2011-03-18 / Editorial/Opinion

Cut Consultants, Not Lunch For Seniors

There are many who believe that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a fear monger. They say that his recent announcements about teacher layoffs, which listed the schools in which teachers would be cut, and about the closing of senior centers, which detailed the centers, including two in Rockaway, are part of a political ploy that will serve him in two ways. One, the announcements are a trial balloon that provide a look into his real intentions should more money from Albany not materialize. Two, the early announcements force state legislators and City Council members out into the open, fighting to keep local services while looking for money that the mayor can use to keep those services open. State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer believes it is just downright “mean” for Bloomberg to scare seniors into thinking their centers are closing when it’s possible, and she feels it’s likely, that funding will be restored either through Title XX or an alternative method. “I was very upset the mayor put out the list,” Pheffer said this week. “One thing wonderful about the seniors are they join together to fight for an issue. These are just budget negotiations right now. I feel confident we will put back the money necessary.” Bloomberg should be looking to other than teacher layoffs and senior centers for the money he needs to balance his budget. The Daily News recently ran a story about the growth of computer consultants, paid by the city to develop new computer programs and to monitor such things as overtime pay and student tests scores. One little corner of the problem was revealed last week when the Daily News ran a story saying the education department is quietly increasing computer consultant contracts for the coming school year. The high-tech consultants, who track the data that flows from all the standardized testing done by the city and state, are slated to rake in $52 million next fiscal year, up from $12.3 million this year. There are entire departments in the education department dedicated not to teaching, but to monitoring. In fact, one insider said recently that the city is now spending more on monitoring educational results than it is on educating students. Another example: Last week, City Comptroller John Liu rejected a DOE consultant contract with the “New Teacher Project,” which was set to get $20 million to “recruit, select and train non-traditional teachers” for the city. Liu asked the question that we all ask. Why pay $20 million for recruiting teachers when we have to lay off 4,600 of the ones who are already trained and working? Then, we have the time card fiasco and the new system that will enable police and fire commanders to communicate in real time with their troops in the field, as well as the money spent on consultants to develop a “real-time” crime center. Those are all laudable aims, but do they trump kids and seniors? We don’t think so. What the city needs is a zero sum review of all consultant contracts. Take the money from consultants. Not from kids and seniors.

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