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New York State Ordered to Pay $2 Billion More to NYC Schools:

Details in theTimes.

This is much less than the plaintiffs were seeking, but approximately $2 billion more than should be spent in the absence of fundamental reforms of the school system. I grew up around many New York City school teachers, and there are fundamental problems with the schools that more money will not address. Some of these are idiosyncratic to New York City (crazy union contracts that make it almost impossible to, e.g., even get a light bulb changed in a timely fashion in a classroom), to ones that are relatively typical of major public school systems (it's almost impossible to fire a bad teacher). All the younger teachers I knew were smart and ambitious, which meant that their immediate goal was to get out of the classroom, and into first the "resource room" and then into administration. The older teachers had often started out idealistic and hardworking, but after seeing their incompetent, lazy colleagues get raises in exact lockstep with them, gradually decided that they were being suckers for trying so hard. Finally, in many high schools, junior high schools, and even some elementary schools, security was utterly lacking, students could virtually not be expelled for misbehavior, even violent misbehavior. As a result, teachers often gave over control of their classrooms to the students after being subject to violence, or threats thereof.

You would think that activists and courts faced with such problems, and with a system that already spends prodigiously (and has increased spending dramatically over the years) would focus on some of these fundamental problems.

Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
that'll cover at least two new custodians- LIVE ones, too!
11.20.2006 2:48pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Just to offer some perspective on NYC schools: My fiance teaches at an elementary school in Bushwick. Here are some highlights -

- The guidance counselor, under a caseload of about 500 kids, had a nervous breakdown and quit. One consequence is that teachers are now taked with diagnosing mental illnesses. T. goes on wikipedia and looks up symptoms, and then matches them to her students' actions, which is of course ridiculous.

- Her smartest student is a boy who lives in a homeless shelter, because his mother, after leaving prison, took him back from relatives and promptly became homeless.

- There are 9 students in her class of 22, who were recommended special ed., but since the school doesn't have money to put them there, they have not been reclassified and remain in the class.

- The school doesn't have a teacher's lounge, but the teachers are not allowed to leave the school for lunch, so hot lunch is not an option.

There are more. The system is an abysmal, catastrophic failure, on a scale that I could not imagine is possible in this country. But there it is.
11.20.2006 4:05pm
Unanimous:
The system is a TOTAL failure. My wife taught in the system for more than a decade and so did some relatives. I survived the system by going to Bronx Science in the 1970s.

No one would suggest that the way to prevent hunger and starvation is to have government run supermakets &grocery stores. We can have public funding and yet have the consumers purchase at private outlets.

It should be the same for education.
11.20.2006 4:22pm
Joe Gator (mail):
One could write a 30 volume dissertation on the problems with public education.
11.20.2006 4:32pm
Ragerz (mail):
"You would think that activists and courts faced with such problems, and with a system that already spends prodigiously (and has increased spending dramatically over the years) would focus on some of these fundamental problems."

As a logical matter, I don't see the conflict between seeking increased funding and trying focusing on the fundamental problems of the school district.

As far as activists go, given the enormous size of the NYC school district, this lawsuit seems like a relatively efficient use of their time and resources. As hard as this lawsuit was (it took 10 years) it is much less resource intensive than trying to address all the problems in an enormous and heterogeneous 1.1 million student school district.

As far as courts go, I do not think that they have the power to choose what problems to address. They have to address the complaints before, right? I don't know about New York law, so correct me if I am wrong.

Overall, I think we need to be careful about making the perfect the enemy of the good. Surely the problems mentioned by Bernstein should be addressed. But as is clear in Mike's comment above, there are some problems that could be addressed with increased funding. (More guidance counselors, the special ed students, the lack of a teacher's lounge, perhaps even some special support for the homeless student).
11.20.2006 4:42pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Unanimous:

I survived the system by going to Bronx Science in the 1970s

Class of '98 here. Survived indeed. :)
11.20.2006 5:24pm
Mac (mail):
"But as is clear in Mike's comment above, there are some problems that could be addressed with increased funding. (More guidance counselors, the special ed students, the lack of a teacher's lounge, perhaps even some special support for the homeless student)."

