New York City must spend $5.6 billion more annually on schools to provide the sound, basic education guaranteed by the state constitution, a court-appointed panel has concluded. The city also will need to spend an additional $9.2 billion on schools and facilities. A state judge will decide whether to accept the recommendations.
The court managed to ignore a mound of evidence that there is no connection between increased funding and student performance and, no surprise, the unions are already pushing to extend the ruling to school districts “like Buffalo, Binghamton, and Beacon,” as the NEA/New York’s press release melodiously put it. Expect additional lawsuits. The best we can say about this farce is that perhaps we have here what anthropologists call a natural experiment. If New York goes on a spending spree for class size reductions, ill-designed pre-K, and all sorts of new consultants, as Chancellor Klein has already suggested he will do, without addressing any of the fundamental curricular, contractual, pedagogical, or structural problems facing city schools, and test scores still do not improve, then perhaps we’ll be a step closer to putting the “spending adequacy” genie back into its bottle. Unfortunately, in the meantime, it’s truly shameful that New York’s ill-served school children will be forced to endure more — and boy, do we mean more — of the same.
The Daily News is skeptical too.
The panel’s main message: Show us the money. Boatloads of money. As for reform, “That’s not our department,” the panel seemed to say. When asked back in September to end teacher tenure and to abolish the rules that make it excruciatingly difficult to transfer teachers to schools that need them, one panelist termed the idea “micromanaging.”
How stunningly ironic, then, that the day before the panel issued its obscenely generous recommendations, a legal-reform group called Common Good released a study detailing how it takes 83 separate steps to fire a subpar teacher. Just to place a note in a teacher’s personnel file, a principal must clear 32 administrative hurdles. Replacing a school’s heating system is a 99-step process.
Chancellor Joel Klein wants to use the money to create full-day pre-kindergarten programs and reduce class size.
Law is brilliantly ill suited as a management system. Law is rigid and leaves no room to adjust for the circumstances. Once the idea of rule-based management takes root, the bureaucracy grows like kudzu. Teachers and principals spend the day tied up in legal knots. One principal weighed the legal dictates he received one year from the superintendent’s office at over 45 pounds.
The teachers union contract in New York bans principals from asking teachers to help out in the halls or lunchroom. For teachers, rules dictate “the arrangement of desks, the format of bulletin boards, the position in which teachers should stand.” More money won’t rescue a ship sinking under the weight of bureaucracy, Howard writes.