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January 31, 2014
Pre-K in and charter schools out in de Blasio school construction plan
The Department of Education today unveiled a $12.8 billion plan to add 39,500 seats to the city's schools by 2019. The plan adds 7,000 more seats than the Bloomberg administration had planned for, mostly for pre-K seats, but does not allocate any funds to charter school construction.
May 7, 2013
Advocates to highlight city’s worst school buildings
From our inbox: WHAT: 32BJ SEIU officers, public school cleaners, City Council members, and education advocacy groups hold press conference to release findings of a new report highlighting inequalities…
April 12, 2011
New school construction estimates rise slightly after dropping
Under Albany's new budget agreement, New York City's school capital plan will regain roughly 12,000 seats — a boon to school officials who expected harsher cuts, but a number that does not meet earlier demand estimates. In November of last year, city officials estimated that they would need to increase earlier seat construction projections in the face of overcrowding in schools. At the time, they planned for 50,074 new seats to be built by 2014, many of them in elementary and middle schools where demand had ballooned. Then came a proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo to cap state spending on school construction aid. The plan would have significantly reduced the state's contribution. To absorb the cut, city officials said they wouldn't be able to build thousands of the seats they had planned on — a decision that would have affected schools in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Riverdale, Bronx, the most. But now that Cuomo's proposal has not been included in the budget agreement, the numbers have changed again. With $1.7 billion more to spend on school construction, the city can now afford to build about 26,500 seats, instead of the roughly 14,000 it had planned on. City officials said that more information about which neighborhoods would benefit from the seat construction increase, and which would not feel any effect, would be released tomorrow.
June 14, 2010
Charter leaders will ask City Hall for budget help tomorrow
Charter school heads will visit City Hall tomorrow to present Mayor Bloomberg with an audacious request: They would like him to go over state lawmakers' heads and restore a funding freeze that Albany probably won't. This year, lawmakers froze charter schools' per-pupil funding levels at last year's level, denying school leaders almost $1,000 per student in an expected increase. Given the rotten budget climate, it's likely the legislature will do the same to next year's budget. To fight back, charter school leaders tomorrow will meet with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott — and, they hope, with Bloomberg, too — to suggest two possible solutions. Bloomberg can either "negotiate with Albany to remove the freeze," as Charter School Center head James Merriman wrote in an e-mail last week. Or, Merriman wrote: he can substitute other funds in the City's own budget.
March 17, 2010
Jobs bill clears way for $1.4 billion in school construction bonds
Here's one way the jobs bill headed for the president's desk today will affect New York City: it unfreezes more than $1 billion in school construction bonds the city needs to fund its capital plan. The bonds were effectively frozen because of a significant flaw in last year's federal stimulus bill, which set aside $22 billion over two years for school districts to sell interest-free bonds to fund school construction. As Pro Publica reported late last year, many banks refused to buy the bonds because they were funded by tax credits that investors found worthless. The jobs bill the Senate passed today aims to solve that problem by using a direct subsidy, rather than a tax credit, to pay banks for the bonds. (The House passed a similar bill last month and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.) New York City, like many school districts around the country, had delayed issuing any bonds because of this problem, according to the mayor's preliminary budget plan released in January. In the mayor's plan, the Office of Management and Budget noted that it expected Congress to revise the school construction bond program and predicted that when it did, the city would successfully be able to issue all $1.4 billion in bonds.
May 22, 2009
City Council seeks more say in planning school construction
With the Bloomberg administration's proposed capital-spending budget for schools up for the City Council's consideration, lawmakers are taking a novel approach: Rather than vote yes or no, they are asking for a change in state law that would give them more power to revise it. The change could not actually be marshaled through Albany in time for this year's capital budget, but it does send a signal that city lawmakers are interested in conducting more oversight over the public schools. Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that the council aims to have the same kind of input into the city's school capital budget as it has in the Department of Education's operating budget. Each spring, the council negotiates changes in that budget. Sometimes, those changes are substantial, such as last year, when the council won the restoration of $129 million in school funds. But on school construction, the council must vote simply yes or no on a plan that contains hundreds of individual projects. The plan has been a popular target for advocates who have said it doesn't come close to meeting the city's need for more school buildings. It has also made an attractive target for elected officials, especially in Manhattan, where parents have been strenuously protesting school crowding.
