As major budget cuts loom, we track where the money goes

picture-7New York City is facing major cuts to its public schools, but there’s debate about exactly where in the Department of Education’s budget they should fall.

According to Chancellor Joel Klein, the only way to make a dent in the DOE’s budget is to lay off teachers. Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew has repeatedly rejected this idea and suggested that fewer no-bid contracts, payments to consultants, and a new retirement incentive, are the way to go.

Part of the challenge in figuring out where to make cuts is the haze surrounding where money is spent in the first place.

A breakdown of the department’s budget (below) for the current school year offers a broad outline of the DOE’s major spending areas, showing that pension costs, student transportation, and school facilities are budget heavyweights. But how the largest pot of money, the some $11.9 billion that goes to district principals, gets spent is largely unknown. Principals are required to report how they intend to spend the money, but the department doesn’t disclose where it ends up.

It’s unclear how much the department will have to cut out of next year’s budget. Governor Paterson’s proposed budget puts the figure at $418 million, but it’s probably closer to $600 million.

That’s because Paterson’s budget counts capital funding as operational aide, even though money for capital improvements can’t be used for operational costs. His budget also creates new costs for the city without counting them as reductions in state aid. For example, the state currently pays for special education summer school, but it could push that $80 million bill over to the city’s budget, a new cost that’s not counted as a loss in aid in the governor’s budget.

Last year, Albany gave the city about $9 billion (including Contracts for Excellence money), and in the worst case scenario, the city could get about $8.4 billion next year.

One way or another the cuts will have to be made. Help us lay out the facts by emailing


on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”