Schools Chancellor Shuffles Budget Plan
New York City’s schools chancellor is reworking the city’s long-term financial plan to increase available seats and improve access to prekindergarten, but to do so, she’ll use money previously allocated to charter schools, it was announced last Friday, Jan. 31.
According to Chancellor Carmen Fariña, the revised plan would create 7,000 new seats in New York City’s public schools-2,100 for prekindergarten and 4,900 for other students.
The Department of Education would fund the expansion with an $800 million infusion from the State Smart Schools Bond Act and with “the re-programming of $210 million in funds from charter and partnership programs,” a statement from the chancellor said.
“These revisions will help us create high-quality, full-day prekindergarten seats citywide that will deliver strong instruction,” Fariña said in a statement. “The changes also will add seats to reduce class size among all grade levels-a longstanding and high-priority issue for communities throughout the city. These are important steps that will dramatically improve educational outcomes for our students.”
The previous capital plan released under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott allocated $210 million to a Charter and Partnership Program. The program provided matching funds to charter schools to build classroom space.
Under Fariña’s plan, the $210 million would help fund additional prekindergarten seats over the next five years.
A representative from the District 24 Community Education Council (CEC 24) said the council approves Fariña’s decision.
“That’s a move in the right direction,” CEC 24 President Nick Comaianni told the Times Newsweekly. “You fix up the schools you have, not charter schools.”
Under the new capital plan, the city will use state grants to create an additional 4,900 seats citywide, though officials have not decided on how to distribute those seats.
Currently the city has set aside funding for 4,000 additional seats in District 24 schools, falling short of the 8,000-plus department officials say the area will need by 2017.
Comaianni said the new seats announced Jan. 31, would go to the districts with the most need, adding that District 24 should be on the receiveing end.
“I would expect us to get quite a few of those seats [because] we’re the most over-crowded,” Comaianni said.
Advocates for charter schools have criticized cutting the publicly funded, privately run entirties out of the equation.
Charter schools are legally not allowed to run prekindergarten programs, something advocates say ought to change.
“This administration has a decision to make, and soon,” said James Merriman, CEO at the New York City Charter School Center. “If they’re interested in results, they will make sure high-performing charter schools are fully included in the pre- K program, including capital funding. Otherwise it will be clear that their move to push pre-K is more about ideology than about helping children.”