Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Post Office & the DOE: Comparing Manufactured Crises

In my last post, I talked about manufacturing a budgetary crisis. I said I would post a quick description of the crisis in the Post Office. In short, it was manufactured by centrists and conservatives in the Senate. Once it was manufactured, though, it did its job and all but destroyed the US Postal Service. 

NOw you may think of the USPS as a broken government agency and you may conclude that it needs a good solid dose of competition or some such in order to get its act together.  However, that is exactly what the narrative wants you to think. So, unfortunately, you would be wrong. This is because the general public doesn't know that conservatives and moderates (of both parties) have been placing an undue financial burden on the US Postal Service for almost twenty years now. This is from the progressive think tank US Institute for Policy Studies ... 

In 2006, Congress passed a law that imposed extraordinary costs on the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) required the USPS to create a $72 billion fund to pay for the cost of its post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future. This burden applies to no other federal agency or private corporation.

If the costs of this retiree health care mandate were removed from the USPS financial statements, the Post Office would have reported operating profits in each of the last six years. This extraordinary mandate created a financial “crisis” that has been used to justify harmful service cuts and even calls for postal privatization. Additional cuts in service and privatization would be devastating for millions of postal workers and customers.

Each and every year, the US Post Office must make a $4.6 Billion payment to its pension system before it pays any of its other bills. That means the USPS must earn $4.6 billion from parcel deliveries and then it can begin the enormous obligation of paying salaries and filling the trucks with gas and repairing the planes and the rest of their overhead. Any organization will suffer under those circumstances. 

And, as you can see, we have an undue burden placed on our school budgets (my position is that it is undue because they have money from the federal government to pay for these budgets they are cutting. They simply refuse to spend that money). This new undue burden has the exact same effect as the budget cut does here in NYC.  The bottom line is that they both have less money in their budget. That's all that matters to them. In both cases,  they create a crisis in their budget whereas none had existed. For the post office, that led to draconian cuts to services for folks like you and me due to smaller and smaller budgets happening year after year. It led to less and less satisfaction. And it led more people to opt for the UPS store, instead of their local post office, when sending a package to Auntie or Grandma. 

They make the whole experience suck. And people make their choices accordingly.  

Again, once manufactured, the manufactured crisis does its job. It takes on a life of its own. Before long there are articles on business sites and whole websites dedicated to "saving" the Post Office. What they really want to do is privatize it. There even a step by step guide for doing just that. 

And what does the public think? It is not widely known that the post office had been handed a $72 billion financial burden. I mean folks don't know that, right?  That's not what folks talk about, is it.  They only talk about how long they had to wait in line at the post office last Saturday and how much the experience sucks eggs.  It's confusing when things are fine and then suddenly they are not fine. As a member of the public, you or I might conclude that someone made bad decisions in order to make the post office that bad. You never think that maybe things had been made to be not fine. A reasonable person would never think that great thought and care went into the actions that made the Post Office bad. A new financial burden did exactly that. Back in 2006, most of the country was concerned with the war of terror and the civil war that we had started in Iraq. Here in New York, you we couldn't board a subway without being concerned about a terror attack. Within that context, while no one was paying attention, they slipped this legislation in -and that new burden made the post office much much less than fine. 

The NY Post and the City Comptroller seem to feel the actual cuts to schools this year will really be eight percent, or average $402,456 per school.

The reductions amount to about $402,456 in cuts per individual school budget, or 8% of what principals get to spend on staff and programs, according to City Comptroller analysis.

This will have the same effect as the post office did for the post office. Joe Public ain't coming to this blog six months from now to get "the real" story and realize that his child's school budget was unnecessarily cut back in June and Joe Public isn't going to understand that the after school clubs at said school were cut because some politician wanted to shock the system. Joe Public won't ever think or believe that. But Joe Public will be mad as hell -at his child's school- for not offering after school clubs. And there will be plenty of writers for newspapers who will 'help' Joe understand this. Joe will check Google, maybe read a few articles to find out what's going on. But Joe is busy and he will quickly conclude that the schools in general suck and that maybe he would be better off signing his child up for a charter somewhere or moving to Long Island. 

And the end result will be a more privatized space. Competition has always existed in the parcel and package delivery space. But, since the post office crisis, we have seen one of the world's largest corporations, Amazon, enter the market and build an enormous fleet of planes and trucks for delivering packages. They will be larger than UPS or Fedex, its two privatized competitors, by the end of this year. That market space was created by the crisis from the Post Office.  That's how privatization looked in the postal space. 

