allocation appeal

Creative budgeting not enough to close gaps, principals say

Principals are famously told to “be creative” during school budget season. This year is no different, but with cuts to city, state, and federal funding all taking their toll, some school leaders are saying creativity isn’t enough.

Some of them are pushing back, filing appeals with the Department of Education to restore hundreds of thousands of dollars back into to their schools.

Joseph Nobile, a veteran principal at P.S. 304 Early Childhood School in the Bronx, said he and his budget liaison tweaked projections, shuffled funds, and excessed staff to stretch his $4.7 million as far as it could go.

“After all of the moving around, we were still down $350,000,” Nobile said. So for the first time in his 12 years on the job, Nobile said he had no choice but to file an appeal.

Nobile said the money he requested would go toward retaining the school’s lone curriculum coach, as well as four special education specialists. The additional personnel is especially important at P.S. 304 because it is part of a citywide pilot to move as many special education students as possible into mainstream classes.

Schools are feeling the pinch more than ever because of third consecutive year of budget cuts. Adding to that, the city made it tougher for some schools with large percentages of poor students to qualify for federal aid.

As a result, the number of appeals this year could far outnumber last year’s total of 166.

A DOE spokeswoman said she wouldn’t know how many appeals are being filed until July 22, when the final budgets are due.

At P.S. 3, a growing school in the West Village, principal Lisa Siegman said her budget would not have allowed her to open in September.

“I couldn’t staff the school for the classrooms,” Siegman said of her $5.4 million baseline budget.

Enrollment from students zoned for her school was projected to increase and she is required by law to provide seats for that population. To satisfy those mandates, Siegman has to hire to new teachers, but there wasn’t money in her budget for it.

Siegman, who estimated that her appeal was for about $245,000, said her hands were tied when it comes to these budget requirements and class size limits.

“I can make creative decisions. I can have a teacher doing two different jobs within a school. I can decide to have  a literacy coach or not a literacy coach,” Siegman said. “But I can’t allocate more funds. I can’t go to larger class sizes.”

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.