Revelations concerning SED's secret backdoor deal with DOE on class size

See today's Juan Gonzalez column here, about the backdoor deal made nearly seven months ago between State Education Commissioner Steiner and Joel Klein, to allow the city to nullify its legal and moral commitments to reduce class size, and to let class sizes increase this fall to any levels they like, while continuing to call this a “class size reduction plan”.

I made the letter available to Juan Gonzalez, because it had been kept secret up to now, despite the transparency and public process required before the city can amend any aspect of its Contract for Excellence and/or class size reduction plan.


Even more importantly, this deal makes a mockery of the entire notion of class size reduction. It clearly contradicts the language of the C4E law, passed in 2007, mandating that NYC reduce class size in all grades, in exchange for receiving over $2 billion in state funds. Rather than the full public disclosure promised, and the tracking of every dollar to ensure that it would be spent according to its specified purpose, the Contract for Excellence program has become yet another slush fund for the DOE.


Despite receiving billions from the state, class sizes have risen sharply the last two years, and are expected to rise even more sharply this year. After Class Size Matters, the UFT and others filed a lawsuit last January in the State Supreme Court against the DOE for its failure to reduce class size, the DOE went behind our backs and negotiated this secret deal, which apparently even the Board of Regents have not been aware of until now.


In the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, the state’s highest court concluded that our children’s constitutional right to an adequate education had been violated, in large part because of excessive class sizes. The State Education Department, as a result of its negligence and active collaboration with DOE, has shown itself to be a willing partner to this continuing violation.


SED, by the way, has still not posted the city’s approved class size reduction plan for last year (2009-2010). When I asked the state last spring why the plan was not posted, contrary to the regulations, they put me off, and first claimed it due to technical difficulties with their website. When weeks went by and the city’s plan was still not posted, they admitted to me that someone high up in the State Education Department did not want to make it public. When I was forced to FOIL the plan, they ignored my FOIL and I finally had to threaten to sue.


They finally relented, and on Sept. 14 sent me a long document, originally submitted by DOE in October 2009, full of the usual obfuscation and gobbledygook. To add insult to injury, they followed up with another email three days later, saying that what they had just sent me was just a preliminary draft and not actually the city’s final approved plan for 2009-2010, which they have so far been either unable or unwilling to provide. So much for the accountability, transparency and oversight that is the state’s fiduciary duty under the law.


The secret letter signed by Steiner and Klein in February that Juan writes about today is posted here; the city’s apparently unapproved class size reduction plan for 2009-2010 is here; and here is a summary of all the billions of C4E dollars the state has thrown at the city since 2007, and apparently intends to continue to provide, despite the city’s long string of broken promises and now open defiance of the intent of the law. Finally, here is the DOE’s recently posted C4E presentation that first tipped me off to the existence of this secret deal.

There are CEC hearings on the city's C4E happening this week and next. I will provide a sample resolution soon concerning this moral and legal outrage that you can forward to your CEC or other organization to consider passing. Thanks for your support during these dark days, as always.

Here is an interview I did with WBAI on this today.

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