By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The city is trying to deny parents and the public from having input in the distribution of $348 million in funds affecting more than 1,000 schools in New York City, education advocates say.
The proposed Contract for Excellence (C4E) funding proposal should have been posted for public comment in September, but the city’s Department of Education (DOE) just got around to putting it online on February 12 – five months late.
DOE posted the long-overdue plan only after a demand by the Education Law Center’s Campaign for Fiscal Equity Project.
Lawyers there say the hearings come too late in the school year to do much good. The schedule of public hearings was posted only one day before one of the required hearings on February 13. Another hearing had been scheduled for February 14. (See the schedule of hearings at http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/funding/c4e/Public+Comment+2012-2013.htm )
In spite of the last minute release, public comments on the spending plan for the current school year are still due March 18. As happened in previous years, much of the funding has already been allocated.
The state seems disturbingly unconcerned with how its millions to New York City schools are allocated, education advocates say.
C4E funds go to schools and districts with poor, disabled and low-performing students and English Language Learners. The law requires New York City to reduce class size in all grades in exchange for the additional state aid – but class sizes have been getting bigger, not smaller.
Even schools in relatively well-off neighborhoods qualify for some C4E funds.
For example, in Brooklyn Heights, P.S. 8 is slated to receive $30,857 to go towards class size reduction as part of the plan. P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill is to receive $33,663 for class size reduction as well.
Many schools in Brooklyn, however, are receiving much more. FDR High School in Bensonhurst, recently removed from the Mayor’s list of schools scheduled to be closed, is budgeted for a whopping $1,161,727 for “Time on Task,” a process that attract students to spend more time in their studies.
Overcrowded New Utrecht High School, also in Bensonhurst, is slated for $991,903 for both class size reduction and Time on Task.
P.S. 17 in Williamsburg, with many Hispanic students, is set to receive a total of $314,909 for class size reductions and Time on Task processes.
Cramped Junior High School 265 in Fort Greene – where the city paradoxically plans to co-locate yet another Success Charter School in September 2013-- is budgeted for $212,432 for reducing class size. The school is also receiving $5,580 for Time on Task.
Red Hook’s P.S. 15 is down for $379,329, while Brooklyn Tech High School would get $161,823. Global Studies in Boerum Hill is budgeted for $ 329,844. Boy and Girls High School is set for $617,198, while P.S. 1 is looking at $726,717.
“The state often does not approve the plan until months after the funds have already been allocated, making a mockery of the entire process and the public input that is supposed to inform the plan and the state’s approval,” says Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, writing for New York City Public School Parents, an advocacy group.
"While better late than never, we are deeply concerned over the DOE's flagrant failure to issue the C4E plan in a timely fashion, as required by state law," said Wendy Lecker, C4E project attorney for Education Law Center. "We are also fully committed to taking action to have the public process for the City's 2013-14 C4E plan occur much earlier in the budget cycle to give the public a meaningful opportunity to review next year's plan."
Lecker urges all parents and school supporters to review the proposed C4E plan and participate in the hearings to raise issues about the DOE spending plan for their schools. The city plan can be found at: http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/funding/c4e/default.htm