They would like to make something similar in the education space. (Obviously. It's been that way for along time). We see lots of marketing go into charter schools, don't we? And we see a general malaise and neglect in the neighborhood school, as well, don't we?  New Yorkers, do you remember "The School of No"  stories from six years ago? The NYPost discovered and then followed the stories from a neglected primary school in Queens. Here is the story archive.  As they castigated the school principal and shared detailed stories from staff and from families, they contributed, generally, a narrative about how 'public schools' were failing due to neglect. That's all those stories really are. They're part fo a greater narrative. When parents see enough of these stories, when they see enough of this narrative, they run for the nearest charter school waiting list and hope for the best. As would I. As would you. As would anyone who loves their child and has been enveloped by a whole entire narrative that is shared in the press and reinforced by an obvious lack of services. 

Just like with the Post Office, what we are seeing is public relations campaign. They aim to hurt the schools and then turn to you and I with juicy little stories of individual neglected schools that have been hurt (by them). This will lead more busy parents to want charters. The politicians will then just go to Albany and say "look at all these parents! We need more charters!". Only at this point in the game, more charters literally means fewer public school schools. We use to have 1850 public schools in NYC. We now have between 1400 and 1600 (depending on which press outlet you read). 

And, like the Post Office, education is one of the essential pieces of the country. Education in and for every community is a principle that actually predates the republic. The Northwest Ordinance (and the Land Ordinance passed one year later) required that a school be built in every single community in the country and that that school belonged to the whole community. That law was made before the constitution. That's how vital schools are to Americans.  Once the constitution was ratified, the Postmaster General was a cabinet-level official. That's how important the Washington Administration  felt the post office was. The General of the post office was answerable only to the President of the United States himself. -and it remained that way until 1971. That's how vital the mail is in the US. These two institutions are very similar and are following a very similar paths. 

If we experience a crisis in schools in September, it will be a crisis that was created by thoughtful, experienced political and  school officials here in the NYC. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

A Manufactured Crisis

Still working on poor Dolores' story. I'll drop Part 2 soon. 

Pay careful attention. This is how a manufactured crisis is developed. This isn't how you manufacture a crisis per se (that's because the folks who are trying to manufacture this particular crisis are clumsy and clueless. They underestimated the strength of community and parent and teacher groups and, frankly, they didn't do their fiscal or demographic homework before they tried to run this play from the ol' Edreform playbook). But you and I are getting a very good look behind the curtain in real time about how to create one. This is the work of edreformers. They are running the same (boring) play as they did back in 2007-2013. It may be hard to see because the play is still in its infancy but this is how they do it. This is how they get their new charters and no bid contracts for their favorite private sector buddies and cuts to protections for educators of all backgrounds.  This is how it begins. They manufacture a crisis inside of the schools. Only "private sector" ingenuity and "workforce efficiency" will be able to save us. In the meantime, parents see the results from all the manufactured and determine to move their children to private or charter schools. 

The first major step in manufacturing a crisis is to create chaos. That's really what this struggle over budget cuts are all about; they're about creating chaos inside of 1600 NYC schools next month. And that chaos will be created. The important thing for them to do now is to confuse everybody as much as possible until the chaos is felt next Fall. 

Last week, parents and teacher won a huge victory from the NYCDOE by convincing a court to force the City of New York to restore those cuts. That immediately led me to conclude that the case would be appealed. In fact my exact thought was that 'The case is sure to be appealed and may well be overturned so this isn't over. In fact, it's not even a little over.' And by "this", I mean the basic "can we pay for some teachers?". That challenge is not even a little "over".

The other night, the appeal to that case was accepted and, by law, the decision was automatically stayed. until the full case can be considered. A stayed decision means that the cuts go back into effect until both sides can go to court. That won't happen until eight days before school starts. The Open Market transfer system will be closed by that time and the schools won't be able to fund the staff.  The Times described the effects from this it best:

The fighting has set the stage for a chaotic start to a school year ... The 2022-2023 school year was supposed to be focused on recouping [student learning] losses after the pace of learning slowed during the pandemic ... Instead, principals say the cuts are forcing them to slash teaching positions and enrichment programs they need to help students recover.