But, that is the point. There is plenty of money and these problems have not been addressed and won't be addressed. For the Administration to provide discipline, for instance, as mentioned above, does not require money, but will. Without discipline in the classroom, no amount of money will educate children. Children can't learn in chaos nor can teachers teach in chaos. The system is broken.

Just ask yourself what you would be saying if a private coorporation were running the schools this way? You would be asking darned hard questions and want some answers.

I am afraid that as David Horowitz said, the education system in America is run as a jobs program for adults i.e. voters, not as an educational system for children. As usual, the poor who can afford no choice, pay the greatest price.
Is there any other system in which the answer to all problems is to pay the same people who are not doing the job more money to do the same job they are not doing now?
11.20.2006 5:47pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Ragerz' comment leads me to understand that I was a bit confusing. I am certainly not advocating that we should throw more money at the problem, for reasons Mac discussed above already.
11.20.2006 5:56pm
MnZ (mail):
Based on my experience, many school funding lawsuits and activists seem to be arguing two points:
(1) Per pupil spending needs to be equalized
(2) Certain schools need more money per pupil to allow them to keep up

You can think what you want about school funding. However, it seems that, as a purely mathematically matter, (1) and (2) are mutually exclusive.
11.20.2006 6:10pm
Sebastian Holsclaw (mail):
I can understand how the courts might get jurisdiction to equalize a state's per pupil expenditure across all pupils. I can't understand how they would get jurisdiction to set what that level is. The NYT article doesn't describe it. Does anyone here know?
11.20.2006 6:41pm
JB:
The basic problem is bureaucracy. I wouldn't be a NYC public school teacher for $100,000 a year and free top-of-the-line textbooks, because the school system's a bureaucratic nightmare and the curriculum sucks.

In the absence of performance standards, the quality of teaching will never improve. In the absence of performance standards that don't suck the life out of the classroom while failing to ensure that anything useful is learned, there will continue to be a shortage of good teachers. No Child Left Behind and its ilk are the product of lawmakers correctly identifying the problem and imposing a solution that makes things even worse.
11.20.2006 7:02pm
Vovan:
The quality of Brooklyn High schools depends primarily on their location. If the high school is located in East New York, chances are it won't be a "good" school, if the high school is located in Manhattan Beach - it would rise to the top of the food chain.

The apparent solution would involve quality of life improvements throughout the city, as the neighborhoods improve, so would the schools...
11.20.2006 7:56pm
Mac (mail):
JB

"No Child Left Behind and its ilk are the product of lawmakers correctly identifying the problem and imposing a solution that makes things even worse."

Correctly identifying the problem is a rarity in government and that is something in and of itself. It's a start and it is something the school system should have been doing all along. I can think of no other profession (although, there may be some elsewhere in government) where there are no standards and no objective measure of performance as well as no consequenses for bad performance and no reward for good performance. Regardless of one's politics, I see no way that there is ever going to be a solution until parents have vouchers and can send their children to the school of their choice. And, for opponents to school choice, I hear no solution to public education other than, "More Money". Oh, that it were so easy. No matter how much money you pour into education, good, innovative people are not going to go into or stay in the profession if they do go into it. It will continue to draw from the bottom 10% of graduating classes until people can can once again be teachers, not baby sitters and paper pushers and be rewarded for innovation and hard work instead of getting paid the same as the lowest performing teacher.

By the way, does anyonee know of a school system that vastly improved thanks to more funding? I can think of several that had massive amounts of money poured into them (Kansas City, Mo. for one) without the slightest improvement in student performance, not even after 20 years. If it has ever worked, you would think someone would mention it when asking for increased funding.
11.20.2006 8:01pm
Tracy W (mail):
What's the betting all the money is absorbed by the education bureaucracy?
11.20.2006 10:33pm
Ragerz (mail):
My point was not that one should think that "throwing money at the problem" is the solution. My point was that money can help solve some problems.

