Governor Patterson’s State of the State address was long on rhetoric and short on details. Starting in the middle of December Patterson began bemoaning the billion dollar plus deficit in the current fiscal year (that ends 3/31/09) and the yawning abyss for the next fiscal year. The Mayor has thrown around a $600 million figure as a possible cut for the DOE in the next fiscal year, FY10 – beginning 7/1/09.
The “rule of thumb” is that each billion dollars in city revenue pays for 12,000 employees (salary + fringes). How do you cut the DOE budget without layoffs? How do you reduce the impact on classrooms?
A Retirement Incentive
In 1991, 1995 and 1996 the BOE offered retirement incentives, additional months of service dependent upon total years of service. Each teacher who retires saves the city about $50,000 (trading in a teacher on max for an entry level teacher). The arithmetic: $50 million for each 1,000 teachers that avail themselves of an incentive. However; don’t start buying that condo in South Beach quite yet! Retirement incentives require the approval of the Mayor, the City Comptroller, both houses of the State legislature, the Governor, the State Comptroller and an outside actuary. Will a retirement incentive place too much stress on the pension system in a time of sharply deflated stock prices and the beginning of a possibly long recession/depression?
Full Implementation of Fair Student Funding
The “big gorilla” in the room is Fair Student Funding (FSF). Two years ago the DOE implemented a total overhaul of the school funding formula – all kids would carry their budget “weight,” determining school allocations. Teachers would be “charged” at their actual salary. The result: some schools, especially schools with large numbers of “economically disadvantaged ” kids, and a range of more complex factors, gained dollars while others lost significant dollars. When the union screamed, threatened lawsuits, and the city realized that many of the schools that would lose money were in more middle class neighborhoods, backed off and agreed to a two year “save harmless.” The “save harmless” agreement ends in June … if the DOE/City implements the original plan the city would “save” significant dollars … hundreds of millions … at the expense of the “save harmless” schools.
Restructuring, Reshuffling, Reorganizing at the Top
The announcement today placing Eric Nadelstern in charge of the Support Organizations may be the beginning of a wave of leadership/management changes that will lead to a much “thinner” organization at the top. Empowerment is a “thin” organization, over five hundred schools in Empowerment are lead by Network Leaders, each working with 20-25 schools with two or three staff members each. At the top Empowerment only has a handful of staff. Maybe, this model will emerge across the system.
Rumors abound! Currently all school must select a Support Organization, will the DOE make “support” voluntary for schools with “As” and Bs” on Progress Reports? Will Empowerment gobble up all schools? Will the new State Ed Growth model replace the current DOE Progress Reports?
An Overhaul of School Bus Contracts
I am told by those “in the know” that the city has not rebid the school bus contracts since 1978, that the same very well connected folk run the bus companies. The DOE hired a consultant to rejigger the routes … as we remember, a disaster! The contracts are another story: under Bloomberg the city did absorb the private bus companies into the MTA … is anyone taking a look?
A weak Governor, a State Senate one vote away from anarchy, a Mayor who, depending on the courts, may or may not be running for his third term; can this menagerie come up with a budget that cuts $15.8 billions from the operations section of the budget … a twenty-five percent cut???
The great irony: the wiliest guy in the room, with the most “clout,” and, by far the most “smarts,” Shelly Silver …
Can an avid Ranger fan from the Lower East Side save the State?