Chaos. That's really what this is all about. It's about creating chaos.

Imagine a school that has to cut two teacher and two counselor positions. Now imagine that the lawsuit is won on or after August 29. Sure, the money may be returned, but those teachers and counselors who had to be excessed will already be gone. And that school will have some folks who don't understand it or its children in those positions instead. See? Chaos. Now imagine that the lawsuit is not won. With no money returned for staff, a large amount of schools are forced schools excess their staff, the district's reserve (ATR) pool swells to significant proportions, Tweed places those same educators as one-year ATRs in "schools where they are needed".  The whole thing becomes a fancy way of creating forced transfers -with no rhyme, no rhythm and no leadership involved. All parents will see is something like "sub" listed on their child's schedule -and they will see that "sub" for three or four whole weeks until a teacher's name finally appears. When that name comes and they call to ask the school about it, the school will have little information to share (because they didn't pick that teacher either).  The parent looks around for a different school. 

At this point in the process,  it doesn't matter whether the cuts are restored or not. Chaos will visit many many schools next Fall regardless of the outcome. That was the whole goal in the first place.  

The public at large won't be aware of all of this flim flam during the summer months.  As the public watches their school cancel clubs or those amazing after school events that attracted so many people, they will conclude that the system, like so many other systems in this city, must be broken. They will see no money going to their child and the Edreformers will use sophisticated contrivances to communicate to them that it is all because they have to spend that money on the ATR pool of teachers.  That's all they will say. 

Adams is banking on the political winds turning more in his favor next Fall. He is not too far off from the truth. If this city continues to be depicted as burning for the next four months, he will have all the support he needs. The Taliban spent more than a decade making Afghanistan unsafe and, when they came to power, they made the streets safe. (NPR). Once those winds have turned, Adams (and Banks) will make the case that the DOE is hopeless and needs "help". 

They will, of course, have a solution. You may laugh now here in August, but the sad truth is that solution will be more drastic cuts and fewer available services for children (some to be replaced by private entities) -oh, and a vilification of seniority for teachers (because of this blasted fairness thing with the ATR pool). That solution will include putting more pressure on the classroom teacher and forcing some teachers out. They are working to achieve a bonafide crisis. We will suddenly hear about how great the bulletin boards are over at Success Academy or how they all keep detailed reading logs over at New Visions and that we should all do what they do over at New Visions and Success Academy. Fewer work and seniority protections in the contract, you see. 

They want fewer work and seniority protections in the contract because they don't want the UFT to have that kind of influence. 

In addition to that, they want more money to dole out to their private contractor friends with no bid contracts. Do you remember ARIS? It cost $81 million. It failed. In fact, it never worked. It was built by a private contractor. Are you old enough to remember HSST? That system was purchased from a vendor. We now use something called STARS for student data, report cards, scheduling and data gathering. They were for free because they were done by the next administration in-house. They didn't cost close to one hundred million dollars. 

They also want more charter schools. The chaos they are creating will turn so many parents off that demand for charter schools to go through the roof! And that will force the politicians over in Albany to raise the cap and create more charters (which will further destabilize the system (which is exactly what their strategic goal is). 

Both of these are examples of the movement toward privatization which they love so much. Like the USPS, they want schools to be more private. 

The response regarding the Stay from Class Size Matters is important to note here:

This will further delay the “chaos” that the City repeatedly cited in its brief, and prevent principals, teachers, and parents from knowing what their school budgets will look like until the appeal is heard on August 29, 2022. In the meantime, we urge the City Council and the Mayor to negotiate and implement a budget modification to immediately restore these damaging cuts because our public school children deserve a safe and productive return to school in the fall, which our Mayor appears bent on denying.

Chaos. Many seem to agree we are walking into chaos next year. It won't be felt until just after school starts. This is because the final basic budgetary allocation won't be known to schools until well after Labor Day. But chaos is what we are in store for. And that's all part of the plan.

Tomorrow, I want to compare this with the manufactured crisis in the US Post Office and point out some similarities. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Dolores' Dreams II -The Monster

We'll tell this story in four parts. This is part 1. 

