Media alerts and updates - August 2007


 

August 29, 2007 

Update on budget concerns

On Thursday, August 23 and Monday August 27, members of Parents United for Public Education met with senior staff members of the School
District in response to our concerns about the fiscal year 2008 budget deficit plan. Parents United has pressed for positive responses from the
District, particularly regarding desegregation funding and EMO contracts. Although there is still a long way to go, we feel that interim CEO Tom Brady and senior management have overall shown a credible and genuine concern about insulating classrooms from the budget.

Below are the responses to concerns we raised:

  • Loss of 30+ teachers and leveling in fall 2008: Mr. Brady said the District is prepared to accept the consequences of leveling 30-plus teachers according to enrollment. The District hopes to reduce impact by leveling before October. Parents United has let the District know that the leveling that occurred in Fall 2007 was one of the biggest spurs behind the vote of No Confidence and parent activism citywide. We believe that the $3 million cost to retain teachers must be a priority of the District. If not, this will mean we have lost over 180 teachers in FY08 alone. For a District that is concerned about the smooth opening of schools, leveling will create tremendous stress and disruption for schools which counted on their rosters for this year.
  • 50% reduction in deseg funding: In its August 15 plan, the District said it would eliminate 50% of deseg funds at non-deseg schools. Since deseg funds have already been committed, Mr. Brady has agreed not toreduce deseg funding for this year only. He will establish a TaskForce to look at the broader issue of deseg both as a policy and as a funding source. Mr. Brady noted that it is unlikely that non-deseg schools can count on deseg money beginning in September 2008.
  • Aramark's $4 million contract "bonus": Aramark's food service contract is one of the District's largest at $18.5 million/year. We have heard rumors since last spring that Aramark was seeking reimbursement for cost overruns. It is currently in negotiations to add money to its contract; the District has allotted a maximum of $4 million additional for FY08. Because the District is still negotiating this contract two weeks before school begins, Aramark clearly has the advantage since the District says it does not have time to do its own food service. Parents United believes the Aramark bonus must be reduced and immediate steps taken to address this contract for FY09. The $4 million represents more than 20% of Aramark's contract amount, and is more than the cost of the 30+ teachers we're leveling. We ask the SRC to take a strong stand that the District cannot afford to ensure against private contractors' losses particularly in a time of severe budget crisis.
  • EMO contracts: For more than 6 weeks, Parents United has been asking about the $2 million gap between the $500-per-student EMO management fee and the $12 million allotted to EMOs overall. The District confirmed on Monday that EMOs will only receive $500 per student, nothing more. By September 12, the District will add the $1.5-2 million gap back to the operational budget. Parents United asks that the District use this time to rebuild the Office of Restructured Schools and work with parents, staff and community members supporting the schools under EMO management to assure a successful transition in June 2008.
  • Additional Title I money: Title I schools will share an additional $5 million this September. Parents United had earlier raised concerns that Title I money might be used to replace lost deseg funds, but Mr. Brady said the money will be distributed according to Title I guidelines.
  • SRC contract reduced by less than 10%: Parents United remains deeply concerned about the Commission's shadow bureaucracy which costs the District $3.5 million per year, according to the FY08 budget last spring. When we've lost nearly one-third of our District administrators who were supposed to be responsible for services to children, it's hard to understand how the SRC can insist on keeping a majority of its own funding.

August 8, 2007
 
Update: School Reform Commission meeting

Marty Bednarek presided over the meeting as Chairman Nevels was not present. 
 
Budget

Despite rumors of $80 million in budget cuts, the District is not making clear what the exact gap  is. They claim that as of last year they needed to make $99 million in  reductions, of which they have made $49 million; and they needed to achieve $82  million in revenue. The District said they are still working to get more money  from the state. Although the city reduced a $10 million commitment down  to $2 million, the District was clear that the City had fulfilled its $10  million promise to the schools through in-kind services.
 
Class size reductions 

One of the campaigns that Parents United has been working on since last year became a major topic as the District unveiled a 5-year class size reduction plan for grades K-3.  This plan will supposedly go into effect at the Corrective Action II schools  first and then gradually go across the district over the next five years. One of the positive moves towards transparency is that the district is making clear that class sizes have gone up districtwide, moving from reported averages of around 19 students per class in grades K-3 toward 25-26  kids per class. We are seeking to post the class size reduction plan online as  soon as possible.
 
Making a difference 

It's important to recognize the difference that parents make:

  • Thanks to parent protests, a proposed vote was delayed from August 15th to September 12th on any budget reduction plan. There will also be separate budget hearings which have not yet been announced. 
  • Class size is now a major initiative of the district. While five years is far too long for us, our job is now to speed up the process rather than get it on the table. In the meantime, parents and schools should count heads in their children's grades and let us and the District know where you're school falls in terms of K-3 class size, and more importantly, what resources your school would need to effectively do reduced class size (i.e. kindergartens especially need a certified teacher plus an aide, not just a teacher). 

For more information, please email us.