It's teacher hunting season!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cutback Consultants, Save NYC Teacher Jobs

When New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg says that he wants to be "the education mayor."

As the teacher's union's rally this Thursday, May 12 blazed on T-shirts, "really?"

You can see people's priorities are when you see their expenditures of money.
New York City can save everyone of these imperiled teaching positions by eliminating the (no-bid, by the way) consultants and consultant company expenditures. (And by the way, these consultants are often off-shore, and of course paying off-shore programmers. We are in a period of unemployment crisis and revenue crisis. So why are we spending huge sums with companies operating abroad that will not pay New York, let alone New York taxes. Did you buy a shirt in New York City at a store rather than online? If so, you not only helped the local economy, helping to provide income to salesclerks here and tax coffers here.)

Back to the consultants issue, the numbers are huge, regardless of where they are working. In the Friday edition of the New York Daily News, Rachel Monahan reported that $23 million is budgeted for computer services.
If the mayor and his supporters support the classroom experience, they will support the students and their classroom experience. In this decade of mayoral (autocracy) control we can see that there has been dubious improvement: 75% of NYC school entrants to CUNY schools need remedial math and English. The city has to rely on data-fudging (operations that scrub student data, dubiously asserting that students have gone to commercial trade schools when they have dropped out), and has to rely on desperation measures of bogus credit recovery courses (a semester's worth of credit for some crash speed work on make up projects or class sessions). When this is the hallmark of NYC education, we see that the city has moved backwards with the mayor. So, for all the millions that are spent on ARIS and excess consultants and data analysis and collection, there is no significant movement forward.
In short, cut the consultants; divert the money to teachers.
From Monahan's article in the Daily News:
(See the admittedly unscientific DN online poll associated with this article: 96% say divert the $$$ to teachers instead of consultants.)
As the city prepares to lay off 4,100 teachers, the Department of Education is planning to spend nearly $1 billion on consultants next school year, a new analysis shows.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer blasted the agency's budget as a "black hole" and took issue with the 6% increase on consultants, after his office pored over the latest budget documents.

"There are a whole lot of troubling increases that have nothing to do with spending money in the classrooms," said Stringer, noting the city's plans to lay off teachers was "political gamesmanship" and the "solution" may lie in the $20 billion Education Department budget.

"This is a black hole that gets darker and deeper as time goes on," he added.

"It's time to shine some light on what these services really are."

Stringer's analysis, which agency officials dismissed, found the agency is increasing its spending on consultants under the central administration budget by $25 million - with $23 million of the increase spent on computer services.

The analysis also found increased spending on consultants to recruit teachers by nearly $1 million - while the city is cutting teachers.

Education Department officials have said that it's necessary to continue recruiting teachers to shortage areas like special education even during cuts.

City Education Department officials rejected the analysis, saying that most of the consulting budget is for required services and directly goes to serving students with disabilities.

"The Borough President either fails to recognize an important fact about these consultant costs or he is intentionally misleading people," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said. "The truth is that over $840 million of the $981 million he cites are dedicated to direct services for our students with the vast majority going towards our students with disabilities which are services that are required under the law."%A0

Agency officials also disputed that the computer contracts are increasing so steeply, saying instead that they underestimated expenses last year.

Jose Gonzalez, whose sons Alvaro, 10, and Allan, 9, attend Public School 73 in the Bronx joined a protest against budget cuts held yesterday at City Hall.

"We want a better education for our children. How are we going to do that?...They're really wasting money on consultants and contracts," said Gonzalez, a member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.

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