  1. The Monster
  2. Workplace Abuse
  3. New Principal
  4. Form III

It was obvious. From distance, anyone who watched her could see that she was dreaming. Her eyes were closed. Her bag was zipped shut and propped on the chair next to her. Her legs and feet, both stretched out in front of her torso, weren't moving and her arms were folded in tight over her chest. Most noticeably, Dolores' eyes were strenuously bouncing around inside of their lids without hesitation. It was obvious to anyone who paid attention that she was in the rapid eye movement phase of sleep  Sleep. Dolores had fallen asleep and was dreaming. From a distance, anyone could see.

But that's not how it felt to her! To Dolores, the most vivid dream anyone could imagine, looked, felt, sounded and smelled as though it were actually happening to her. One minute can feel like an hour or more when a person was asleep the way Dolores was asleep, and any observer could tell that every minute of her nap felt much more like an hour to her. As far as Dolores was concerned, she was in real time experiencing real life.  To the outside world, Ms. Dolores Polonius was just a math teacher catching a quick nap on her lunch break before heading back to teach her last two classes for the day. But Dolores was in a completely different reality than the outside world. 

Within her dream, she found herself caught in a moment from her past. It, this same moment, had been replaying itself over and over again since the moment she closed her eyes.  It was the moment she said yes. She never should have said yes. 

This man was six foot two inches tall and weighed two-hundred and forty pounds. He yelled and screamed at classroom teachers (in a school) as though he were on a street corner in Brooklyn in the 70's getting ready for a fist fight. He always made it a point to tower over his victims as he was yelling at them just to make sure they were physically intimidated and trembling as he did. Know this, reader: If any other part of Dolores' Dream were fiction, this man and his deeds were pure fact. Dolores knew it. Even she, in her midday haze, was lucid enough to be aware of these as she dreamed: 

That he got away with committing breathtaking abuses inside of a New York City public school; that he did this with the full support of the entire NYCDOE apparatus, and did so for well over two decades.  This man had suspended a para (paraeducator) for twenty long days without pay on an accusation which he knew to be (and bragged, in trusted quarters, that it was) completely false. This man intimidated five gym teachers into not applying to be the school football coach -just so that he (for ten thousand dollars per year) could be the school football coach. This man would stand at a victim's' classroom doorway and smile at his victims as they were teaching and, if a victim tried pretending the monster wasn't there,  would bellow their name so that the whole lesson would stop and every face in the room were looking over at him -but he would just continue to stare at his victim and smile for an extended period of time until that familiar crestfallen pall of fear would cover his victim's face, and confirm, for him that he had gotten his prey. 

He would perform his abuses on infirmed older male teachers and on little old lady teachers alike. He would perform them on insecure newer teachers and on school aides who had little job protections. Anyone with a small height and small frame were particular targets for him, but he would attack and abuse anyone, really, as long as they were weak. As long as they were someone with whom he felt strong; and as long as he could drum up at least a few people who would agree and laugh with him as he performed his abuses (because that too made him feel strong. Monsters seek only to feel strong). This man would inflict his hurt and emotional pain and public humiliations on subordinate teachers because it pleased him and he would do it whenever he was given an excuse to do so. That is who he was.    

But for seven years, Assistant Principal José Abuelo -the most vulgar, cruel and brutal example of an school official that New York City had ever produced- did not abuse Dolores Polonius. No sir. 

Dolores noticed that he only picked on weak looking people, so she took an approach whereby she would give a strong "hello" every day and then avoid him as best as she possibly could. She knew he was an abuser. So she made it a point to not look weak anywhere near him. It was a simply plan but it worked well for Dolores for seven years -and it seemed as though it was going to go on working. 


Toward the end of his career, however, Mr. Abuelo found himself infatuated with a newer, younger female teacher and he was trying his best (as best as his best could be at least) to do his part to advance her career. It was during this time [] that he tried to get her the job of school Activities Director. 

The general topic of the young female teacher, however,  had become problematic. There developed a whole flock of younger educators who eventually took to following her everywhere she went. They came to listen and adhere to almost anything she had to say and, eventually, began doing everything she wanted them to do.  

Unbeknownst to Mr. Abuelo, she came to use her power base of young teachers to engage in rumors and damaging whisper campaigns about many of her colleagues and supervisors (including about Mr. Abuelo himself). She liked to call investigations on teachers. She would send her flock out for any tid bit of information about any teacher or student (which they would provide without ever realizing they were getting somebody into trouble) and would then arrange for the investigators to come. Sometimes this was done with The Monster's help. Sometimes it was not. 

