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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Tue, Jun 17, 2008

CFE Analysis of Preliminary NYC DOE Contract for Excellence: Allocations Do Not Meet State Standard for Predominately Serving Neediest Students

Advocates Call for Strong Central Initiatives to Address Students with Highest Educational Needs

(New York, NY) The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) - the organization that brought the successful 13 year litigation that resulted in $2.3 billion in new state aid for New York City - released its analysis of the New York City Department of Education’s (NYCDOE) preliminary plan for its 2008-09 Contract for Excellence. Contrary to state regulations requiring that 75% of the Contract dollars be spent on 50% of the schools and students in greatest need, CFE found that NYCDOE is allocating only 59% to the neediest schools, and 41% to higher performing schools. Download the complete report (pdf).

CFE joined with representatives from the Advocates for Children (AFC), Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), NYC Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), SEIU Local 32BJ and United Federation for Teachers (UFT) to call on the NYCDOE to revise its Contract for Excellence to ensure that the Contract dollars are spent on the neediest schools and students through targeted investment in central initiatives. These central initiatives include expanding services to English Language Learners (ELLs), improving middle schools and reducing class size in low performing schools.

NYCDOE is supposed to provide detailed school allocations and program investment information for the $386 million in their proposed Contract. However, the City has currently provided school allocation information on only $231 million. The CFE analysis is based on this preliminary data.

CFE undertook its analysis to determine whether the DOE’s preliminary allocations meet the state’s criteria that “at least 75 percent of the annual contract amount shall be distributed to benefit students having the greatest educational needs who are enrolled in the top 50 percent of schools within the district ranked in order of greatest to least relative incidence, as measured against total school enrollment, of poverty, disability, limited English proficiency and low school performance; provided that all schools within the district that are in improvement status shall receive at least their pro rata share of contract funds based on their share of total district need.” Per this regulation, DOE must spend $289 million of the $386 million on the target students and schools. Of the $231 million DOE allocated thus far, $173 million should go to these low performing schools and students. However, for this analysis, performance data is only available for schools receiving $211 million. By the 75% measure, at least $158 million should go to the target schools. Instead DOE only allocated $124 million to these schools.

Compounding the problem, NYCDOE has held back an additional $63 million to “supplant,” or make up for the city’s budget cuts. This would undermine the fundamental purpose of CFE which is to add new dollars to close the achievement gap for low performing schools and students. The remaining Contract dollars- those not allocated to schools or being held back - are allocated to a variety of purposes, general in description, some of which are also inconsistent with the Contract law and regulations.

“New York State kept its promise and provided New York City with substantial funds to close the achievement gap and serve the neediest schools and students as required by the CFE litigation. Instead of following the law and providing 75 % of these funds to the neediest, the Department of Education (DOE) is proposing to send more than 40% of these funds to low need schools, and holding back another $63 million to plug its own budget holes. DOE must revise its school allocations and utilize all the funds through strong initiatives to provide the constitutionally required sound basic education for these kids,” said Geri D. Palast, Executive Director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

"The Contract for Excellence money is the culmination of years of hard work and collaboration among parents, educators, advocates, and community leaders. The community rallied together to obtain this funding not to plug budget gaps or enable the City to spend less on education, but to level the playing field for our City’s most vulnerable students," added Kim Sweet, Executive Director, of Advocates for Children.

“The Chancellor’s attempts to redistribute the Contract of Excellence funding is not only wrong, it is an attempt to distract us from budget cuts that will shortchange children all across the City. Our school children are New York’s future, and cuts to their education and school maintenance could endanger their health and safety,” stated Héctor Figueroa, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 32BJ.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it as long as we have to. Everyone has acknowledged the middle grades crisis in NYC. There is no excuse on the planet for the DOE to not set aside Contracts for Excellence money to address this crisis,” stated T. Thaddaeus Brown, CEJ steering committee member and parent leader. “Middle school restructuring is one of the six areas that the state has targeted as appropriate use of these funds. The DOE is developing its own middle school success plan without allocating funds to implement it. Nothing will change without resources and the high school graduation rate and college-going rate will not dramatically improve until we dramatically improve our middle grade schools.”

"The additional funds are meant to fix gross inequities in our current system. The City and State should not use it to plug a budget gap." said Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "That's why we are proposing concrete initiatives that target the most vulnerable students."

“The Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s analysis clearly shows the double-whammy being perpetuated on our students by the Department of Education. First, it is falling woefully short of properly funding low-performing schools, and second, it is depriving kids who need the most help by playing a budgetary shell game instead of spending $63 million in targeted CFE funds as the Governor and state Legislature intended,” concluded LeRoy Barr, UFT staff Director.

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Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >