2007-11-30 / Community

City To Fund Smaller Classes,Staff Development

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein has joined Governor Spitzer at an announcement of the New York State Education Department's approval of New York City's plan for spending $258 million in new education aid available through the "Contracts for Excellence," which require that a portion of State aid be spent on strategies to raise student achievement. The approved plan retains the central elements of the City's original proposal and includes modifications responding to public feedback and discussion between State and City officials during the past several months. The plan also aligns Contracts funding with schools identified by the State as highest-need based on their number of English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who have struggled academically. Approximately half of New York City's Contracts funding is devoted to targeted class size reduction, one of the five categories to which districts can allocate funds, as designated by State law.

"Working closely with the State, and with helpful feedback from educators, parents, and advocates, we developed a plan that makes success more likely for our highest-need students and schools," Chancellor Klein said. "I applaud the Governor and Legislature for sending new resources that will help boost our students' achievement. I am also grateful to State Education Department officials for supporting a plan aligned with the core principles of our Children First reforms, particularly our commitment to accountability in providing all students with the high-quality, rigorous education they deserve."

Contracts funds may go toward increasing student time-on-task, restructuring middle schools and high schools, improving teacher and principal quality initiatives, expanding fullday pre-Kindergarten, and class-size reduction. More than $48 million in New York City Contracts funds will be directed to increase student time-ontask through programs such as smallgroup and after-school instruction. In response to public feedback solicited by the DOE during the summer, $13.7 million in funding initially proposed to underwrite periodic assessment costs was removed from this funding category. Contracts dollars allocated to increased time-on-task will build on past efforts, including Extended Day programs. Approximately $40 million in Contracts funds will help to improve teacher and principal quality, expanding the City's existing investment in professional development opportunities for educators. Additionally, $17 million in Contracts funds will be directed to new middle and high-school restructuring initiatives. Since 2003, the DOE has developed nearly 200 new schools, helping the City provide quality educational opportunities to all of its students, at a cost of nearly $150 million. About $180,000 in Contracts funds will support the creation of full-day pre- Kindergarten seats. Since 2002, the City has created 7,829 additional pre- Kindergarten seats, increasing the number of students served by 20 percent.

As part of the recent announcement, NYSED also approved the City's fiveyear class-size reduction plan. More than $153 million of the City's Contracts funding was designated for classsize reduction efforts, with these resources used to hire more than 1,300 additional teachers and create more than 925 additional classrooms. This funding will help the City extend its record of reducing class size every year at virtually every grade level since 2002. The DOE is projected to reduce citywide average pupil-teacher ratio by almost 3% in the first year of the plan alone. In addition, the DOE added specific five-year reduction targets assuming continued Contracts funding. The DOE has committed to dedicate at least 25% of future Contracts funding to class-size reduction efforts.

The class-size reduction plan is aligned with the DOE's $13.1 billion 2005-2009 Capital Plan, which is creating 105 new buildings and over 63,000 seats for public school students in communities that have high levels of overcrowding. Additionally, the plan includes a targeted coaching program that provides practical class-size reduction guidance to principals in 72 low-performing schools that are in the top-quartile of class size for their grade and housed in facilities with available capacity to achieve immediate improvements in class size. In subsequent years, the DOE anticipates adding 50 schools annually to the coaching program, enabling it to serve more than 250 schools over the life of the plan. Additionally, the DOE has committed to gradually reducing the number of students to fewer than 25 per class in 75 low-performing schools with high class-size as identified by NYSED. Among these schools, 28 are included in the first year of the targeted coaching program and the remaining schools will be prioritized for inclusion as the coaching program is expanded.

After a long court fight to obtain equitable funding for New York State's high-needs school districts, the State this year appropriated substantially more education aid for high-needs districts throughout New York State, including New York City. This year, City schools are receiving a total of about $1 billion in new education aid from City and State sources combined. Of the approximately $700 million in new State aid, $258 million is subject to the Contracts for Excellence; $334 million pays for salary and fringe benefit increases that result from collective bargaining; $104 million pays for special education programs and services; $213 million pays for new seats in existing charter schools and new pre- Kindergarten seats in existing schools; and $149 million pays for operating expenses such as increased energy costs due to the growth of the school system.

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