She landed one teacher in a 3020-A hearing, saw to it that he was humiliated in the newspapers, and charged a $10,000 fine from a hearing officer. And why? Because he did not understand the new rules around his midterm exam. They taught the same courses, you see. And he had a nicer looking program than he did. She landed another one in investigation on his second day of ever being a teacher (a student had kicked in a computer screen while this young teacher was trying to get his bearings in the first lesson of his career. She found another student in his class, convinced the student to say he hadn't felt safe during that moment and called the investigators with the assertion that "students feel unsafe".  That actually happened too.)  There were more examples but this is how this young female teacher rolled. Something was out of balance with her and everyone saw it

Everyone, that is, except Mr. Abuelo. 

The principal saw her for what she was and saw her as a threat to his staff. But, like the rest of the school, the principal too sought to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with Mr. Abuelo too.  Mr. Abuelo had just so happened to take down one or two principals during his career and the current principal would not be placed in that position. So, as an alternative course,  the principal quietly stepped in and asked Dolores to apply for the position instead. "You will get it. I don't want to give it to her.". 

Ms. Dolores Polonius was not happy about the circumstances of her being asked. Her presence had been requested because the principal had wanted to keep the peace, not because he felt she possessed any particular skill that he wanted to employ at his school. That was a major disappointment for her.  Adding to this was the flat fact that, at her age, she wasn't particularly interested in being an Activities Director. That was a job for young teachers who needed to earn their stripes, had no life outside of work and possessed boundless energy to get stuff done. She wasn't young.  She had her masters and 30 above and, since she had earned her stripes years ago. She thought her days of organizing the Spring Dance and watching over school clubs were far far behind her.  But she knew that peace of mind came at a price at her school and, though she felt this price to be a bit steep, she was willing to pay She owed almost everything to her principal -and had so for several years now. This is why she just loved the guy. There were also a few experimental programs that she felt may benefit the kids at her school. She'd have to make sure Mr. Abuelo didn't see her as weak, and she would be dodging a terrible young teacher who would have every reason to target her, but she figured she could do it. How bad could it be? So she agreed. 

She had no idea. 

But that was it.  That was the moment she was reliving in her dream as she napped on her last little respite of the work day. The moment she agreed. The moment she said yes. The moment that she and that monster, José Abuelo, set their courses for collision. 

She should never have said yes. 

And then she heard something. She couldn't identify it at first, because it was so muffled. But, as the sound came slowly into focus, she recognized it as the voices of two giggling students sneaking out of their favorite teacher's classroom next door to her. "Such great kids", she murmured to herself. "I teach them soon". This was all followed, of course, by the sound of a teacher calling 'please don't leave until the bell rings. Come away from the door, please'. And then, finally, the sound. The bell. 

The bell. 

Dolores Polonius woke up in a flash. Before her eyes had fully opened, she had grabbed her bag, her coffee and checked for her classroom keys. And, as it slowly dawned on her that the lunch break had ended, she frowned at the thought of allowing herself to ever come into contact with The Monster. Dolores Polonius, however, always gets her Monster and she decided then and there to relive the entire ordeal during her next available lunch break nap. Not just her mistakes. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Cuts Get Cut -For Now

For perhaps the first time in New York City history, a judge overturned just part of a City Council approved law that pertained to the Education Department's budget. 

That's how much pushback team "Get Stuff Done" is going to have to deal with on matters involving education.

While an official court order is not expected to be issued until Friday, Judge Lyle Frank indicated that he will side with the two teachers and two parents who filed a lawsuit last month, which sought to invalidate the education department budget and force the City Council to take another vote. 

The lawsuit claimed the city did not follow the proper protocols before the council voted on the final budget, which included hundreds of millions in cuts to city schools 

The judge sad he's was going to write all this nonsense up and publish it tomorrow; that, by in large, the city had to spend the same amount that it had spent last year (in other words, with no cuts). The case is sure to be appealed and may well be overturned so this isn't over. In fact, it's not even a little over. 

A few takeaways:

1. City Hall made a rookie mistake. They won't make it again. Part of the city's defense was that it was allowed to use 'emergency authorization' to bypass PEP approval and make the cuts.  City lawyers detailed how 'emergency authorization' had been used for the past several years to pass budgets. It is this City Hall's first time ushering a budget through approval and, as it turns out, they forgot to cite a valid reason when they submitted for emergency authorization. Let's be honest. That's a rookie mistake. They won't make the same kind of mistake next time. Our side got lucky. 

