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April 17, 2014

Google guy to weigh in on school tech funds?

E.J. McMahon

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has been named by Governor Cuomo to a commission “charged with advising the State on how to best invest the Governor’s proposed $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act in order to enhance teaching and learning through technology,” as announced by the governor’s office today.*

Schmidt provided this quote for the governor’s press release:

“To prepare today’s students to compete in the global innovation economy, schools need to provide modern educational environments that include the latest technology. New York State’s efforts to upgrade classrooms with critical infrastructure like high-speed broadband and to equip students with digital devices are welcome first steps in achieving that goal.”

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? By pumping more dollars for tech purchases into what’s already America’s best-funded K-12 education system, the proposed $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act will expand an important market for Google, which competes with Apple and Microsoft to sell laptops, tablet computers and other devices to schools. Did this somehow escape the governor’s notice?

Oddly enough, the two other new appointees to the Smart Schools Commission are not named Tim Cook or Bill Gates.  They are Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO for Harlem Children’s Zone, and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County.

New Yorkers will have the final say on whether to create more customers for Google borrow $2 billion to buy more computers, whiteboards and other tech stuff for schools in a statewide referendum in November.

* The original version of this post erroneously stated that Schmidt would chair the commission.  He won’t — he’s just one of the members.

Filed under: Education, Uncategorized

November 22, 2013

Double-dipping in Suffolk County?

Tim Hoefer

Source: www.isliptowndems.com

Source: www.isliptowndems.com

In 2011, Suffolk County passed a local law (Article I, Section 77-4) barring county elected officials from collecting two public-sector salaries.  Now, however, County Executive Steve Bellone wants to change the law to make an exception for Monica Martinez, a newly elected county legislator who also is an assistant principal at the Brentwood School District’s East Middle School.

Ms. Martinez is the sister of the Babylon deputy town supervisor, who is close to Bellone, and she won a primary challenge against another Democrat who was not a loyal soldier. Local political considerations aside, the situation raises interesting questions about the nature of public employment and elective office.


October 29, 2013

Casinos in context: much ado about … not much

E.J. McMahon

A huge majority of New York City residents believe it’s likely the non-Indian gambling casinos authorized by Proposal One on next week’s ballot will bring in “significant new revenue for New York state and local governments”—including a full one-third who think it’s “very likely” that casinos will be a big money maker, according to a New York Times-Siena poll released today.

Apparently, they’ve accepted at face value the spin embedded in the ballot proposition language, which says the casino expansion will achieve the purpose of “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”

But if that’s really what New Yorkers expect, they’re in for a rude awakening. Yes, a few more casinos will create some jobs and generate some added revenues. But in a statewide context, the projected fiscal and economic impacts of new casinos won’t be “significant” by any stretch of the imagination. The jobs will be relatively few, the new school aid will be minimal and the impact on property taxes in most of the state will be almost imperceptible.

Moreover, experience in other states indicates that, once new gambling facilities come on line, the revenues they generate won’t grow much.

Let’s consider the claims one at a time …


Filed under: Education, Gambling, Uncategorized

October 4, 2013

A fuller comparison of school costs

E.J. McMahon

Charter schools sharing space in New York City public school buildings cost less to operate than traditional public schools, counter to the findings of a 2010 research memo from the Independent Budget Office (IBO), according to a white paper issued today by a research group affiliated with former state comptroller candidate and financial advisor Harry Wilson.  (Full disclosure: I was among those asked, before the report’s release, to comment on its methodology.)

The report by Wilson and his colleague Jonathan Trichter takes issue with an IBO Fiscal Brief concluding that charter schools operating in public school buildings actually spent slightly more per pupil– $16,660 vs. $16,001 for traditional city public schools as of 2010.

IBO’s calculations “were incomplete, primarily because they did not take into account the full extent of long-term liabilities associated with district public schools, namely pension and post-retirement healthcare obligations,” or OPEB, said the report, issued by Wilson’s non-profit research organization, Save Our States.


Filed under: Education, New York City

May 21, 2013

NY number-one in school spending — again

E.J. McMahon

While voters across New York go to polls to determine the fate of proposed school district budgets, the Census Bureau has just released its annual breakdown of public school spending. As of 2010-11, New York once again topped the list, at $19,076 per pupil — a whopping 81 percent above the national average of $10,560 per pupil. The gulf between the Empire State and the national spending average has widened from 63 percent as of 2005-06.


Filed under: Education, Uncategorized

March 6, 2013

Marching for still more school dollars

E.J. McMahon

Yesterday brought a march on Albany by something called the “Educate NY Now campaign,” in which the union-backed Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) figures prominently.  The demonstration served to bring attention to AQE’s latest statistical hobby horse — an “opportunity gap” created by the $8,601 difference in per-pupil spending among the wealthiest and poorest school districts in New York. Their solution: more money. Of course.

A nice corrective for the demonstrators’ rhetoric is provided today in this Post op-ed commentary by Carrie Remis, executive director of the Rochester-based Parent Power Project, and Allen Williams, president of the New York Center for Educational Justice. (more…)

Filed under: Education, Uncategorized

June 26, 2012

Make way for … Son of CFE!

E.J. McMahon

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) litigation of 1993-2006 established the principle that New York State is constitutionally obligated to ensure funding of a “sound, basic education” for pupils in New York City schools.  Today, the state’s highest court cleared the way for a lawsuit claiming that funding levels for about a dozen of New York’s small city school districts doesn’t meet that requirement.

And so, here we go again.


Filed under: Courts, Education, Uncategorized

May 18, 2012

More on education spending

E.J. McMahon

The Citizens Budget Commission has posted some nifty charts breaking out the difference between New York State and the U.S. averages for different categories of public elementary and secondary school spending.  One noteworthy data point: between 1999 and 2009, spending per pupil on employee benefits for instructional staff rose 169 percent in New York, compared to 100 percent nationally.

As noted in my recent Newsday op-ed on this topic, “the big bucks in K-12 education [in New York] are tied up in the comparatively high salaries and benefits of teachers” — not in administrative overhead, despite our large number of school districts.

Filed under: Education

April 5, 2012

328,000 reasons to stop keeping secrets

Tim Hoefer

The Charlotte Valley School District in Delaware County had a tough employment situation on their hands until just last week. Former building principal Edgar Whaley had been a focus of controversy — going back at least a year. But that’s all settled now, thanks to a secret, lucrative contract settlement passed by the school’s board of education late last week.

At a special meeting, the board of education approved a $328,000 contract settlement with the School Administrators Association of New York State, which resulted in Whaley’s resignation.  The parties also agreed not to disclose the terms of the agreement.


November 4, 2011

Math and Reading in NY schools

Tim Hoefer

New York doesn’t look so hot in the just-released 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) report cards in math and reading, designed to show “what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.”

Generally, the trending shows improvements (both in New York and nationwide) between 1992 and 2007. However, while schools have held the line nationally since 2007, New York has been falling off. Examining the 2011 math report card, we found:

  • Twenty percent of fourth graders rank as below basic. That’s up from 15 percent in 2007, while nationally 18 percent are considered below basic, down from 19 percent in 2007;


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