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NYC Schools Would Get $5.4 Billion Boost Over 4 Years

Budget Plans Focus on School Funds

NYC Schools Would Get $5.4 Billion Boost Over Four Years

By: Anastasia Gornick

Columbia Spectator (Posted: 2/7/07)

Governor Eliot Spitzer's first budget delivers on one of his campaign promises to increase funding for schools, especially city schools, in response to issues raised by a court case levied against the state.

Spitzer proposed $3.2 billion in increased funding for city schools over four years, and the Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed an additional $2.2 billion coming from the city, The funding boosts, coupled with additional state accountability and a city shift toward personal responsibility for principals, mean that New York City schools stand to undergo significant changes in the coming year, with focused attention from both the mayor and the governor's offices.

The funding is a victory for Citizens for Fiscal Equity, the citizen group that sued the state 13 years ago for more state funding for the city's schools. In a November ruling, the latest in a series of rulings in CFE's favor that the state has repeatedly challenged, the New York State Court of Appeals ordered the state to increase funding for New York City schools by at least $1.93 billion a year.

Spitzer said in a press release last week, "After this unprecedented infusion of resources, the focus of education debate in New York will rightfully shift to accountability and performance in the schools."

Under the governor's proposal, school administrators will be required to demonstrate to the state that the additional revenue is used to fund projects that will increase student performance. Some of the projects that the governor's accountability initiatives will be looking for include smaller class sizes and teacher accountability measures.

"We had a governor for many years who was resisting compliance, and now we have a governor who's embracing compliance," said Michael Rebell, former executive director of the CFE. Rebell is currently an adjunct professor at Teacher's College specializing in funding issues.

"The CFE money has to be spent on certain major reforms that, according to the governor, have been proven to be effective," Rebell said. He expressed some concerns about the allocation of the funding, saying he was worried it would be dispersed through the school system based on a formula rather than targeted where it is most needed.

Spitzer's accountability initiatives are some of the same measures that the Department of Education will be looking at when assessing principals under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed changes in school organization. The mayor wants to transfer more authority and responsibility to individual principals in exchange for closer oversight.

The changes have not been with universal enthusiasm. Doug Muzzio, a professor at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, said that the mayor's reforms are "going to cause a huge stink. There's a real question, if it's wise from a policy point of view."

Some criticism has come from parents and the City Council, who felt that they were left out of the Mayor and DOE's decision making process.

A controversial aspect of Spitzer's plan has been to increase the number of charter schools from the current 100 to 250 and provide additional funding to districts with large numbers of these schools.

State Senator Bill Perkins, D-Harlem, criticized this provision, saying that extra money should not be going to charter schools when public schools are overcrowded. "These are schools that are under-populated," he said of charter schools, "You can now have smaller class sizes ... He [Spitzer] didn't talk enough about class size."

Some parents believed that class size was not comprehensively considered in Bloomberg's changes either. Joel Klein, Chancellor of the DOE, addressed the issue of class size at a City Council meeting in January to explain the mayoral changes. He noted that reducing class size without qualified teachers to teach those classes would not necessarily solve the problem.

Sara Vogel contributed to this article.

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