Archons at Tweed: Will the “Absolute and Unquestioned” Power of the Mayor Allow Drastic Cuts in the Classroom?

 

Teachers tell me, “I’m not buying or selling a house, trying to borrow money, the market swings are disturbing but they don’t impact me.” Au contraire!
 
The New York City economy is heavily dependent on the Wall Street, perhaps as much as twenty-five percent of city revenue is stock market based. It may seem like a long time ago but the Mayor announced a 2.5% cut for this fiscal year (the NYC fiscal year is from July 1 till June 30), and a 5% cut for the next fiscal year. These cuts were proposed before the market tumbled!!
 
Governor Patterson is calling the legislature back in session on November 18th to cut $2 billion from this year’s state budget (the NYS fiscal year is from April 1 til March 31), and, it looks like the cuts will impact schools immediately. The Governor implies cuts for the next fiscal year of at least 5% … 8-10 billion dollars.
 
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty … how does it impact me, my classroom.
 
The DOE posts up-to-date school budgets on their web site.
 
Deduct 2.5% and 5% from your current school budget.
Assume the cuts will impact at the beginning of the next school term (Feb 1)
Divide dollars cut by six months of average teacher salary to determine number of teachers cut.
Multiply teachers lost by five classes each to determine number of classes lost in secondary schools.
 
 School Name Current Staff (Tching)/ 2.5% cut (1/31/09/ 5.0% cut (1/31/09 /Classes Eliminated
 
Stuyvesant HS           164                    10.7                    21.4                                    53
 Cardozo HS              167                    13.46                  26.9                                    67
Beacon HS                  53                      4                        8                                      20
J 104M                        60                     10                      20                                      50
PS 6M                        46                       4.3                     8.6
PS 41M                      49                       4.5                     9                       
 
Supervisory and Special Education positions are excluded.
 
A Principal will have to decide: cut the Advanced Placement classes with lower registration, electives, “exotic” foreign languages, or, maybe the Arts programs, a Guidance Counselor or two; in the elementary schools reduce the number of classes on a grade, i.e., reduce the sixth grade (120 kids) from four classes with 30 students each to three classes with 40 students each.
 
Of course the Department could absorb as much as possible from the caverns of Tweed, the Support Organizations, the Integrated Services Center, as well as the tens of millions in contracts supporting their initiatives and the suspending the Leadership Academy, etc.
 
The Chancellor prides himself on creating a “Schools Management Organization” and leaving the educational decisions to the principals at each school. These decisions include how to add positions in the “good times,” and, subtract positions during “bad times.”
 
Should this decision be left to the Chancellor alone?
 
The essence of the movement to re-jigger mayoral control deals with this very question. Shouldn’t leadership representing the voices of a wider constituency make this decision?
 Elizabeth Green, formerly of the NY Sun, and now residing at Gotham Schools quotes the former Chairman of the NYS Assembly Education Committee, and an architect of the current mayoral control law:
 
The original 2002 law authorizing mayoral control was not intended to give the Mayor absolute and unquestioned power over all education policy. Among its provisions was the creation of a high level citywide ‘Board of Education’ to provide a measure of oversight and checks and balances. The citywide Board was expected to exercise its own judgment and due diligence on policy matters of citywide and systemic importance and also be responsive to the views of the public. However, that Board has been rendered virtually irrelevant. This is absolutely contrary to the intent of the law. At the same time, many parents want reasonable input into how their schools are run.
 
Our schools are facing devastating cuts, will the current “absolute and unquestioned” power of the Mayor allow these cuts? Will the “legacy” of the Chancellor, the creation of a “management system,” allow these cuts to be visited upon the classrooms? Will the Chancellor use this fiscal crisis to try and change excessing and layoff rules/laws?
 
Teachers and parents face drastic reductions in basic services and increases in class size, and, these actions will have dramatic impacts on their lives.
 
The bottom line: will children become the pawns of the archons at Tweed?
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