Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spitzer's Speech - Pataki Wannabe?

The UFT has leaped to embrace Spitzer's speech with a self-congratulatory pat on the back — "Look, mommy, we endorsed him. He's our boy, etc." (Of course, they endorsed Pataki too.) I ran into a Unity Caucus chapter leader today who was spouting the line. He was so happy to say how brilliant Randi Weingarten is in her political strategy. Ooooh! Patak- er - Spitzer is calling for supervisors to be held accountable. Wow! I hated to bust his bubble to point out the rather obvious fact that they will just blame teachers and nothing will change.

Take a look at what Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters has to say.

Preview: Aside from the mention of preK, and the promise that more funds would be provided, the speech could have been given by Pataki, his predecessor.

Sorry to bring you more bad news, but Gov. Spitzer’s education speech is posted here: http://www.ny.gov/governor/keydocs/0129071_speech.html

Rather than requiring schools to provide smaller classes, this would only be one possibility in an extended menu of options that could be considered, along with a longer school day, a longer school year, after school programs, and various changes to teacher compensation, including more pay for teachers at schools whose test scores improve enough.

This is because, he said, “No single investment works for every school district, and the state should not be in the practice of dictating to every district how to run their schools.”

Interesting how smaller classes seem to “work” for all public schools in the suburbs, as well as every NYC private school -- including the one Spitzer sends his own kids to – but I guess we shouldn't assume that smaller classes would also benefit the children who attend our public schools.

In contrast, he did say that Pre-K programs will be mandated for every child within the next four years – but that the most important role for the State in grades K-12 was “to maintain and increase standards for every grade and graduation. “

He also said that he would recommend that the cap on charter schools be increased from 100 to 250.

He mentioned that districts would have to “involve parents and other stakeholders” in their school improvement plans, though he didn’t specify how.

Here is the sole grudging mention of class size in the speech:

“For example, the impact of smaller class sizes is clear to every parent and teacher, and we know that, especially in the earlier grades, fewer children in a room can make a difference. In schools where classes have grown to unmanageable proportions, where teachers have lost the ability to keep contact with children, smaller classes even in later years may also be warranted. Class size reductions should be an element of the reform program that every district should consider.”

This doesn’t sound anything like his ads – which highlighted the need for smaller classes as one of three central goals of his administration, along w/ preK and safer schools.

It also doesn’t accord with his promise that from Day One, everything changes.

Aside from the mention of preK, and the promise that more funds would be provided, the speech could have been given by Pataki, his predecessor.

My press statement follows. If you’d like to send him an email; go to

The education proposals the Governor put forward today are an affront to all those parents who hoped he meant it that from Day One, everything changes.

While his campaign ads highlighted smaller classes as one of only three educational goals of his administration, rather than require any school to actually provide smaller classes, this would only be one of a long menu of options districts could consider.

His proposals are also contrary to the decision of NY State’s highest court -- that class sizes in our schools were too large to provide our students with their constitutional right to an adequate education.

The Court of Appeals didn’t say that our school year or school day was too short; the Court didn’t say that we needed more charter schools.

The Court said that the class sizes in NYC schools were excessive, and that there was “a meaningful correlation between the large classes in City schools and the outputs…of poor academic achievement and high dropout rates.”

There is no research showing that extended day or a longer school year will provide our children with the attention they need to succeed – just more hours spent in overcrowded classrooms.

There are also no studies indicating that increasing access to preK, without also providing acceptable class sizes and better classroom conditions in subsequent grades, will lead to higher student achievement, less teacher attrition, improved school discipline or better graduation rates.

And though the Governor said that districts should involve parents and other stakeholders in the development of their improvement plans, he didn’t specify how. Right now, the Mayor and Chancellor have no intention to allow parents to have any voice as regards the plans for these funds – even though it is our children who will continue to suffer.

If the Governor really believed that inequality in educational opportunity is “morally indefensible”, as he said today, I don’t know how he can justify the huge disparities in class size that NYC children continue to experience every day compared to students in the rest of the state.

Leonie Haimson

Class Size Matters

1 comment:

  1. Gov. Spitzer came out with his proposed budget, including $3.2 billion more in state funds for our schools over four years, with $639 million for next year.

    Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that any of this will be spent on smaller classes.

    In fact, Spitzer’s proposing to get rid of all categorical funding except preK, including the state early grade class size reduction funds, which means that fewer dollars would be targeted towards class size reduction --- and there’d be nothing stopping the city from increasing class size, despite all those lovely ads of his that promised us otherwise. All those years we spent fighting Pataki, when he tried to eliminate or freeze the class size program, and now to have a Democrat who ran ads on the need for smaller classes is quite disturbing.

    The only mention of class size in his power point was to show the class size reduction funding disappearing into a “foundation” formula that can be spent on nearly anything, including a longer school day and/or year. The following programs were highlighted as his top education priorities:

    Universal Pre-Kindergarten and Full-Day Kindergarten, Teacher Quality Initiatives, New Math and Science Initiatives and Increased Charter School Cap. http://www.ny.gov/governor/budgetwebcast/Budget_Presentation_FINAL.pdf

    Spitzer’s speech also assumed that the city would put up an additional $2.2 billion, with $532 million more for next year, but whether this is actually new money or what the city has already committed in terms of higher teacher salaries, pension and health care costs is not clear to me.

    I guess that Bloomberg has convinced Spitzer, his fellow private school parent, that he’s already doing the right thing by our kids, and that public school parents and teachers don’t really understand what our schools really need. Please volunteer if you haven’t already to come to a meeting w/ your legislators so we can convince them to improve on this disappointing lack of vision.

    For more on this, see the NY1 story including interviews w/ Robert Jackson, Pedro Noguera, and me.

    Leonie Haimson on nyceducationnews@yahoogroups.com


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