dollars and cents

Principals are cutting positions, but no word yet on how many

A week after principals were required to submit their budgets for next year, the city still doesn’t have an answer to the question of how many teachers are losing their positions because of budget cuts.

That question is essential for the counterintuitive reason that positions cut at schools actually don’t save the system any money. If a principal can’t pay for a teacher, the teacher goes into a pool of “excessed” teachers whose salaries are paid by the department. That pool already contains more than 1,700 people and has been criticized as a burden on the city’s budget. If the size of the pool swells because of the budget cuts, the department could end up shouldering thousands of teachers’ salaries — all while the teachers aren’t officially on a school’s staff.

Department of Education staff are still crunching the budget numbers, officials say. The department’s chief operating officer, Photeine Anagnastopoulos, told me on Tuesday that the excess situation was shaping up to be “not as bad” as she and others had anticipated, particularly considering that principals haven’t yet launched the bulk of their hiring for the fall.

But a source familiar with the budget process says the numbers have been delayed because the department is “scrambling” to check principals’ math about whether they need to cut positions. Staff at the department’s service centers are “going over budgets in high-excess schools trying to negotiate fewer excesses,” the source said.

An added complication, the source said, is that a reorganization within the department means that the service centers are short-staffed right now.

The teachers union is also reviewing cuts that union representatives at each school flag as being unnecessary, vice president Michael Mulgrew told me. “They’re reviewing every school and we’ve been investigating and will continue to monitor very closely,” he said.

Whatever number of excessed teachers is announced in the coming days, it is certain to decrease over the summer, Anagnastopoulos said. “The hiring hasn’t started yet, only the excessing,” she said. Hiring restrictions currently in place mean that principals will have to turn to the pool of excessed teachers first when filling most open positions.

“Right now I’m pretty confident that we’ll be able to manage it,” she said. 

Principals are reporting having to excess large numbers of teachers because of the budget cuts, according to GothamSchools’ interactive budget map and other sources. In addition to the teachers whose jobs are budget cut casualties, some teachers are winding up in the pool because the department is closing or phasing out their schools. At PS 27 in Brooklyn, which is shedding 10 grades, 72 teachers are slated to join the excess pool, for example.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.