CSA President Mark Cannizzaro’s Testimony Before NYC Council Over Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Preliminary Budget
On Friday, March 23, CSA President Mark Cannizzaro offered the following testimony before the New York City Council over the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Preliminary Budget:
Good afternoon, Chairperson Treyger and distinguished members of the City Council. I appreciate this opportunity to provide input on the vitally important 2018-2019 New York City Preliminary Budget. My name is Mark Cannizzaro, and as the President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, I speak on behalf of the more than 16,000 education professionals we represent.
I would like to take a moment to thank the former Chairperson of this committee, former teacher and CSA Day Care Director, Council Member Daniel Dromm, for all he has done for our schools and our children. I would also like to extend our congratulations to the new Chair, Council Member Mark Treyger, another former teacher, and welcome all the members of the City Council and this committee.
I look forward to meeting you personally and working with you in our efforts to educate and prepare our city’s children for successful lives and careers.
As school leaders, we have the critical responsibility to utilize our resources to create optimum learning possibilities for our students. That means providing a safe, clean environment; ensuring our pedagogical and support staff have the training and resources required to meet all educational needs; and keeping our parents informed and engaged in their children’s education. These are the responsibilities and challenges our members embrace.
Yet, even the most talented and creative among us are limited in what they can accomplish if they are hamstrung by insufficient financial resources. Unfortunately, under the existing Fair Student Funding (FSF) formula, the allocations too often fail to meet the most basic needs of too many of our schools. FSF is the longstanding highly flawed formula used by the DOE to allocate funding to schools. We have argued for too long that, in order to provide all schools with the staff and support needed to meet the new and growing daily challenges (bullying prevention, ACS partnerships, school safety, mental health intervention, opportunity gaps, English as a New Language, etc.), this inequitable system must be radically improved. Our exhortations have gone unheeded and we continue to use a funding formula that is not only flawed but is further compromised by its disparate application to schools.
Just three of the many flaws of the FSF formula are examined below:
First, it penalizes schools for having empty seats. In other words, if maximum class size in a particular grade is 30 students and a school has 47 students in a particular grade, the school is required to open two classes and pay all the expenses associated with operating two classes, with only 64% of the funding the DOE deems necessary to provide basic services. This issue is very common in smaller schools and schools with ICT and self-contained classes for students with special needs. Often, the DOE requires a school to open a particular number of special education classes based on anticipated need. If the DOE’s own projections do not pan out, the school is left to foot the bill.
Second, the formula was derived assuming that teachers earn the “average” NYC teacher’s salary. Therefore, if a particular school has a majority of teachers earning significantly more than the average, that school’s discretionary spending ability can be significantly reduced or even result in a deficit.
Finally, schools mandated to provide paraprofessionals based on an IEP mandated “formula” (ex. 12:1:1 special class) are not funded for the cost of the paraprofessional. In fact, a 12:1:1 special needs class that requires the services of a paraprofessional is funded identically to a 12:1 special needs class that does not require the services of the paraprofessional. Schools with a large number of 12:1:1 classes are especially penalized.
To further complicate the issue is that fact that schools receive varying percentages of the established formula. The DOE created a formula they refer to as “fair” yet some schools receive an allocation greater than 100% and some schools receive as little as 87% of the formula. In other words, some schools are given 13% less than the DOE’s own formula requires and other schools, often in the same district and often in schools with very similar needs, receive what the DOE has determined to be full funding. If nothing else can be done, the DOE must commit to fully funding all schools even if it is according to their own inadequate formula. It appeared that they were moving in that direction two years ago when they raised the minimum FSF from 82% to 87%, with a commitment to move to 90% for FY 18 and to 100% by FY 21. Unforuntately, the move to 90% was not made in FY 18 and the DOE appears to be non-commital going forward based on the State budget allocation. CSA urges the DOE to commit to full funding by making cuts elsewhere if the State budget is, as expected, less than adequate.
While the DOE does have a budget “appeal” process for schools, it is extremely labor intensive and time consuming (sometimes taking the entire summer), takes school leaders away from the task of planning and education and does not have clear guidelines as to what constitutes a successful appeal. In addition, the decision to grant or deny an appeal is generally made by DOE budget personnel who do not directly engage with school leaders and have little understanding of the needs of the school or students in question.
Historically, the City Council has recognized the need for adequate education funding. And our members are aware and appreciative of the Council’s efforts to respond to the needs of their schools.
CSA members are especially grateful for the Council’s role in the growth of the professional development programs available to them through the Executive Leadership Institute (ELI).
ELI is a not-for-profit organization, affiliated with CSA, which provides cutting-edge professional development offering standards-based, results-driven leadership training for New York City’s public school leaders. Since 2002, through the offerings of ELI, thousands of New York City’s principals, assistant principals, education administrators, supervisors, administrators, and directors and assistant directors of Early Childhood Education, have enhanced their skills and better served NYC’s public education system.
We are especially proud of several new, innovative programs ELI has developed thanks to the support of the City Council. Allow me to take a moment to offer you a glimpse into the breadth and scope of these remarkable programs:
Micro-Credentialing: Working with the non-profit organization Teaching Matters, ELI provides a micro-credential following a focused professional development program related to a specific topic. Our first collaboration resulted in a micro-credential in Culturally Responsive Education. This program provides school leadership with the tools and skills necessary to devise initiatives that are sensitive to the diverse needs and cultures of their students and requires the practical application of these skills in a school setting.
Text Talk and Writing Tasks: Working with teachers and ENL (English as a New Language) professionals, students at Bryant High School, engaged in talk sessions after reading compelling texts on significant issues. These conversations later evolved into short writing classes. This is a model that shows promise for students still learning English and it can be easily replicated in schools throughout the system.
DOE Professional Staff Development: iZone is a DOE office dedicated to supporting a community of schools in personalized learning to accelerate college and career readiness. ELI provided staff development for iZone staff developers who then worked with teachers in helping to bring technology instruction to nearly 300 schools. This year alone, workshops were offered in Digital Leadership, Using Technology to Enhance Instruction for English Language Learner Students (ELLS), Privacy and the Schools, and Using the Arts Including Technology to Enhance Academic Success for ELLS.
These and the many other successful programs created under ELI (including our outstanding principal preparation program known as ALPAP and our SBISI program for new assistant principals) are important to ensuring New York City’s students, teachers and leaders remain on the cutting edge of educational innovation. Last year, the Council generously provided $770,000 to help fund these professional development programs. As we approach FY19, with the determination to meet the demand for more programs involving more CSA members, we are respectfully seeking an increase of $230,000 to bring the funding to one million dollars. It is only with your help that we can sustain and expand our professional development opportunities to foster a stimulating educational environment for the most diverse school population in the world.
We would love for you to see for yourselves some of the work that ELI is doing and will be sending a formal invite to the members of our City Council in the very near future.
CSA remains committed to working with the City Council to help improve conditions in our school buildings, create better learning environments for our students, and better equip our pedagogues with the skills and resources they need to be as effective as they can be for all of our students.
Thank you for all the support you have given in the past and for your consideration as we move forward. We humbly consider you to be critical partners in this very important work.