03 billion to schools, with about $700 million coming from the state and $300 million from the city.
A portion of the money $258 million must be used for set goals like reducing class sizes, improving teacher quality and increasing instructional time. The city, like other school systems statewide, must submit a plan to the state for approval. The legislation also requires that the districts spend the money "predominantly" on schools that show poor performance or have large clusters of low-income students.
The city this month said that it would use nearly half the funds to reduce class sizes. Detailed figures released by the city yesterday showed how much extra financing school districts and individual schools would receive, but still did not specify where class sizes would be cut. Critics say the distribution raises the question of whether schools that are relatively high-performing are getting too much of the money.
"There is certainly going to be a lot more back and forth, because this just is not going to fly," Meryl Tisch, a member of the State Board of Regents, said of the cityâ€™s plan. "The point of this money is to drive it to those kids who need it the most."
But Chancellor Klein has adamantly defended the plan, saying that nearly every school in New York City has a number of students in poverty or at risk of failure.
"Youâ€™ve got to look at this in the real world and in the big picture," the chancellor said. "There are students with needs everywhere, and we have to give money to all students, not just some students." He said that the money has been directed to schools with high poverty rates and that the "overwhelming majority" of the money would be spent there.
The plan is unlikely to quiet those who say that the city is not focusing the new funds on the cityâ€™s lowest-performing schools. Critics yesterday pointed out that District 2 on the Upper East Side, one of the highest performing districts in the city, is getting more than $6 million.
"We believe that the money was intended to serve the lowest-performing students in the neediest schools," said Geri Palast, the executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a group that sued the state for more money for New York City schools. "This just isnâ€™t that, as far as we can tell."
Other districts getting large influxes of new funds are District 9 in the Bronx, $8.6 million, and District 10 in the Bronx, nearly $9 million.
Even within districts, the distribution of funds varies widely. In District 27, in Queens, Public School 124 in Ozone Park will receive about $525,000. A few miles away, Public School 108 will receive more than $1.4 million in new state money, more than any other city school. But in both schools, more than two-thirds of the students perform at grade level and about 70 percent of the students are at the poverty level. While P.S. 108 will receive far more money, lower-grade classes there are already smaller than at neighboring P.S. 124. an average of 21.8 students compared with 23.5.
The plan was submitted to Albany late Monday night after a week of public hearings. It will set the stage for negotiations with the State Education Department, which has until mid-August to approve the plan.
Correction: June 14, 2007
Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
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 stateâ€™s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >