There are City-wide Cut-backs for Education, But Raises for Mayor Bloomberg's Pals and Deputy Mayors
Who is Minding the Store?...No, scratch that, "Why are voters allowing the Mayor free rein to manage the store?" The secrecy around expenditures of public money, no bid contracts, cut-backs in education while mayoral managers get raises, all paint a picture that doesn't look very pretty. Betsy Combier
Mayor Bloomberg raises the salaries of his Deputy Mayor, Mark Shaw, to over $200,000, then raises the salaries of the other City Hall administrators to the tune of $74 million+ (NY POST, April 6, 2004), but says that there is no money for education or Union members. He funds parent coordinators to the tune of $50 million, and then hands back to the federal government more than $1 million unspent money.
Is there some fiscal policy the public does not know about being followed? Or does this look like a 'reverse robin hood scheme'?
Cuts to Affect School Programs and Supplies, Groups Say
By ELISSA GOOTMAN, NY TIMES, July 31, 2004
New York City public school principals are planning to cut after-school programs, eliminate elective classes, lay off paraprofessionals and do without some school supplies because of cuts to their budgets, leaders of the city teachers' union and a parent group said yesterday.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, and Robin Brown, the president of the United Parents Associations of New York City, said at a news conference that principals throughout the city are concerned about budget cuts that Ms. Weingarten estimated at $100 million.
The City Department of Education has acknowledged that school budgets have been cut. But there is disagreement about the magnitude of those cuts, and everyone agrees that things could change by the time school starts, if the state gives the city and its schools more money than they are expecting.
Bruce E. Feig, the department's chief financial officer, said that in the coming year, schools stand to lose about $60 million in nonrecurring revenues, some from an earlier surplus and some from the state. Those funds will not be available, he said. But he added that the budget process was not complete and that principals could still appeal their allotments. Between $20 million and $30 million has been set aside for schools that successfully appeal their preliminary budgets, Mr. Feig said.
Ms. Weingarten based her estimate on information collected by 200 teachers' union chapter leaders at schools throughout the city. She said that some of the $1.9 billion surplus from last year's city budget, most of which is being used to balance this year's budget, should have gone to the schools.
"While the city is rolling this $2 billion surplus into the next fiscal year, it is unconscionable that the Department of Education is telling principals and staff and parents that there will be cuts to classroom services, cuts to after-school programs and cuts to supplies," Ms. Weingarten said.
Standing in front of the Department of Education's headquarters at the Tweed Courthouse, she asked, "If there is a problem in the budget, why are they focused on schools and classrooms? Where are the cuts in the bureaucracy or in the budgets of Tweed, the regions or the local instructional headquarters?"
Mr. Feig said such cuts were possible.
"It still remains to be seen whether we're going to have administrative cuts or not," he told reporters in a telephone conference call.
Phyllis Casolaro Williams, the principal of Intermediate School 143 in Washington Heights, said her school's budget has been cut by roughly $600,000, to a little more than $10 million for the 2004-5 school year. Mrs. Williams said that she was able to make up the shortfall because she had received a special $450,000 city grant, but she added that she would probably have to abandon plans to add a third guidance counselor and to organize new tutoring sessions for struggling students.
Still, Mrs. Williams said she remained hopeful. "Being experienced, I know that oftentimes you count on things, you count on things, they don't happen and all of a sudden it's restored to some extent," she said.
Mr. Feig disputed the specific cuts that Ms. Weingarten mentioned at the news conference, saying, for example, that while she said the Beacon School, in Manhattan, would suffer $2 million in cuts, the school would in fact lose $236,000.
Jill S. Levy, the president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said part of the problem was that before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg centralized the school system, the city's 32 community school districts, now basically defunct, controlled discretionary money that could be given to schools with special needs not addressed by the general budget process.
"The community superintendents knew the schools, knew the discrete needs of these schools, better than any of the people sitting in Tweed," she said.
At yesterday's news conference, Ms. Weingarten was asked whether she thought the school budget cuts were connected to the city's wait for money from state lawmakers, who have been ordered by the state's highest court to come up with a plan for improving education in New York City.
Ms. Weingarten said the state's inaction was no excuse.
"Frankly, if I was the mayor," she said, "I would be trying to fight to show that they were putting more city funds in."
meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg makes a deal for the people who work for him, raising their salaries:
City reaches deal with 10,000 more workers
BY DAN JANISON AND WILLIAM MURPHY
Staff Writers, Newsday, July 12, 2004
Most managers in the Bloomberg administration -- from front-line supervisors up to commissioners and top-ranking deputies -- will draw raises reflecting recent union settlements, it was announced Monday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg disclosed the hike while announcing that more unions, representing about 10,000 employees, have now accepted contracts similar to those of the biggest labor group, District Council 37.
Together, the latest round of raises will increase the city's payroll cost by $652 million a year once fully effective.
"The city is committed to providing equitable salaries to its hard-working employees," Bloomberg said at City Hall.
The agreements and personnel orders include a $1,000 lump-sum payment for current full-time employees due July 30; a 3 percent raise effective July 1 of last year for those then employed, and a 2 percent increase for those on the job now, effective last week.
In exchange, unions agreed to lower starting wages for new hires; elimination of a "floating holiday"; curtailed annual and sick-leave schedules; and limitations on shift differentials.
The new agreements affect staff analysts, lawyers, probation officers, highway and sewer inspectors, communications workers and others. Probation officers agreed to change their work week to 40 hours from 37.5 hours, for added $570 payments, officials said.
Non-union management raises are carried out by executive order. Bloomberg said, "They will pay for [a settlement] in exactly the same ways. We're bringing in new management employees at lower rates with lower benefits, and we'll make sure they do more with less."
At the top of the heap, most deputy mayors get $169,000; commissioners are paid $163,000.
Reaction was predictably cool from union leaders who have yet to settle with the city in the current bargaining round.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said accepting the pattern would reduce starting pay and make it harder to retain good officers.
"It's a perfect example of why no other major city in America uses this one-size fits all arrangement called pattern bargaining," Lynch said.
Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the pattern shouldn't follow for teachers, police officers and firefighters.
Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.
Data show states return millions to feds instead of spending it on schools
By Nancy Zuckerbrod / Associated Press Writer, Saturday, January 10, 2004
A state-by-state look at federal funding for ongoing education programs that reverted back to the U.S. Treasury last year after states failed to spend it:
State Available balance
American Samoa 901,109
Mariana Islands 77,922
Marshall Islands 0
Puerto Rico 38,636,034
Virgin Islands 2,038,587
Source: U.S. Department of Education
WASHINGTON -- While state officials nationwide say they need more money to educate children, newly released figures show states are returning millions to the federal Treasury rather than spending it in the hinterlands.
Last year, states returned $124 million to Washington that was to have gone toward large education programs such as special education and aid to poor children, according to Education Department data obtained by The Associated Press.
The states had more than three years to tap into the money before it reverted to the federal government on Sept. 30, 2003, said C. Todd Jones, a budget official in the Education Department.
The money was less than 1 percent of the $18 billion in federal funding that had been allocated to states on formulas in force during that period, Jones said Friday.
It could have been put to good use in the states, he said, and they have much flexibility in the money's use. States, he said, "should seriously investigate why they are turning such large sums back to the federal Treasury."
States and territories that returned the most were Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the department said.
"We try to spend every penny that the federal government sends us," said Debbie Ratcliff, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, which sent back $11 million.
Ratcliff said schools sometimes let federal money lapse or fail to satisfy requirements for it, but she said the state agency doesn't always find out in time to send the money to alternative schools.
Tennessee, which returned $3.9 million to the federal government last year, is working to fix the problem by having budget officers work more closely with program experts, said Kim Karesh, a spokeswoman for the state education department.
"This is an area where we absolutely have to improve," she said. "Should we be sending this money back? No, because we have a need for it in Tennessee."
Karesh said Tennessee returned the money because costs for contracts came in lower than expected. She said the state then failed to seek out other ways to spend the extra dollars.
A range of critics, from governors to Democratic presidential contenders, say the 2002 No Child Left Behind education law is enormously underfinanced. The law places broad mandates on states, including a requirement for highly qualified teachers in all core classes, expanded standardized testing and data collection and reporting on student performance.
Jones said states have wide latitude in how they can use leftover money as long as it goes toward the intended program. For example, if a state should spend less than expected on special education teachers, it could use the extra money to hire physical therapists or pay for buses accessible by the handicapped.
Besides the $124 million in formula funding returned, states sent back $30 million last year that was supposed to have gone toward projects specific to a state. Jones said it is not easy for states to reprogram that unused money .
The money returned to the U.S. Treasury is different from roughly $6 billion in federal funding the Bush administration says states are sitting on that has not yet expired. The administration this week countered arguments that it was inadequately funding education by saying states are taking too long to spend billions of federal dollars meant for schools.
-- -- --
On the Net:
U.S. Department of Education: http://www.ed.gov/index.jhtml