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Proposed Budget For The New York City Schools

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Summary: In June 2006, the city announced a proposed operating budget of $14 billion for the New York City schools. Parents and educators are still waiting pessimistically to see the final cut. Though this year's unveiling of the New York City schools budget was received more peacefully than in recent years, the city's past track record makes optimism difficult. Last year's proposed budget was drastically different after the final cuts were made. Students returning to school last S...

In June 2006, the city announced a proposed operating budget of $14 billion for the New York City schools. Parents and educators are still waiting pessimistically to see the final cut. Though this year's unveiling of the New York City schools budget was received more peacefully than in recent years, the city's past track record makes optimism difficult. Last year's proposed budget was drastically different after the final cuts were made. Students returning to school last September found many classes eliminated due to budget cuts. Parents and educators alike created enough turmoil in the high schools that many of the programs were restored. Everyone in the New York City schools system, including parents, have accepted that the New York City schools do not have enough money, and yet they see little being done about it. Teachers continue to buy their own supplies, while parents help to provide for classroom needs. Even students accept the overcrowding and facilities that are in disrepair as the norm. Mayor Michael Bloomberg states that he has increased the New York City schools budget by $2.5 billion since he took office, but it is not enough. This year's New York City schools' budget has only a slight increase from last year, it banks on receiving money from elsewhere that is not guaranteed, and makes assumptions that are not probable, as well as other problems. First, New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein has confirmed that the budget increase will go primarily to pay for the increased costs in fuel and fringe benefits, noting that transportation and heating are essential to operating the schools. Though the $1 billion increase raises per student funding to $910, very little will reach the classroom. Most will be used to cover administrative costs. For teachers and parents already stretched thin from funding supplies that should be paid for by the New York City schools, this is not good news. Second, the proposed budget makes two assumptions: (1) The New York City schools will receive almost $2 billion for capital expenses from Albany in connection with a lawsuit with the state, and (2) teachers will agree to a contract with only a modest salary increase. The money expected from the state has not been included in the state's budget, since the governor has appealed the court's decision. Even if the New York City schools prevail in court, there will be no money for the 2006-2007 school year from the state for this lawsuit. Teachers are not expected to accept the proposed contract, since they and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators (about 5,500 principals and upper level staff) have been working without a contract for the past two years. The United Federation of Teachers already has criticized the mayor for not using the city's $3.3 billion surplus to settle the standoff. The mayor argues that the surplus is only temporary, while stating that he wants the contracts to be as other city workers. The teachers, police, and firefighters have been strongly opposing the mayor's contract proposals for two years. Such a teachers' contract would take away many of the job protections that are now present, such as eliminating seniority rules and making it easier to fire a teacher. Another problem is Klein, whom advocates for the New York City schools say has spent too much money on consultants and costly bureaucrats with little educational experience. These costs, as well as others, can easily be hidden in the vague language of the proposed budget. Lastly, the proposed New York City schools budget must survive the political wrangling of the city council members. The past has shown that members lobby for changes and programs that benefit only their constituents, rather than all New York City schools. Though last year's standardized test scores rose sharply, the New York City schools have a lot of challenges to face this school year, and it does not look as though this budget will help to resolve them. There is not a lot of optimism about this proposed budget.
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