May 1, 2009
Defending cuts to some city services, Bloomberg cites Klein
The city Department of Education is spared the worst of city agencies' impending budget cuts, according to the executive budget proposal released by Mayor Bloomberg today for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Lots of city agencies are being asked to fire employees, and spending citywide on capital projects has been slashed by 27 percent, Bloomberg said at a briefing for reporters about the plan today. On the other hand, he said, "We have a school system that we are putting more money in than we did last year." The budget proposed today includes $10,810,000 in city funds for public schools. By the end of the current fiscal year, according to budget documents distributed today, the DOE will have received $10,462,000 in city funds. The DOE is being asked merely not to replace teachers who leave, not outright fire teachers, Bloomberg said. Plus, he said, federal stabilization money will allow the DOE to escape the deep cuts in capital funds that other city agencies are experiencing. Although the new capital plan is smaller than the one that is now ending, the DOE is being spared the 27 percent capital budget reduction that other agencies are set to experience. Whether the DOE would be included in a citywide reduction in capital spending had been an open question. Responding to a reporter's question about cuts to other agencies that could impede their ability to help needy New Yorkers, Bloomberg cited the philosophy of his chancellor, Joel Klein. "You're never going to fix poverty until you fix public education," Bloomberg said. "I'm always happy to hear the mayor adopt my philosophy," Klein told me when I asked him what he thought about hearing the philosophy he has promoted as the founder of the Education Equality Project being used to explain cuts in city services that some have called "ruthless." Klein sounded less sanguine when discussing the school budget picture.
December 3, 2008
Could the DOE's conservative capital plan be selling the city short?
With billions of dollars in federal support for school construction projects on the horizon, New York City is shortsighted to undersell its need for new schools, teachers union president Randi Weingarten said at yesterday's City Council hearing about the city's proposed capital plan. President-elect Obama's top aide confirmed yesterday that school construction projects will be part of the new administration's stimulus package to create jobs and encourage spending by states, according to Alyson Klein of Education Week. Governors, who are staring at massive budget shortfalls, this week asked Obama for $130 billion to support infrastructure projects, including schools. What's so special about school construction? In contrast with some other infrastructure projects, states are always planning to build or enhance schools, so they can get to work on those projects in a relatively short amount of time. Plus, many believe that capital investments in schools can pay off in improved educational quality. But the city doesn't have a robust school building agenda right now. This is "absolutely the wrong way to go in this situation" because it could result in the city's schools being shut out of a federal stimulus package, Weingarten said yesterday. "If this [federal] money is out there, and we don't have a plan, we won't be in the queue," she said.
December 2, 2008
Live-blogging the City Council capital plan hearing, sort of
I spent the afternoon at the City Council's hearing on the School Construction Authority's proposed capital plan, and I tried to post updates as they happened. Unfortunately, the wireless at City Hall wasn't cooperating, so here are some highlights of the hearing, just a few hours after it ended. 1:20 p.m. Education Committee chair Robert Jackson led off right away with the elephant in the room: the economy. He said the city is facing "very difficult economic times" and noted that the mayor has requested that all city agencies reduce their capital requests by 20 percent. Economic conditions didn't stop Jackson from saying that the council wants to "take [the SCA] to task for unresolved problems and exaggerated claims." In particular, he pointed to the authority's claim that the current capital plan is the largest in the city's history, noting that many more seats were created in the early years of the 20th century. Jackson also noted the Campaign for a Better Capital Plan's finding that more school seats were added in the last six years of the Giuliani administration than in the first six year's of Bloomberg's. 1:30 p.m. Kathleen Grimm, the DOE's deputy chancellor for administration, drew some laughter when she read from her prepared testimony about the DOE's recent "capital accomplishments" the departments's oft-repeated claim that the current capital plan, which runs through the end of June 2009, is the largest in its history. She said in the future she'll be specifying that it's the largest plan in SCA's history, not the DOE's. The state created SCA in 1988. 1:45 p.m. SCA head Sharon Greenberger walked council members through a Power Point presentation about the proposed capital plan. She noted that the SCA did incorporate a plan for class size reduction into its calculations — but the reduction was to 28 students in grades 4-8 and 30 in high school, not 23 as the state Contracts for Excellence requires for those grades.