I don't see an inevitable conflict between common sense reform and more equitable funding for NYC schools compared to other schools in the state.

By the way, I am not against vouchers. I think the idea of competition is a good one. I also think that using markets in this context is superior. The idea of having centralized testing via No Child Left Behind is problematic, because teaching to the test my conflict with the development of critical thinking skills and curriculms that are more geared to particular student interests and aptitudes. A free market is a way to create high standards (parents will bail from schools that do not succeed) but allow the particular interests and aspirations of particular students to be met.

I am for vouchers, as long as they are phased in and carefully structured. However, I think there has to be some equity. Should someone in the suburbs get vouchers with a much higher value than someone in the inner city?
11.20.2006 10:40pm
Ben S (mail):
I appear to have a different perspective than most on this thread...


Just ask yourself what you would be saying if a private coorporation were running the schools this way? You would be asking darned hard questions and want some answers.


Corporations (e.g. Edison) have begun to run some schools, especially in big cities with problems. Thus far, it's hard to find solid empirical proof that the corporations are any better. (Though, this is a pretty new phenomenon, so the jury's still out...)


No Child Left Behind and its ilk are the product of lawmakers correctly identifying the problem and imposing a solution that makes things even worse


It's highly debatable that NCLB represents a correct id of "the problem." A huge number of variables in addition to schools and teachers impact educational outcomes, such as socio-economic status, neighborhood, etc. . Schools are historically very resistant to externally imposed change (see the great book Tinkering Toward Utopia about this). There are many problems, and one could make a good argument that the schools aren't the ones we should concentrate our efforts on. (I don't fully believe this, but I do think problems stemming from socioeconomic status and neighborhoods are really impt).


And, for opponents to school choice, I hear no solution to public education other than, "More Money"


This is just uninformed. There are a variety of strategies to change educational governance that are championed by both liberals and conservatives, such as instituting standards-based reforms and accountability mechanisms (NCLB is one version of this general strategy). There are more particular strategies on various levels, such as implementing free preschool for "at-risk" kids. Some have stronger research bases than others. Characterizing the debate as simply more money v. more vouchers just doesn't match reality.


By the way, does anyonee know of a school system that vastly improved thanks to more funding?


There's a decent sized body of literature on the relationship between funding and various educational outcomes. Many (if not most) quality ed researchers would agree that adding more money doesn't guarantee better educations. But there are some smaller case studies of schools and districts using money well to improve educational quality. As you'd probably expect, it appears that increased resources can help educational quality if used in appropriate ways given the particular challenges that are faced at the local level.


For the Administration to provide discipline, for instance, as mentioned above, does not require money, but will. Without discipline in the classroom, no amount of money will educate children. Children can't learn in chaos nor can teachers teach in chaos. The system is broken.


Again, several variables impact ed quality. I'm not sure why discipline is getting so much attention in this thread. The ed literature addresses discipline, but it's not the end all be all of ed literature. Given what this other literature says, it doesn't appear that discipline should be the central focus.


As usual, the poor who can afford no choice, pay the greatest price.


