To Chancellor Bennett and Members of the New York State Board of Regents

From: Elizabeth Carson
Co-Founder, NYC HOLD

Re: Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) "Costing Out" study

December 19, 2003

Honorable Chancellor and Members of the NYS Board of Regents:

Information on CFE's "costing out" study is available on the CFE Web site. Click on "Costing Out" in the left column sidebar. The process to "costing out" involves a study described in a 15 page summary entitled 'A Proposal for Determining Adequate resources for New York City Public Schools' (American Institute for Research (AIR) and Management Analysis and Planning (MAP), Nov 27, 2002).

Costing out (part of the process to the NYS Court of Appeals mandated remedy to correct what has been deemed to be an inequitable and inadequate state education funding system) necessarily must involve defining an "adequate education," must determine the most important requisites for successful instruction (which might include highly qualified teachers, class size, safe environment, science labs) and definitions of what is to be taught as part of an "adequate education" and effective instruction to achieve this (which will include the NYS Regents Learning Standards and Regent exams required for graduation as a baseline reference point, and might include recognition of the importance of inclusion of classical teaching methodologies and a rigorous knowledge-based college preparatory curriculum, but far more likely, given CFE's bias favoring District 2 methodologies, and education school expertise, will lean more toward constructivist learning environments, a call for lots of process heavy professional development to support it, emerging curricula, etc).

It is because CFE's "Costing Out" and subsequent advocacy will very likely directly involve issues of instruction and curriculum, and will very likely deeply impact local and state education policy, that we should all be vigilant.

I am very concerned with an apparent CFE bias favoring the model of radical progressive education evidenced in much of CFE literature and in public engagement forum discussions I've attended. This model is purely exemplified in the highly controversial instructional reforms in Manhattan District 2, and now in a scaled up version in NYC, part of the Mayor's Children's First initiaitve.

I have concerns that statewide public engagement through CFE study groups and forums (of which there have been many and more planned in the costing out study) appear not, in fact, to influence to any discernable degree the agenda or direction of CFE advocacy in the area of instructional reforms.

CFE's list of essential resources has remained pretty much the same throughout the years, with one notable shift in resources necessary for a sound, basic education. CFE has always maintained a list of four top priorities. In earlier literature the four priorities were: (1) Qualified teachers (2) Adequate physical facilities (3) Adequate "instrumentalities of learning," ie desks, chairs, textbooks, libraries, science labs; and (4) Adequate teaching of "up-to-date curricula." "Up-to-date curricula" has now been replaced with smaller class size. Given the popular definition of "up-to-date curricula," perhaps this is a good thing.

My concerns with CFE advocacy specifically in the area of curriculum and instruction have only increased with the new costing out phase. The AIR/MAP study involves (along with other components) "designing the educational delivery models that may be used to cost out an adequate education" to be expedited by ten appointed Professional Judgment Panels (PJP's) It appears the panels will include no subject experts whatsoever, to be comprised solely of ed school professors, superintendents, principals, school business officials, teachers and special educators.! "The PJP's will be given the charge of designing instructional programs and specifying the resource inputs necessary to deliver these programs.." ('A Proposal for Determining Adequate resources for New York City Public Schools,' page VI)

The work and outcome of the PJP's will be severely compromised, given the highly likely vacuum in subject area expertise among most members.

I wrote to CFE executive director and counsel, Michael Rebell in November, 2003, to raise his awareness of the concerns of math experts specifically with regard to the Regents Learning Standards and the state assessments, to impress upon him the importance of subject area expertise in education reform. He never bothered to even reply to my letter, which was sent to several CFE email addresses including his personal address. Receipt was acknowledged by an assistant. (My letter to Rebell is posted on the NYC HOLD Web site.)

Excerpts from "Costing Out" section of CFE Web site:

In an effort to expedite the process of reforming New York State's school funding system, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and the New York State School Boards Association have partnered with 32 other organizations throughout the state to conduct a one-year, cutting-edge costing out study that will determine the actual amount of funding needed to provide an adequate education to all students throughout the state.

