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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Thu, Jul 26, 2007

CFE Urges State Education Authorities To Hold Approval Of NYC Contract For Excellence

New York State Education Department to Correct Major Inadequacies in Proposal

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. (CFE), the leading non-profit organization working to ensure the constitutional right to a sound basic education for all public school children in New York, called on the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to hold approval of the New York City Contract for Excellence to correct major inadequacies in the proposal.

In a letter addressed to Joanna Duncan Poitier, Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education, Geri D. Palast, Executive Director of CFE, wrote that the plan violates key CFE lawsuit principles. “There are two key criteria for evaluating this plan: Does it serve the neediest students in the lowest performing schools? Does it provide adequate baseline information, targets and school level plans to allow us to measure progress? So far both are lacking. The New York City Department of Education (NYCDoE) Plan continues to raise more questions than it answers,” Palast said in the letter.

In compliance with the 2007-2008 State Education Budget and Reform Act (enacted last April following final ruling in the CFE litigation), NYCDoE submitted for State approval a proposed Contract For Excellence covering all 32 Community School Districts citywide. The proposal filed on July 16, 2007, outlines the intended use of $258 million in CFE dollars in five key areas: reducing class size, more time on task, improving teacher and principal quality, restructuring middle and high schools, and establishing full day pre-K.

The Contracts for Excellence are plans or "contracts" that high needs school districts that receive a 15% increase or $10 million of new foundation aid must develop, saying where the money will go, how it will be spent and what it will accomplish. The law states that the money must benefit the neediest students in the lowest performing schools.

Nonetheless, recent analysis conducted by CFE showed that high-performing schools are receiving nearly 40% of the funds, while certain high needs/low performing schools are receiving less or no funds at all. High needs/low performing schools were at the heart of the 14-year long CFE lawsuit.

“The constitutional right to a sound basic education established by CFE means: The neediest students in low performing schools can make academic progress, graduate high school and become civic participants who can compete in the global economy. That is our goal. To accomplish this goal, we need adequate resources, distributed to the highest need and lowest performing students, with strategic investments, strong accountability and public engagement,” Palast added.

In response to CFE’s input and public comment obtained at recent public hearings, New York City School’s Chancellor Joel Klein has committed to provide additional school level plans with specific target and program information by August 15. Palast called on Duncan-Poitier to hold contract approval until after the information can be analyzed.

“We must demonstrate that money does matter and that, when well spent, we can achieve results,” Palast concluded.

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 >