Many on this thread seem into the idea that vouchers are the cure, likely because this governance strategy comports with a broader free market ideology. I'm not attacking this ideology in general because I don't know how it operates in various settings. But in education, good empirical evidence that vouchers work is scant to nil. In the early 60s, folks generally assumed that more money would result in better education, which I've addressed above. Broad assertions like this about a highly complex social/political system are usually wrong. For education to advance, we need to stop grafting ideologies onto a complex empirical world. I'm a lawyer and a social scientist, and I think this is one of the biggest problems with lawyers - the lack of attention to empirical proof and social science. Who would've thought we need lawyers to be even more skeptical?
11.20.2006 11:20pm
therut:
My mother and father got a better education is a one room school house with no electricity or running water using caulk boards instead of computers. I am not lying. Our society is the problem. No amount of money, computers, social workers, counselors, namby pandy conflict resolution etc will solve the problem. The fact is all these things are just a rug we sweeep the dirt under. That all these useless things are considered needed is just evidence of a big problem and not a solution. I speak as one from a family of 5 teachers. I vote for Vouchers. How many more children are we going to sacrifice to Union politics and Government before parents demand an education for their children.
11.21.2006 1:41am
JosephSlater (mail):
Thanks to Ben S for trying to bring some sanity -- by way of reference to emperical data -- to this thread. For many right-wingers, saying "public schools" or "teachers' union" is the modern equivalent of endorsing flouride in the water in the 1950s: it produces an irrational hostility.

Whatever the anecdotal experiences of posters, repeated surveys by the government and reputable academics show that, after adjusting for the type of student, students generally do NOT do better in charter schools or Catholic schools than they do in public schools. The Bush administration's response to the the most recent such study by the Feds was to announce that they would stop doing such studies.

Further, studies repeatedly show at least some positive correlation between unionization of teachers in schools and higher graduation rates and higher tests on standardized tests. See the data collected in L.C. Steelman, B. Powell, and R.M. Carini, Do Teacher Unions Hinder Educational Performance? Lessons Learned from State SAT and ACT Scores, 70 Harv. Education Rev. 437 (2000).

And yes, educational professionals have many ideas about what works better. It's not just "more money," although I would note that it would be hard to find many educational institutions at any level that didn't think they could productively use more money.

This is not to say that there are no problems in public schools. But buying into an inaccurate, ideologically-driven caricature of public schools prevents serious debate on the topic.
11.21.2006 11:23am
Joanne Jacobs (mail) (www):
There's evidence that more money will make a good school better: The school leaders know what needs to be done and will use additional resources effectively. There's no evidence that more money will make a bad school better.

-- Joanne Jacobs
11.21.2006 8:57pm
whit:
unlike many critics of teacher's unions, i'm a union member myself. i see the problem (partially) as this.

unions are advocacy groups. they do not advocate for (or advocate for stuff that creates or demands) stuff that benefits students. they advocate for stuff that benefits themself. that's the job of a union.

my union is similar. they don't advocate for stuff (at least not primarily) that is going to help the people i serve, they advocate for us having to do less, get paid more, and have less responsibility and accountability.

that's not really a criticism of unions, it's just what they are supposed to do.

But the idea that teacher's unions policies (proposed and those actually implemented) is wrong.

And with the power they have had, over a # of years, and with no free market competition - well, the result is almost guaranteed.
11.22.2006 10:59am
JosephSlater (mail):
Teachers' unions routinely advocate for policies that benefit students. Check out the info at the websites of the AFT and NEA.

And again, statement's like "well, the result is almost guaranteed" assumes facts not in evidence, and indeed assumes "facts" that aren't true. Again, unionization of teachers corrolates positively with higher test scoress and graduation rates. See the cite in my earlier post.

Again, the most remarkable thing about many right-wingers talking about public schools and teachers' unions is how entirely unmoored from actual data their opinions are.
11.22.2006 11:17am
JosephSlater (mail):
Oops: "Statment's" should, obviously, be "statments."
11.22.2006 11:17am
whit:
no, what is remarkable Joseph is that you assume somebody is right wing when they speak the truth about teacher's unions, or ANY unions.

teachers unions have continuously fought 1) the very idea of homeschooling (they have tried to make it more difficult for parents to homeschool. 2) having smart people in various fields (who happen not to have teaching certificates) from teaching (whereas my vastly superior private schools did not have such bureaucratic restrictions) 3) MERIT PAY for good teachers 4) competency tests for teachers (imagine a teacher that teaches math should actually UNDERSTAND MATH?

i am a proud union member, and have been for 20 years. but i would be a liar if i claimed that my union (or any union, to include teacher's) did not have their own constituents well being in mind above and beyond anybody elses. in the case of teachers unions, that means the "elses" are students
11.22.2006 11:40am
JosephSlater (mail):
You're not speaking the truth, Whit. I know tons of folks in teaching and in teachers' unions, and you're mischaracterizing their positions. For example, the AFT and NEA do NOT oppose merit pay for good teachers. And they have all sorts of constructive ideas on education policy, which, as I noted before, can be found on their websites.

