Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How the DOE missed the boat on enrollment growth, leading to inequitable budget cuts

See this article in today’s Daily News – showing that the DOE now is going to impose even bigger mid-year budget cuts than the maximum of 1 percent promised, to the 740 schools where enrollment increased – despite their supposed “fair student funding” formula. I have posted the memo here.

Here is an excerpt:

“For schools experiencing growth in enrollment, given the mandates related to special education, we will fund 100% of the increase in dollars related to an increase in special education enrollment. However, given the decline in the overall DOE discretionary budget and the decrease in the percentage of dollars returned by the schools with enrollment declines, we can only fund 55.5% of the increase in FSF attributed to the increase in general education enrollment.”

In other words, schools that have growing enrollments are getting screwed.

The even more critical issue is DOE’s explanation for this situation: that citywide, enrollment is growing this year for the first time since 2002 – not even counting charter school growth, which has been rapidly expanding.

“For the first time since 2002, enrollment has increased. During the current school year, NYC public schools saw an increase in total pupil enrollment of about 1%. This means that in addition to the annual redistribution of dollars from schools with register losses to those with register gains, we will need to add dollars to the FSF budgets.”

Overall, according to sources, there are about 10,000 more students than last year. Yet the DOE hadn’t budgeted for this, even though we’ve been warning them to expect this for years.

Actually, elementary and middle school enrollments started growing last year, according to our calculations -- if charter schools in DOE buildings are included.

Indeed, many public officials, parents and advocates, including the City Comptroller and the Manhattan Borough President, warned them of imminent enrollment growth, based on higher birth rates, more development, and families wanting to stay in the city, because of the lower crime rate. This, we warned, would likely lead to even worse overcrowding, given the inadequate capital plan, rather than the mere “pocket overcrowding” that DOE educrats love to describe.

We also told them that the enrollment projections provided by their consulting firms – Grier Partnership and Statistical Forecasting – should not be trusted. FYI, the latest Grier report predicts that enrollment would not increase in NYC schools until 2017, and SF until 2016 – at least seven years away.

Here is what we wrote in our report, A Better Capital Plan, in October 2008:

"Although a detailed demographic analysis is beyond the capability of this report, there are signs that especially in the early grades, increased enrollment and overcrowding may already be upon us, and this trend may worsen over the coming years."

And yet as usual, the DOE ignored what we were saying. The mismanagement, incompetence and unfairness of all this cannot be understated. And it prefigures even worse conditions in our schools for years to come.