February 5, 2008

It's a Matter of Principals

I only turn to economic articles on occasion, but these were collected after my child came home from school furious that her school is being stiffed by the state, YET AGAIN!!! I sought clarification and justification for her/my righteous rage.
This is for you, all my dears, for the lost at see whose dreams of flight have been cancelled by the realities of mass transit, and for the aching and the breaking of heart from decades of mighty hurts, traumas even, to awaken the psyche administered by this administration, and for all the lonely lovers, heretowith I present a glimpse into our town, with MyBoldEmPHAsis:
A Bad News Budget
by Courtney Gross, January 28, 2008
[...] For the first time since 2004, the city faces, not a surplus, but a deficit, forcing all departments and agencies to cut back or suggest innovative revenue producing proposals. No agency goes untouched. No department has immunity.
Calling recent economic trends "disturbing," Mayor Michael Bloomberg calmly went through financial indicators on Thursday, reminding New Yorkers that the city faces the effects of the national economic slowdown. "It's going to hurt us," warned the mayor, while ticking through a fairly pessimistic Power Point presentation at City Hall.
The question is, how much?
[...] Bloomberg contends that essential services will not be cut, but he needs to trim a total of $1.5 billion over the next two years. He plans to cut funding for individual schools and close some homeless shelters among other reductions. He hopes to boost the tax on cigarettes once again. But he still intends to keep the $400 tax rebate and 7 percent property tax cut implemented last year -- though some advocates cautioned against that.
[...] The city's expenditures are pretty predictable, said Bloomberg, but revenues are not. Almost every expert, though, predicts a downturn from the mortgage meltdown, credit crunch and Wall Street's seesawing.
[...] Budget officials estimate the city will receive $660 million less than anticipated in revenue based on the decline in profits on Wall Street.
[...] The answers depend to some extent on how bad things get. Some take a very grim view. Speaking at a forum Friday night, Representative Jerrold Nadler said the country could be facing the worst economic downturn since World War II. Bloomberg, while hardly optimistic, is not that gloomy.
Drastic Budget Cuts Incite Strong Feelings Among New Yorkers
By Alicia Outing, January 29, 2008
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Eliot Spitzer recently released dramatically slashed city and state budgets, a response to possible economic recession that has drawn fire from schools and education advocacy groups.
The city budget, announced Jan. 24, proposes a 2.5 percent reduction in funding for all city agencies this year and a 4.3 percent increase in cuts in the next fiscal year.
The Department of Education is slated to receive a $180 million cut this year, followed by a reduction of $325 million more next year. Principals across the city will be asked to cut a total of $99 million in direct spending, and the Department will administer four standardized tests to students each year as opposed to five as originally planned. Lead Teacher, an incentive program developed in conjunction with the teachers’ union, will lose all city funding.
[..] But Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of the advocacy group Class Size Matters, said that there was no room for school budget cuts. “There is simply no fat to cut at the school level,” Haimson said.
Despite the cuts, Bloomberg is keeping a $400 rebate for homeowners and 7 percent property tax cut for city residents—programs that cost the city about $1.25 billion—in a decision that some criticize as irresponsible.
“According to the state’s highest court, NYC public schools are severely underfunded—so much so that our children are unable to receive an adequate education,” Haimson said. “The idea that the mayor wants to slash the budget for schools by $300 million while offering $1.25 billion in tax breaks is obscene.” [Right on!]
Budget Cuts Raise Wrath of Principals
Principals across New York City turned on their computers Thursday morning to discover that because of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s new budget proposal, their budgets had been slashed overnight by sums ranging from $9,000 to $447,587. And they reacted with unvarnished fury, while frantically scouring for places to cut spending. [...]
[...] One principal, Steven M. Satin of Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, sent a protest by e-mail to the deputy schools chancellor in charge of finances, calling the cuts “an outrage and a disgrace and a slap in the face to everyone given the task of providing the best education we can for our students.” He forwarded his message to colleagues, and they in turn shot back replies ranging from outraged to scornful to sardonic.
“Might they also consider reducing what they pay in no-bid contracts for testing, ARIS, and any number of consultants living large on the backs of our students,” a Brooklyn principal wrote. “How much more do NYC public school students and their families have to give up?” ARIS is the acronym for an $80 million computer system that is used to compile and analyze student test scores and other data.
The e-mail messages were provided to The New York Times by a principal who wanted to show the depths of anger among principals but who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution by the Education Department or colleagues. In another sign of discontent, the principals’ and teachers’ unions, joined by elected officials, took to the steps of City Hall on Thursday to denounce the cuts. And in interviews, principals said they were carefully weighing what was expendable.
Asked what he would cut, Barry M. Fein, the principal of the Seth Low Intermediate School in Brooklyn, responded, “My throat.”
[...] The principals in their e-mail chain of complaints wondered whether their evaluations would take into account constraints because of budget cuts, and also spoke disparagingly of the city’s contracts with I.B.M., which developed the $80 million computer system, and as one principal put it, “a whole host of other private, for-profit corporations that have entered into our world.”

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