I note again you ignore the repeated studies on the effects of unionization of teachers on students. I urge you to read the article I cited above -- which summarizes a good deal of emperical research. I'm off to celebrate Thanksgiving and won't be responding for a while. If you want to talk facts and not inaccurate stereotypes, I hope we'll have a chance to do that some day in the future.
11.22.2006 1:52pm
whit:
lol "constructive ideas"

cmon. i am speaking the truth, and i know more than a few folks in teachers unions as well.

let's talk facts

At the National Education Association's 79th Annual Representative Assembly in Chicago on July 3-6, the 2.5 million-member labor union barred the use of merit pay or performance pay in teacher contracts, hiked union dues to expand its campaign against vouchers, raised over $1 million for its political action committee, overwhelmingly endorsed Democrat Al Gore for President, and agreed to help 270 delegates attend upcoming Presidential nominating conventions: 235 to the Democratic Convention and 35 to the Republican

The Association opposes providing additional compensation to attract and/or retain education employees in hard-to-recruit positions. The Association also believes that local affiliates can best promote the economic welfare of all education employees, regardless of source of funding, by following the salary standards developed at the state and national levels. The Association also believes that performance pay schedules, such as merit pay or any other system of compensation based on an evaluation of an education employee's performance, are inappropriate.



Merit Pay: NEA OPPOSED passage of an amendment offered by Representative Price (R-GA) to the fiscal year 2006 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (H.R. 3010) to spend $100 million on a new "Teacher Incentive Fund" merit pay program. NEA opposed the program, arguing that limited resources should be directed to proven, underfunded programs such as Title I and special education, rather than to a new program designed to fund initiatives already allowable using existing teacher quality funding. The Price amendment failed 102-298 on June 24, 2005. A "no" vote supported the NEA position. (House Vote # 308 ).

Adjunct Teacher Corps: NEA OPPOSED passage of an amendment offered by Representatives McMorris (R-WA) and Holt (D-NJ) to the higher education reauthorization bill (H.R. 609) that created an Adjunct Teacher Corps. The Adjunct Teacher Corps allows individuals to teach solely on the basis of subject matter knowledge, ignoring the pedagogical skills and ongoing supports necessary for a quality teaching force. The amendment passed 293-134 on March 29, 2006. A "no" vote supported the NEA position. (House Vote # 71 ).
11.22.2006 2:47pm
whit:
forgot to mention

the first two are quoted from

http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=10928
note the 2nd quoted paragraph is the word for word resolution

the rest is from NEA's website
11.22.2006 2:50pm
H. Tuttle:
Mr. Slater, do you live in NYC? Do you have any children in the NYC school system? I have three daughters currently in the NYC public school system -- two in 4th and the youngest in 2nd grade. Would that I could at the moment I would pull them out and into private school, or move to a locale with a better public school system. I challenge you to go to the NYC Board of Ed website and find anything of value for a parent - i.e. a curriculum, etc.

Your statement that "repeated surveys by the government and reputable academics show that, after adjusting for the type of student, students generally do NOT do better in charter schools or Catholic schools than they do in public schools" blatantly disregards the fact, assuming arguendo these studies are correct, that students in such circumstances do not do "better", they do at least as well at SIGNIFICANTLY lower spending levels. Query, then, the difference in administration between the two systems and the conclusion is patently obvious that the NYC Board of Ed and UFT are parts of the problem and not part of the solution.
11.22.2006 2:55pm