November 18, 2008
Fight over Brooklyn jail is transformed into pitch for more schools
Brooklyn House of Detention (via Flickr) Comptroller William Thompson Jr. is tying a longstanding argument with the Bloomberg administration over whether to expand…
November 17, 2008
Chief school builder is a seasoned city planner and Park Slope mom
Sharon Greenberger When several families arrived at a Park Slope middle school for an evening basketball practice recently, they were surprised to find themselves locked out. The gym, they learned, had been closed without warning so that construction workers could make repairs. The basketball team couldn’t practice, kids were disappointed, and parents were frustrated. Most parents would chalk the experience up as just one of the many small injustices of family life in the city. But for Sharon Greenberger, a Park Slope resident and mother of two, it was a professional learning experience. Greenberger leads the city’s School Construction Authority, the agency that oversees the building of new buildings and the repairs work for the old ones. In recent years, that has become a daunting job. More and more children are being brought up in the city, leaving parents distraught that public school buildings might not have enough room to fit them. At the same time, the city’s aging stock of school buildings — most are at least 90 years old — has required extensive repairs. Greenberger is the woman charged with balancing demand for new schools against the need to maintain old ones, an acrobatic challenge that has only gotten harder as grim fiscal realities set in.
November 5, 2008
Less money for new schools in capital plan released today
The city’s new five-year capital plan for school construction and repairs just went online. At 185 pages, it’s a lot to digest, but…
November 5, 2008
What to look for in the city's new school construction plan
Sandwiched between exciting election news and distressing budget news, the mayor and chancellor today will release their proposal for the city schools’ next…
October 29, 2008
Bloomberg created fewer school seats than Giuliani, report says
In the opening salvo of what's sure to be a pitched battle over the next capital plan, activists today released a report (pdf) concluding that the city added fewer school seats during the first six years of the Bloomberg administration than it did during the six years immediately before. They estimate that the system needs 167,000 extra seats and dramatically accelerated school construction in order to ease crowding and reduce class sizes. The capital plan is a budget outlining all public school construction plans for the next five years. The current plan covered five years and will end in 2009. The School Construction Authority is due to present a first draft of the next capital plan, covering the years 2010 to 2014, in just a few weeks. In the report, released by the Campaign for a Better Capital Plan and written primarily by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, backers of the campaign call for "a transparent, thorough, and open system of planning" that reflects the system's real space needs.
October 24, 2008
The morning after: Council ed committee looks at school sites
In what may be the most anti-climactic City Council hearing ever, the council’s education and landmarks committees have just convened for an oversight hearing about…
October 2, 2008
Tomorrow: Kickoff rally for A Better Capital Plan campaign
Following recent protests against crowded schools in districts 2 and 3, the City Council’s education and public siting committees are holding…
August 27, 2008
New schools provide 11,000 additional seats across the city
PHOTO: Kyle KurlickDistribution of New Seats by Borough Eighteen new school buildings will open next week, providing 11,471 new seats in New York…
August 7, 2008
Parents, community leaders come together around 75 Morton St. middle school plan
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at yesterday's rally. The atmosphere at the rally for a new middle school at 75 Morton St. yesterday was more like that of a festival than a protest. Supporters arrived on stilts, manned a lemonade and cookie stand, and tied balloons to their wrists as they celebrated the city's announcement that it would seek to preserve 75 Morton St., a fully handicapped-accessible state-owned building, as a public middle school. "I'm confident that ... very soon, we will be standing outside of this building in a different way, welcoming students," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the crowd of parents, community leaders, and elected officials who assembled on Morton Street in the late-afternoon sun. The building can undergo "renovation, not construction or major reconstruction," said Deborah Glick, the State Assembly representative from the neighborhood, and open as a fully wired middle school in 2009. But even though activism in District 2 appears to have been successful at the site of the rally, there is room for improvement elsewhere in the district and throughout the city, speakers emphasized. "It's not just about 75 Morton," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "It's about your multi-million dollar capital plan." The city's next plan, due to go into effect next summer, must reflect coordination between education and city planning officials, he said.
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