2001-02-17 / Columnists

School Scope

School Scope

There is big money at stake in the education game today, particularly in this city with its thousand plus schools. Those who get to run charter schools have the potential to bring in some real money. The parochial schools will reap big bucks should Giuliani and President Bush get their druthers and their voucher plans passed. Those who run Head Start programs will get increases in federal aid if they will only teach reading rather than recess. Some superintendents have used their districts as a private fiefdom, converting money earmarked for school programs to such things as hotel stays, limos, cell phones and other amenities. One district superintendent reportedly even parlayed a district computer contract into a number of private homes and money-free mortgages.

There is big money in bilingual education. There are bilingual teachers and bilingual supervisors and bilingual district supervisors and bilingual educational evaluators and bilingual psychologists and bilingual guidance counselors and bilingual family assistants and bilingual paraprofessionals and I would be willing to bet that not one in ten could pass a valid high school English test.

There is big money in special education. There are smaller classes and school-based support teams and guidance counselors and supervisors and district assistant superintendents and central office staff and monitors and, in many cases, a paraprofessional for just about each student. We have kids who should be MIS II (emotionally handicapped) who are placed in MIS I so that a paraprofessional is not necessary. We have kids who are SIE VII (severely emotionally handicapped) in MIS II programs and supervisors, paras and teachers spend their days chasing them down in the hallways. Now we have the "new continuum," which means that we are putting those kids back in classrooms with mainstream students and it means another wave of parents fleeing the city. I will have more on that next week, however.

Principals gave up tenure in return for a massive raise. Many of them make up to $130 thousand a year and they do not have to work summer school to get it.

Assistant principals got the shaft under their new contract, but they still got a large raise. Those who were "annualized" have to work year round but they make slightly less than principals. Those who were not annualized got less.

Everybody gets the gravy with the exception of the teachers, and therein lies the tale.

Teachers in New York City begin at about $30 thousand, give or take some bucks. At the high end, with 22 years of service, a master’s degree and 30 credits above the masters, a New York City teacher can earn $70 thousand.

For that, you get kids who regularly call you a "white m----f" and refuse to listen to anything you tell them to do, supervisors who generally know less than you do and who harass you at every turn, terrible physical working conditions, not enough books, not enough supplies, not enough discipline and very little respect from district staff, administrators and parents.

Compare that with salaries and conditions on Long Island, where teachers get some respect, sufficient supplies and books and many of the most experienced New York City supervisors.

TOWN START MID TOP

NYC $32 $48 $70

Baldwin $40.6 $72.5 $89.5

Bellemore $39.2 $63.6 $90.4

Freeport $40.3 $67.7 $83.8

Hewlett/

Woodmere $40.8 $68.7 $88.3

Hempstead $39.5 $62.6 $85.9

Lawrence $45.3 $75.1 $96.9

Long Beach $49.1 $80.5 $92.3

East Islip $36.1 $73.3 $100.9

Nassau Avg. $40 $68.2 $90.4

Suffolk Avg. $35.3 $67.2 $91.6

Now, if you want to tell me that the towns in Nassau and Suffolk are much richer than our city and therefore have the wherewithal to pay more, look at some of the towns that I included on the list. Freeport is poor and its students do far worse than our city students do on standardized tests. It was taken over by the state several years ago. East Islip is a poor town with a varied educational background. Long Beach was much like Rockaway until it decided to revitalize itself. The difference between Long Beach and Rockaway is that the politicians in Nassau County really wanted to do the job while those in New York City only want to use the land to their own political advantage.

There was a letter to the editor to one of the daily papers last week. It asked why city teachers deserved more money when parochial school teachers made only half as much as city teachers and did a much better job.

That is an urban myth carried by parents who have to believe that their kids are getting a better education because they are paying so much for it.

The fact is that public school kids in a good neighborhood do as well or better on standardized tests (I do not like that measure, but that is the only one we have) than kids in parochial school. Match the PS 47 scores with those of St. Virgilius, the PS 114 scores with those of St. Francis De Sales, PS 104 with St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, and the scores of the kids who are zoned for PS 225 with St. Camillus and you will see what I mean. When I last looked at the scores the public school beat the parochial school in every case.

Parochial schools are more settled and have fewer discipline cases but that is only because the parents are more involved in the school and kids who do not behave are unceremoniously kicked out and sent to the public schools. Parochial schools might deny this fact, but I have been around too long and have seen too much to believe them.

Yet people such as Giuliani, Floyd Flake and President Bush (how I hate to say that) want to take money away from the public schools and give it to the parochial schools.

That is why teachers will never get a decent contract from Giuliani and his minions. He wants the system to be in crisis. He wants it to fail.

There reportedly was a recent meeting between Senator Hillary Clinton (how I hate to say that), Chancellor Harold Levy and Randi Weingarten (the UFT president). They reportedly met at Bolo at the request of Clinton. The UFT, of course, was one of Clinton’s biggest supporters.

Giuliani was not invited. In fact, Giuliani is so angry with Clinton’s policy of pardoning those who the mayor prosecuted that he might never meet with her. That is despite the fact that the Post reported last week that Giuliani met with the wife of the expatriate financier whose pardon so angered him and that he asked her for campaign money in return for some action of his own.

Where do we go from here? Your guess is as good as mine.

Many teachers who were waiting around to see what the new contract looks like prior to retiring have had it and will retire in June rather than hanging around. I may well be one of them.

The teacher shortage will deepen. So will the shortage of administrators.

Randi Weingarten needs to be reelected this year, so god knows what kind of agreement she will make with Giuliani just so that she can tell her members how wonderful she is and how she got the teachers a contract from the big, bad mayor.

I guess that there might be a deal, but it will not be a good one for teachers. They will continue to be treated like mushrooms – kept in the dark and covered with manure.

It might just be time to go!


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