Costing Out: A New York Adequacy Study (see) is being led by an independent panel of national experts who have successfully undertaken large-scale costing-out studies in Wyoming, Maryland, Illinois and a number of other states. Heading the panel is Jay Chambers, President of The American Education Finance Association and Senior Research Fellow at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). AIR and Management Analysis & Planning, Inc., (MAP), the joint contractors for this study, have also recruited other education finance experts from New York and throughout the country---including expert witnesses who testified for both the plaintiffs and the defendants at the CFE trial.

The study will determine the level of funding each district needs by first, identifying the specific resources and conditions necessary for students to meet state standards and then, systematically calculating the amounts needed to fund each of those prerequisites.

The study's findings will be presented to the governor and the state legislature in 2004.

Thank you for your time and attention.


Elizabeth Carson
Co-Founder, NYC HOLD

Cc: Commissioner Richard Mills
Mayor Michael Bloomberg

December 19, 2003
Group Says at Least $6 Billion More Is Needed to Fix New York Schools

Satisfying a court mandate to offer children "a sound, basic education" will cost New York State at least an extra $6 billion over three to four years, the plaintiffs in the case said yesterday.

The exact cost of heeding the court order is still a moving target, according to the plaintiffs, a group called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. While it commissioned an independent study to calculate the cost of meeting the state's educational standards some 15 months ago, a final figure may still be months away.

In the interim, the group called upon Gov. George E. Pataki to put aside an extra $2 billion in the budget he must prepare by January, describing the figure as a down payment that will set the tone for the Legislature and signal the court that the state will meet its July deadline for fixing the schools.

"We're not asking. We're demanding," said Michael A. Rebell, the group's executive director. "Put the minimum that you need to meet these crying needs and we'll talk about how to spend it."

The group's estimate, generated in part by the state's own experts in the lawsuit, is at least as large as the potential deficit New York is facing: $6 billion.

With that as a backdrop, Mr. Pataki said, "It's going to be a very difficult budget." He said he is waiting to hear from his own commission studying the issue before taking any definitive steps. It is not expected to report until March.

"I am not going to get out in front of those recommendations," said Governor Pataki, a Republican. "We're going to wait and see what they propose."

The call for an educational down payment in the governor's budget was echoed by the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, who argued that the political feasibility of an increase mattered less than the judges' instructions on the matter.

"We can't allow the governor to shove this issue under the table," Mr. Silver said. "This has to be addressed as quickly as possible. The court says so."

Though still preliminary, the $6 billion minimum put forward by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity is close to the $5.98 billion figure introduced last week by the New York State Board of Regents. State aid to school districts is currently $14.5 billion annually.

The State Court of Appeals ruled in June that the state had shortchanged New York City students by not giving them an adequate amount of financing.

In the 1990's, the state made increases of similar size in education spending. Even so, the two proposals diverged over how quickly the state should allocate any additional money to help students meet New York's educational standards, assuming the extra funds are committed.

The Regents said the money should be phased in over seven years, starting with an increase of $880 million this year. The plaintiffs called that time frame "totally unacceptable," contending that millions of students will have left high school before significant reforms take root.

"Kids' lives and kids' futures are at stake here," Mr. Rebell said.

In response, Richard P. Mills, the state's education commissioner, pointed out that the Regents' proposal was flexible, and could be modified by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's research. He also said the timing of an increase was secondary to the main point. "What we have now are two recommendations from different groups, both speaking to the same approach," he said.

To help students meet the state standards, class sizes in the typical elementary school should average no more than 16 students, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's preliminary findings. That is about 9 fewer students than are found in the typical New York City classroom, and about 6 fewer than the state average, state records show.

Beyond that, elementary schools with high numbers of students from low-income families should receive about 36 percent more resources than the average school, the study found, with classes of about 14 students. Mr. Rebell cautioned that all the calculations had yet to be completed, but estimated that spending in the poorest schools would have to reach about $14,650 per pupil, compared with about $11,000 now.

The governor's commission is responsible for coming up with precisely those kind of numbers, though its work has only recently begun. Frank G. Zarb, the commission's chairman, said he expected it to recommend more money for the state's "broken" education system, but how much remained to be seen.

As for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's study, Mr. Zarb added, its methodology can safely be considered sound. "The important thing is that we respect their work and will take it seriously," he said.

New York Times article source

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