Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

You have to wonder how the Daily News can get it wrong just about every single time. Today's attack on teachers focused on Fair Student Funding, a bullshit idea that BloomKlein have fed to the press as a way of democratizing schools but is nothing more than a way for the DOE to skirt the UFT contract and try to fire or marginalize senior teachers.We blogged on this issue several months ago.

The opinion piece wrongly says that under the old system, richer school districts got more money. In truth, the money was for the salaries of more senior teachers who transferred into those schools. As far as I know, almost none of that money went to the kids, but to the teachers who worked in those schools.

This article says that under 'Fair' student funding, money is allocated based upon student needs, which again is false. Schools get a certain amount for each student, but they can spend the money as they wish, including on large catered affairs for the superintendents who visit or on extra copy machines or perhaps even betting on cockfights for all I know. The idea that the students get the money is absurd. What has happened in reality is that principals have denied high needs students something they desperately need in order to succeed--highly qualified teachers. If a principal can hire a newbie for 50K or an experienced veteran for 90K, whom will he hire? And there is LOTS of evidence to show that newbie teachers are not as effective as senior teachers--most research shows that it takes 5 years to become really proficient at teaching--but principals generally don't hire those teachers because they cost more.

The article says, "What's wrong with this? Nothing. The students in these schools are clearly in need. If they either can't entice senior teachers, or if they are happy with the junior teachers they have, why shouldn't they be allowed to use the money allocated for their particular students' needs for more books, supplies or additional staff?"

Actually, there's a great deal wrong if a school can not entice senior teachers. That usually means that the school is broken in some way. It's violent, it's abusive to teachers, or it has no intention of enticing them in the first place. Rather than take real action, such as actually fixing the schools no one wants to teach in, BloomKlein concocts a cockamamie funding scheme.

Let's use an example. Suppose a school has 100 teachers making an average of 80K. That would be 8 million in salary. Let's further suppose this school has 1500 students, which is about right for this many teachers. That's a student teacher ratio of 15:1. If fair student funding worked as advertised, a principal could hire 100 newbies at a cost of 5 million, leaving 3 million. With that 3 million, a principal could hire another 30 newbies, bringing the total staff to 130 and a student teacher ratio of 11.5 to 1. Can anyone show me a single example--just one--where this has happened? Where anything close to this has happened? So where does that extra 3 million go?

I'll tell you exactly what happens in real life. Principals look to cut senior teachers to save money, or they replace retirees with newbies. Then when the savings come in, Bloomberg institutes draconian cuts to school budgets and tells principals to just deal with them. So teaching staffs become less and less experienced, and needy kids don't get squat because Mayor4Life cuts the money from the budget anyway.

Finally, the author of the article, one Raymond Domanico, makes the patently absurd claim that, "...fair Student Funding plays no role in putting teachers into the reserve pool." Pardon me? When schools close or enrollment declines, excessed teachers are put in the ATR pool and principals do not hire them because they do not want to take on the salary of a senior teacher under fair student funding because doing so will cost them as much as 50K a year. As a result, we have a bloated ATR pool that has cost the city well over 200 million dollars so far.

Imagine how that much money could have helped needy kids.


Chaz said...

You should publish this in the Daily News opinion page. What a great rebuttal!

Gideon said...

You state "The opinion piece wrongly says that under the old system, richer school districts got more money. In truth, the money was for the salaries of more senior teachers who transferred into those schools." That's exactly the problem: more experienced teachers go to the least challenging schools with the least need; as a result the schools with the lowest poverty end up spending far more per student than the high poverty schools. The whole point of Fair Student Funding is to fund schools based on the needs of the school, where schools with more low income, special education and English language learners get more funding to meet those students' needs. And your argument about using Fair Student Funding to discriminate against senior teachers doesn't make sense. You yourself state that it takes 5 years to become a proficient teacher, but fail to note that most teachers don't improve significantly beyond 5 years. The cost differential between 0 and 5 years experience is just not that big, and most sane principals would hire a 5 or even 3 year veteran over a newbie.