What the city budget deal means for our kids

Though the worst was averted, the city budget deal as announced last night is still only a very partial victory for our kids.

In essence, the deal came about because the city finally acknowledged what the many have long warned:  Bloomberg's failed policies and the worsening conditions in our schools have persuaded even more teachers to leave voluntarily than usual, which mitigated the need for layoffs.

Nearly half of the 6,100 teaching positions that the budget cuts would eliminate will still be lost -- an estimated 2,600 -- through attrition, and these teachers will not be replaced, despite rising enrollment.  This will certainly lead to the fourth year in a row of increased class sizes in our schools and probably even sharper increases than have occurred in more than a decade.

Children in the early grades will experience the worst of it, as Kindergarten enrollment is rising especially fast.  Grades K-3 will suffer the largest class sizes in twelve years--with an even larger class size equity gap between NYC children and those in the rest of the state.

All this, despite Bloomberg’s original campaign promise to reduce class sizes in grades K-3, a court decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case and state law passed in 2007 requiring that the city lower class size in all grades, several audits showing DOE misusing millions of dollars of state class size funds,  and a growing body of research indicating that smaller classes lead to more learning, narrow the achievement gap, and are a significant determinant of success later in life.

Another problem with this deal is it sets the stage for yet another budget battle next year; in which the interests of children will again be pitted against those of powerful millionaires as well as Tweed bureaucrats with flawed priorities.

As parents, we need to redouble our efforts to pressure our political leaders, including the Governor, the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council, to adequately fund our schools and provide NYC children with their right to smaller classes and an equitable chance to learn.

More on the budget deal at NYT, NY1, Daily News, GothamSchools and DNA info.  The last includes a quote from me.

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