Friday, July 13

Spitzer's office sheds light on NYC funding plan

More on Contracts for Excellence: Yesterday Manuel Rivera, the Deputy Secretary of Education for New York State, spoke during the CPAC meeting at Tweed. Unsurprisingly, many of the questions from committee members focused on New York City's plan to meet the state's Contracts for Excellence requirements.

Ultimately, education policy in New York State is governed by the Board of Regents, whose members are elected by the State Assembly. The Regents select and hire a Commissioner of Education to oversee the State Education Department (currently Richard Mills). The governor's office, however, has substantial influence over education policy and control over the resources going to education. The Deputy Secretary of Education (Rivera) heads up education in Governor Spitzer's administration.

What this means for New York City's Contracts for Excellence plan is that, while Rivera will not decide whether or not the complies with the law-- that job lies with the Regents and Mills-- he will be in a position to offer input on the matter at the state level.

Because the City's plan will not be formally submitted until July 15, and the Regents enforcement criteria won't be decided until well after that, Rivera refrained from saying outright whether he felt the plan complies with the law.

Rivera did, however, shed light on why the period of public comment-- and the notice for it-- was so short. New York's Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling that the state had to increase funding for New York City last November, and Spitzer proposed his Contracts for Excellence plan in January. That plan was not passed by Congress until April, leaving very little time to implement it for the coming year's budget. Rather than delay the funding for an additional year-- as some members of congress wanted-- Rivera said the Governor's office preferred to implement the law immediately to get more money flowing into New York City's schools as soon as possible. This did not leave affected districts enough time to gather sufficient public input and devise a full plan for compliance, so the law allowed for temporary emergency regulations this year, with the understanding that those regulations would change before next year's budgets are submitted.

So the bad news is that there is little parents can do this year to influence the City's Contracts for Excellence spending plan. However, by getting involved at the state level as the Regents decide how the Contracts for Excellence plan will be enforced in the future, constituents can have a greater say over how the public input process will work in the future.

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