2. City Hall Can (still) Use Emergency Authorization Anytime It Wants? What was the point of reforming the mayoral control law last Spring? I thought we all supported it because we wanted to ensure a more independent voice inside the PEP (including a voice from parents and community organizers and students and educators like). The law was changed to lessen the mayor's voice and power. What I didn't know until today's hearing was that all of those efforts used to reform the mayoral control law can be simply negated if someone submits a damn form that says "Emergency Authorization" on it.  

🍩 It's like a Thanos Snap. They submit that form and "SNAP" all that voice and passion from the communities and activist groups represented on the PEP is gone. 🍩

Shouldn't this be priority for any community based or parent or educator activist in this city. This tool -Emergency Authorization- takes away our voice. It is a legal tool that was used to negate the voices of people who aren't part of City Hall and who aren't part of Tweed. If, like the mayor says, we have to 'get back to normal', then we need to start with taking away the Emergency Authorization tool. 

3. No one know the total enrollment The DOE sites one number. The IBO cites another. The New York Post relied on IBO's number. Exactly nobody has relied on or used the DOE's number. Today, Chalkbeat New York cited a third number, and that citation was supported by a tweet from a person (a tweet!! A tweet was used as evidence to support a claim of how many students are enrolled in NYC public schools). This is a mess. It's the whole cause for budget cuts that are bound to last for years and it is impossible for a person to find an accurate, reliable number. I am not sure if the lower student enrolment is a real crisis or not, but the chaos surrounding an accurate number of enrolled students indicates that folks sure are acting like it's a crisis. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

"Let Them Eat Cake!" The DOE 'Restores' Just $62,500 To Schools

The NYCDOE is under a lot of pressure over budget cuts this week! Facing that pressure, they have "released" some funds that they are required to do under Federal Law. This is (no doubt) because they want to look like they are playing nice and "working" with their 'partners' in schools. 

Don't forget, they are awaiting a final court decision regarding the budget cuts they intend to inflict on schools. That decision will be rendered on Thursday, August 4th. As that is happening, the DOE is also locked in closed door negotiations with the City Council over whether (and how much) of the school budgets will be restored. Those negotiations are ongoing but I have heard nothing about them. 

And, through all of that,  they are facing an unexpectedly motivated pushback from community members and stakeholders, many of whom who are organizing a rally on Thursday in front of the courthouse in hopes of restoring their cuts to students.

That is a lot of pressure! So it would make sense that the DOE would at least make it look like they are giving ground on some issues. 

So, last night, the NYCDOE's 1st Deputy Chancellor sent an email out to principals claiming to have "released" crucial funds to help schools. He identified the amount funds being released as $100 Million. 

Does that sound like a lot? I think the 1st Deputy would like you to believe it is. Use some basic math, however, and you may see that it isn't. 

With 1600 schools across New York City, $100m is an average of just $62,500 per school. That's the ground they gave. They gave $62.500 per school (average).  

$62,500 will pay only the salary portion of one first year teacher. Principals are responsible to pay closer to $83,000 for that same first year teacher because of added "fringe" expenses). 

$62,500 will pay for exactly one experienced paraprofessional. 

$62,500 will pay for exactly 1.7 substitute teachers. These are teachers who are paid $199.27 per day. 

$62,500 will pay for a few school aides. 

And that is on average. These funds aren't being distributed to all schools. Only certain schools, with a certain population of student, will receive a portion of these funds. 

They took four teachers and one guidance counselor from my school. It looks like they are giving back a few subs and some school aides. 


Cake. Let them eat cake. 

The DC's email from last night is below ...

A follow up email sent to schools from another official is here ... 

"Good morning All
Yesterday at 7:27 pm  you received an email from the first Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg about the 2022-2023 budget updates.
What does this mean:
The Academic Recovery money( Sam 31)  you received in June can now be used on teacher positions."

(yes. It takes two Tweed officials to send an email. No bloat there, right!?)

And a follow up "School Allocation Memo" was shared with principals as well. I am sharing only that portion that provides details as to where the money will be going:

Allocation Methodology

With a goal to maximize equity, the methodology is designed to target schools that serve high proportions of students in foster care, students in shelter, students in temporary housing (STH), students who are English Language Learners (ELL), newcomer and long-term ELLs, students with interrupted/inconsistent formal education (SIFE), students with disabilities (SWD), and students with economic need (ENI).

