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Duncan: NYC reform initiatives a model for stimulus spending

Flanked by people who often find themselves arguing — Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein, and teachers union leader Randi Weingarten — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today offered praise for them all.

At a press conference this afternoon in Brooklyn, Duncan said all three New Yorkers have helped make the city an example for how school districts across the country could “remake public education” with their share of $100 billion in federal stimulus funds.

Some of the stimulus money is meant to plug deep holes in states’ education budgets. But Duncan said he wants states to use other funds allocated in the stimulus package to adopt accountability-oriented reforms along the lines of some recent New York City initiatives, such as the creation of a comprehensive data system, called ARIS, and the introduction of a program that gives some teachers bonuses based on their students’ test scores. The city Department of Education said in a press release today that it might try to use some of its stimulus money to expand those initiatives.

Those programs could be funded through Duncan’s discretionary “Race to the Top Fund,” through which the education secretary will give grants to states that want to try new approaches to helping students do better. “I fully expect New York City and New York State to put together a great proposal” for the funds, Duncan said. “In many ways, you are already setting the standard — including the pay-for-performance program here pioneered by the leadership right here in this city.”

Duncan departed from his prepared remarks to compliment Bloomberg’s “extraordinary courage” in taking control of the city’s schools and to say that he has learned a lot from Klein, whom he called “a good, good friend of mine.” Duncan also called Weingarten “a remarkable leader” and said he and President Barack Obama will work closely with her. “She is going to be a strong, strong voice for reform,” Duncan said. Video of the lovefest is above.

Even if they don’t see a cent of the Race to the Top Fund, New York City’s public schools and colleges are slated to receive about $1.9 billion through the federal stimulus act signed into law this week, Duncan said today. That money would prevent teacher layoffs, fill in some budget gaps, add new funds for poor students and children with special needs, and support preschool, technology, and job training programs.

The city DOE’s full press release is after the jump.

Mayor, Chancellor, Secretary Duncan Detail How the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Will Help NYC Schools

Stimulus Money Could Help City Avoid Severe Staffing Reductions in Public Schools

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today to announce how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help New York City public schools in the coming years. Based on preliminary analysis, the City estimates it will receive $535 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Grants in each of the next two years, if the funds are allocated to local school aid through the traditional formulas. In addition to the stabilization grants, the City’s preliminary analysis estimates that its schools are eligible to receive in each of the next two years approximately $300 million from an expansion of Title I funds for high-needs students, approximately $100 million from the expansion of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding, and more than $25 million in educational technology funds. At today’s announcement, the Mayor, Secretary, and Chancellor were joined by State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, Assemblywoman Rhoda S. Jacobs, the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan, and Explore Charter School Founder and Director Morty Ballen in Brooklyn.

“Support from Washington will help us to weather this economic crisis. Working with the State, we hope we’ll be able to keep more of our teachers in our public school classrooms,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We all want to ensure that our schools keep innovating and that our students keep learning – while shielding our schools and classrooms from potential harm. I am confident our colleagues in Albany will join me in making our difficult budget situation as tolerable as possible for all of our schools.”

“We’re not just facing an economic crisis in America. We’re facing an education crisis. A University of Washington report says up to 600,000 education jobs are at risk,” said Secretary Duncan. “But we’re also facing a historic opportunity to remake public education – a once-in-a-lifetime chance to lift the quality of education for every child in America.”

“Stimulus dollars will go a long way in helping us to prevent our country’s financial crisis from turning into a crisis in our classrooms,” said Chancellor Klein. “We look forward to working with our partners at the State level to ensure this money is directed equitably and where it’s needed the most – our classrooms.”

“The passage of the federal stimulus bill will allow New York school children, their parents and their teachers, to rest easier in the coming budget year,” said State Senate Majority Leader Smith. “With the influx of desperately needed funding, I am confident that we will continue to make a meaningful investment in our most critical resource – our children. Our schools, from Binghamton to Brentwood, and every town in between, will benefit from the investments in the bill, particularly for our high needs districts throughout the state. I am hopeful that between the direct school grants, expanded state aid and opportunities for additional funding, we can continue to improve student performance while ensuring a wise and productive use of public funds.”

“Parents and teachers here in New York City and all across America are applauding President Obama for his strong and steadfast commitment to our nation’s children and public schools, and rightly so. In addition to providing a much needed boost for the economy, the stimulus package also represents an investment in education that will help prevent severe cuts to public services – a huge step to averting layoffs in schools and providing teachers and students with the tools and supports they need to succeed,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “While this aid is exactly what our schools need, parents must understand that we are not out of the woods yet. The State has to make sure that the stimulus money is spent wisely and actually gets into classrooms. Even so, the package is truly a bold first step, and we are grateful to President Obama and Secretary Duncan for their recognition and support of public education.”

“We applaud President Obama and Congress for making education an important priority of the stimulus package and paying close attention to the needs of economically disadvantaged youngsters and special education students,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan. During this time of severe economic crisis, we look forward to working with the city and state to ensure that this funding goes as far as possible to protect our children’s education.”

In addition to the stabilization funds, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also allows states and school districts to apply for $5 billion in grants to support new approaches to closing the achievement gap and boosting student achievement . Working in cooperation with the -New York State Education Department, New York City would be able to use these funds to -continue building on the momentum of the reform efforts and enormous progress in improving graduation rates. These grants, which will be allocated by the U.S. Department of Education, are known as the Race to the Top Fund. This includes $650 million to provide funds to school districts that have made significant gains in closing the achievement gap to expand their work and to document and share their successful practices. These funds could help further implementation of the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) computer system that allows teachers to share effective instructional strategies between schools. The remaining $4.35 billion in the fund will be awarded to states, working with local districts, that have demonstrated innovative ways to boost student performance and closing the achievement gap. New York City can also apply for grants to expand its Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program, which rewards educators for improving student achievement, from the $200 million Teacher Incentive Funds.

Charter schools such as Brooklyn’s Explore Charter School may also be eligible to apply for funding for renovation and repair of school facilities. Named a National Charter School of the Year by the Center for Education Reform, Explore Charter earned an A on its 2007-2008 Progress Report. The school serves 425 students, and more than 1,700 families are on the school’s waiting list.

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