money talks

City schools poised to see funds restored in state budget deal

There is increasing confidence in Albany that much — though probably not all — of the state school aid forfeited by the city earlier this year will be restored when a final budget is submitted.

Whether any aid would be restored seemed less likely a week ago. Several key New York City Democrats didn’t immediately support the cause and the Bloomberg administration was not actively lobbying for it.

But that changed this week, as negotiations to adopt a $136.5 billion budget got underway. The city ramped up its presence in Albany, and State Sen. Diane Savino, whose support has been courted by other Democrats, said today she was more optimistic that some funding would be restored.

“There’s going to be a solution … that’s not going to overly punish New York City children,” said Savino, a Staten Island Democrat whose breakaway caucus controls the Senate along with Republicans. A source close to negotiations said that “at least some” of the $240 million lost by the city this year would be restored.

Earlier this week, the Bloomberg administration circulated a memo listing state aid restoration as a top budget priority. Chancellor Dennis Walcott personally reinforced that request on Wednesday when he went to Albany to discuss the city education department’s priorities with lawmakers.

In addition to getting the aid restored, the city is asking for more transportation aid during emergencies and natural disasters; control over preschool special education tuition rates; and the rejection of a proposal to require busing for students in school after 4 p.m. (The memo is below.)

Most of the legislature’s negotiations over the weekend will focus on school aid in New York City, which missed a mandated teacher evaluation deadline earlier this year. How much will be restored remains the big question up for debate in the final days of budget talks. Lawmakers hope to reach a budget deal by Monday to allow a budget law to be passed by the end of the week.

Lawmakers from the Education Conference Committee are figuring out how to split up an extra $290 million, a pot of funds known at a “table target” that is available on top of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spending plan.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan wants to use as much of the funds on New York City as possible. But Republican lawmakers from outside of the city have made it clear they want the money spent on their own school districts. In Long Island, there is a push to restore “high tax” aid, a form of school funding for districts that have been especially hit by the cap on property taxes.  Cuomo’s budget cut aid by $50 million.

Cuomo has already made one concession on state aid for New York City. He agreed to put money back into the city’s base funding for future years, ensuring that there won’t be a $240 million deficit in future years as well.

“Getting it put back into the base, that was huge because then we don’t have the compounding effect for years and years and years,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said this week.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Nolan agreed, but they both said the adjustment didn’t go far enough. They said they’d continue to fight for restoring the lost aid for this year, too.

New York City’s 2013-2014 state budget priorities — Education

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.