Volume 74, Number 19 | September 02 - 09 , 2004


City has a plan, but state isn’t sharing the funds

Villager file photo by Elisabeth Robert
Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaking in Greenwich Village last month

By Albert Amateau

The Bloomberg administration last week filed a plan for New York State to add $5.3 billion annually to operating funds for the city’s public school system and to contribute an additional $6.5 billion annually for the city’s five-year capital program to build new schools and improve existing schools.

The city submitted the plan to a panel of special court-appointed referees who are resolving the issues in the lawsuit filed in 1995 by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity against New York State charging the Pataki administration with illegally under-funding city schools.

In June of last year, the State Court of Appeals directed the governor and the State Legislature to resolve the Fiscal Equity lawsuit and develop a plan to provide city school children with “a sound basic education,” as mandated by the state Constitution.

But the Legislature and the governor failed after a year of negotiations to agree on a plan. So State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse, who has been presiding over the Fiscal Equity case, appointed two former judges and a law professor, E. Leo Milonas, William C. Thompson, Sr., and John Feerick, as special referees to determine what the state must do to comply with the law.

The city plan, submitted as a friend-of-the-court brief, calls for the state to commit increasing annual funds by the 2008-’09 fiscal year for four operating initiatives: (1) leadership, teacher quality and parent participation, $830 million; (2) early grade programs, academic enhancements, including expanding pre-K programs, reducing class size and interventions for struggling students, $1.9 billion; (3) secondary-school reforms, including new small schools, charter schools and enhanced youth development and safety supports, $2.05 billion; and (4) special education and English language learning supports, $514 million.

The plan also calls for the state to fund half of the city Department of Education’s $13.1 billion five-year capital plan investments in three broad categories: (1) for restructuring 600 struggling schools, creating 200 new small partnership and charter schools and special science labs and technology; (2) for 90 new school buildings to alleviate overcrowding and reduce class size to 20 in grades K-3; and (3) for critical improvements to existing school buildings.

The additional $5.3 billion annual operating aid and the $6.5 billion annual capital funds should be new state funding and should not come from decreasing state aid to the city in other areas or by requiring the city to raise taxes, according to the plan submitted to the special referees.

The city plan also sets out how the mayor and the schools chancellor will continue to be accountable for improved performance of the school system, which came under mayoral control two years ago.

In regard to the mayor’s new accountability for city schools, the plan calls for the city to show where the additional money is spent and requires public reports on educational progress school-by-school and system-wide. But the city insists that the state should not impose additional regulatory requirements on the city Department of Education.

The city plan also calls for the schools chancellor to have the ability pay more to the best teachers and principals to work at schools with the greatest educational needs.

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