dollars and cents

Early reactions to mayor's budget plan: Cautious optimism

Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers union, and Betsy Gotbaum, the public advocate, are usually hard on Mayor Bloomberg when it comes to education budget cuts. But because the majority of school cuts announced today will come from the Department of Education’s central bureaucracy, not individual schools, they have both issued cautiously optimistic responses to today’s budget announcement.

Weingarten’s and Gotbaum’s full responses after the jump.

UPDATE: Maybe this will turn out to be a budget fight. The principals’ union president, Ernest Logan, just came out with a statement, and it’s more confrontational than Weingarten’s. Weingarten said she is looking forward to working with the mayor; Logan says firmly that he opposes a mid-year cut. “Forcing another mid-year cut will hinder the progress we have made thus far,” he said. And he adds: “Let’s be clear – CSA is committed to standing up for the children of this city and will continue to fight for what’s right.”

Here’s Weingarten’s full response:

Given the state of the economy, we fully expected today’s bad news, and we waited to respond until we had a better sense of the whole citywide picture, not just how education will be impacted.

We are encouraged that cuts are being made to the central bureaucracy, which is a better alternative than cutting programs and services that kids depend on. We believe more can be done in this regard, particularly by looking at ways to create 360 degree accountability while also streamlining some of the existing components. We also must always be looking for new revenue sources, such as the property tax proposal, which we support.

Cuts don’t come without a price. The reduction of safety operations and custodial services has an adverse affect on schools. Reductions in pre-k services and summer school affect kids’ readiness to learn. Any cuts being considered in schools should be viewed through that lens. The Mayor has said this round of cuts will not impact on classrooms, and we’re going to have to be the eyes and ears on the school-level to make sure that holds true.

I firmly believe that layoffs should always be a last resort, because they impact on important services and have a devastating effect on families that lose their earnings. There are always other alternatives, such as redeployments, freezes on new hires and early retirement incentives. Teachers and other personnel in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool should also be better utilized.

There is clearly a lot to be concerned about as we move forward, and the severity of the city’s and state’s economic situations cannot be ignored. The tough choices are only going to get tougher, and that is why it’s important for all stakeholders to stand together. We are committed to working with the Mayor and the City Council as they confront the challenges ahead.

Gotbaum’s statement:

I am concerned about how the proposed cuts will affect education. The mayor assured me that the budget cuts to education will not directly impact the classroom, and instead will be made mostly to the Department of Education’s central administration. As I have long stated, DOE central can afford to trim some fat. For instance, there are still nine open positions listed on the DOE website under their accountability initiative, some paying up to $170,000.

Logan’s statement:

“At this critical time, it is essential that the best interests of the children be kept in mind before any budgetary decisions are made. We all know that education is the key to prosperity and the quality of education we provide to our students cannot be sacrificed during tough economic times. Our children won’t get a second chance.

We have been, and will continue to meet with the DoE to ensure school leaders are afforded flexibility in dealing with their budgets and to ensure schools have enough time to plan, prepare and strategize on the best way to continue to improve student achievement, despite budgets woes. Forcing another mid-year cut will hinder the progress we have made thus far.

With a growing financial crisis, now is not the time to roll out new initiatives, spend with reckless disregard, or continue with practices that have no proven record of success. We must re-evaluate and streamline our resources to focus on initiatives that truly increase student achievement.

Let’s be clear – CSA is committed to standing up for the children of this city and will continue to fight for what’s right.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.