Schools receive a weight for students in the above categories at variable weights. Schools serving K-5 students also receive additional funding specifically for K-5 students with economic need, also at a variable weight. These weights are different at each school and are based on the concentrations of needs found at each school. For example, a school with 55% students with economic need and 36% English Language Learners will receive a weight of 1.55 for each student with economic need, and 1.36 for each English Language Learner.

Due to the different types of programs in District 79, and their distinct structures and needs, the Superintendent modified the allocation methodology for their programs to account for the characteristics of their students, such as incarcerated youth and programs with large numbers of over-age under-credited pupils. These changes will also enable funding to be distributed in a way that helps address breakage due their programs being multi-sited.

The $125M is then allocated evenly per weighted capita; however, schools will receive a minimum of $25,000 and no school will receive more than $200,000. The allocation methodology only applies to K-12 students and is the same for all schools. Twenty percent of the funding ($25M) is allocated for arts and enrichment programming as described below.

Funding for District 79 Alternative Schools and Programs is indicated on the allocation tables.



Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Dodging the DOEnuts ...

Last week was fairly consequential for the NYCDOE.  They seemed to have gotten caught lying about student enrollment. They then lost the first round of a lawsuit. The NYPost simpy stopped using their enrollment data in publishing their own articles and then they got caught cheating when they froze all schools out of the Galaxy system. That's a rough week. 

This week is proving to be just as consequential. On Thursday, a court will decide whether the DOE and NYC ignored legislative rules when they cut school budgets. A small group of protesters are planning an anti-NYCDOE rally outside the courthouse on the same day in support of ending the budget cuts. On Monday, the Comptroller of NYC released a report indicating that the city has (and is refusing to spend) $4.4 Billion and that was covered in the press on Tuesday. And throughout this whole week, negotiations to restore the cuts continue with the City Council. This is a rough week for them as well. 

At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to schools with virtually none cut from the central bureaucracy down at the Tweed Courthouse and their several dozen "Satellite" locations.

The leaders of our school district want to cut money for schools (the NYCDOE is considered one school district in New York State) in the face of all common sense. In their zeal to get what they want, team "Get Stuff Done" has looked clumsy, ill-informed on the most basic of issues and ill prepared to proceed should they lose. They showed their true colors last week. It ain't very pretty and they have another week to get through. 

Below are just a few of the doenuts that spilled out last week and a few for this week as well. 

🍩 #1 

The first one came after a parent discovered that the DOE was fudging their student enrollment numbers for next year. City Hall and Tweed are trying to convince the public that the city has lost 240,000 students.  This is big. If you want to take money from schools in NYC, you will have to convince the public that tons and tons of students have left. This parent discovered (through data analysis) that they haven't left. The DOE simply ignored four major groups of students when they calculated. The parent discovered the students from D75, D79, as well as all pre-K students (including 3K and 4K) were simply not counted in data that was released to the public. The parent used data to conclude otherwise and shared that in a series of tweets. I wrote it up into a blog post so you can read about it in its correct context.  You can catch up on that story here. 

🍩 #2 

The New York Post then published a piece that didn't even bother to use enrollment numbers shared by the DOE, opting instead to side with IBO data. That data shows only 73,000 students have left city-run schools. I had to stop what I was doing to write about that one as well. You can read it here. Register is down by 6.7% this year. In admin school, the professors teach the students all about budgeting. There is a whole course about it.  One thing that is taught is that student enrollment goes through ebbs and flows. In any one given year, a school district can lose or gain 3%-8% of their enrollment register.  It's part of the game. 6.7%  register loss is nothing to sneeze at. But it is nothing to cause panic over either. 

I shouldn't divert from the main point, though: The New York Post did not feel comfortable enough to publish basic enrollment data provided by an agency of the New York City government. Let that sink in, please.  It is an indication of exactly how little the press has come to trust the city hall  and the NYCDOE.

That would have been enough for one week during the summer. But the doenuts just kept on coming! 

🍩 #3 is going to take a minute to explain...

A parent group had sued the DOE for enacting budget cuts that were not passed by the DOE's governing committee -the PEP. The lawsuit led to a temporary restraining order (TRO) instructing the DOE to restore funding levels until a full decision could be rendered. 

The department responded to the TRO by (read carefully now) freezing the software that principals use to pay their bills! That was their response. They froze the Galaxy software and stopped all of that machinery from operating. They just stopped it all.  This happened during summer school and on the day that secretaries were to enter per session (which is how summer school teachers are paid). 

In their explanation to principals as to why Galaxy had been frozen, they cited advice from DOE lawyers. This prompted the lawyers who were on the other side of the lawsuit to quickly to respond with a press release, saying "There is no crisis except what has been manufactured by the City's lawyers". The statement goes on to and, in fact, ends with a very harsh accusation:

"The TRO explicitly states that the DOE is enjoined from making any further cuts and spending at levels other than at the prior year's levels ... What they are doing by freezing galaxy budgetentirelyurely aimed at creating havoc for principals where non should exist." 

That is one heck of an accusation to make but it is where that discussion stands. It is a very weird juxtaposition all around. 

Now I can't say that I disagree with the broad strokes of the new mayor and chancellor are trying to do: The Department of Education has become a $36 Billion beast that is beyond any one person or group's control. This city agency, aptly located in New York's very symbol of graft and corruption, is just too darn big. Nothing this size, save for the US military, can be managed well. There is only one thing to do with a beast this big: You have to starve it. You have to slash. You have to cut. You have to take money away and then make the beast beg for its money back. You have to starve that beast at every turn. 

Clumsily, however, they attempted to starve schools -and schools are not the beast. 

And when faced with a TRO, they sought to punish school budgets, not the beast. Clumsy.

Adding to their clumsiness, someone down there at Tweed was caught lying about enrollment numbers. Maybe they figured that the public wouldn't pay much attention during the summer months? I just don't know. But someone down there probably figured they could get away with under counting students (by 240,000). Whether they are able to get over on the inaccuracy remains to be seen.  But it too was someone's very clumsy move. 

Also unraveled is the amount of cuts schools are facing! The city insists it is cutting only $215. One repoidentifiedied $312 million. The mayor's own executive budget identified $306 million as the number. Then they were seen attempting to cut closer to $375 million. Brad Landers' report identified closer to $469 million being cut (see here). These type of inconsistencies aren't the result of any evil tactic. These are just clumsy moves. 

And between now and Thursday, City Hall is still in negotiations with the City Council to have this budget issue resolved through legislative means. That's right. It may not even come down to the court decision in Thursday. This whole thing could be settled, between the mayor and the city council, before then.  An agreement such as this may render any court decision useless. 

Look for a resolution that splits the difference. 

Whether it comes from a court decision or an agreement between the mayor and city council, the name of the game is going to be compromise. He's the mayor. He's the chancellor. This is what they want. That will count for something. But, given that they have understated their student enrollment (by about a quarter million) and have overstated the amount of money they are looking to cut (but about another quarter million), look for the final agreement to be tilted toward the mayor and chancellor. 

So where are? Taken as a whole, City Hall / Tweed were less than honest with how much they wanted to cut (They announced $215 million vs the almost $500 million that has now been published!). They were less than honest with why they wanted to cut the budget (They claimed 760,000 lost students when the number seems closer to 73,000). The press is steering clear from their data out of mistrust and they have eroded the trust that was given them by school based officials (they were supposed to end the chaos. Not add to it). Whatever the budgets are for next year, it will be the result of Tweed/City Hall being told what to do (either from a court or from an agreement). They don't have a good track record of doing things that they are told to do so I expect any agreement that is reached this week to be ignored just as soon as they are politically able to do so. None of this disqualifies them from being educators of the year but they aren't disqualified from earning a doenut of the year either). 

This coming year is already going to be a mess. To be clear, schools will suffer from whatever staff shortages or issues that have manifested over this summer for the entity of next year. So to a large extent, much of the damage has already been done  -and that seems to be exactly what they want. 

But why? I can't avoid offering some commentary over my next two posts. In one, I'll have to talk about how the DOE has weaponized budget and staff in the past. And, in another, I'll have to talk about an odd sort of Lemon Dance that the NYCDOE has played with ineffective administrators for decades. The lemons are dancing as we speak. They are dancing from Borough Support Centers straight to a school near you and I think it's a good time to talk about that. It has everything to do with the budget cuts that schools are facing.  So stay tuned.