[ProgressiveEd] Fwd: News about education funding and how you can help!

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Mon, 24 Feb 2003 11:03:13 -0500

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Subject: News about education funding and how you can help!
Date Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 1:38 PM
From: Leonie Haimson <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]
CC: Leonie Haimson <[email protected]>
Gov. Pataki's  proposals to slash $1.3 billion from education, including
eliminating all of the funding class size reduction and preK, are causing
his popularity to plummet to its lowest level in seven years.  A new poll
also shows that 85% of registered voters statewide disapprove of his
education cuts.  The Daily News ran a terrific story today on what the
loss of the class size reduction program would mean to NYC public
schools, including one school, PS 198 in East Harlem, where smaller
classes have helped  raise the number of kids reading at grade level from
23% to 69% over the last few years.  I include the article below; it
makes the point that about 150,000 children in NYC, or about half of the
students in grades K-3rd, would likely have their class sizes balloon
upwards if this critical funding were eliminated.
I know there's alot of bad news out there, increasing our anxieties on
alot of different fronts, but here's one you can do something about.   If
you haven't already, please contact the Governor, Shelley Silver, and Joe
Bruno, asking them to restore full funding for preK and class size
reduction, including $225 million for smaller classes, as they originally
agreed when this program began.
Governor George Pataki: 518-474-8390 or  212-681-4580.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: 518-455-3791 or 212-312-1420. 
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno: 518-455-3191.
2.  Next, if you have a little more time, send the same message to your
state legislators.  Just go to 
MyGovernmentNYC.asp?cmd=start, plug in your zip code and address, and
their names and contact information will appear.  
There are six Republican State Senators for NYC who are considered
especially pivotal in our fight to restore funding for class size
reduction.  They are John Marchi of Staten Island, Guy Velella and Olga
Mendez of the Bronx, Martin Golden of Brooklyn, and Serphin Maltese and
Frank Padavan of Queens. If you're lucky enough to have one of these
people representing you, urge them to send a letter to the Governor and
Joe Bruno themselves, asking that the funds for class size and preK be
restored, as CPAC has already urged them to do.  
3.  Finally, I still need more names of parents throughout the city who
have stories to tell about how their child or their child's school has
seen real benefits as a result of smaller classes, or has been hampered
by still having overly large classes, especially in grades K-3rd. 
I was able to steer Allison Gendar of the Daily News to PS 198 because I
had visited that school for a report I did a few years back on the
benefits of reduced class size, and also to PS 41 because I happened to
have visited the school a few weeks ago while looking for a Kindergarten
for my son.  I could really use more help in identifying parents with
kids in schools in all the districts that have improved because of their
ability to provide smaller classes, both for the sake of future news
stories and also to help with testimony I plan to give in Albany about
how this program needs to be saved.  If there's one thing I've learned in
this business, it's that legislators and reporters always respond better
to individual real-life stories rather than statistics, so please contact
me with yours by responding to this email, along w/ your name and phone
number.  The Daily News article follows.
thanks as always for your help,
Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
(office) 212-674-7320
(home) 212-254-1491
(cell) 917-435-9329
[email protected]
Fearing gov's math :  Adds up to return of larger classes, parents worry 
February 13, 2003
In 1996, Public School 198 on the edge of East Harlem was one of the
worst in the state, with a paltry 23% of students reading at grade level. 
Last year, 69% were reading at grade level - a turnaround made even more
impressive, supporters said, because nearly one in five students needs
special education services. 
The simple difference: smaller class sizes. 
"It evens out the playing field," said Principal Beverly Wilkins. 
"With fewer children in a class, we can become really smart about our
children. We can know what they need. No exceptions, no excuses," she said. 
An extra class was added to each grade from kindergarten through third at
PS 198 so that no class had more than 20 students and some had 18, down
from 28. An extra prekindergarten class was also added with 18 students. 
Teachers said the shift allowed them to stop playing classroom cop and
start helping kids understand the lesson of the day.
"Children left my kindergarten room knowing how to read," said teacher
Maryann Wainstock. "Many are children I know would not have been able to
do that if I had to spread my attention over 25 children instead of 18.
Every child gets more attention." 
Funds at risk 
But money that has shrunk classes for 147,000 - or half - of New York
City's youngest students could be on the chopping block. 
As part of a $1.2 billion cut to education statewide, Gov. Pataki has
proposed slicing $88 million in class size aid to the city - killing a
program that created classes of 20 to 22 students instead of the normal
25 to 32. 
The money pays the salaries of about 1,600 teachers who lead roughly 720
new classes, according to the city's Independent Budget Office. 
Mayor Bloomberg warned in a speech to the Legislature this month that the
budget cuts would eliminate the teaching positions - touching off fear of
massive teacher layoffs. 
But if the money dries up, the extra teachers likely will keep their jobs
since the system has to hire thousands of new teachers each year to fill
retirement and other vacancies. 
Still, class sizes would rise. 
Teachers and parents shudder at the thought of losing the aid because the
simple solution brought dramatic results, they said. 
Five-year-olds left small kindergarten classes able to read. Second-
graders started the school year with math and writing skills four months
ahead of peers in overstuffed classrooms. 
Attendance shot up, discipline problems subsided and parents clamored to
get their children into schools that promised smaller classes. 
"With fewer kids you can get on with learning," said Jill Tapia, a parent
at Public School 41 in Greenwich Village, where kindergarten and first-
grade class sizes have dropped to 20 to 22 students, from 25 to 28. 
"Fewer students, better results. It works. It's just common sense," Tapia
Tapia's oldest daughter had 28 students in her kindergarten class. Her
younger daughter had 20. It was her youngest who left kindergarten able
to read. 
Official response 
Pataki's staff counters that the governor has pumped record amounts of
money into education in the past few years but now has to make tough
decisions to avert a fiscal crisis. 
To parents and teachers, though, the governor's budget would derail a
reform that not only works, but works for all children - cutting across
social, economic, ethnic and racial lines. 
Second-grade teacher Frances Schuchman said students walk into the first
day of her class at PS 198 able to read books that other second-graders
can tackle only at the end of the year. 
"You see an entire class moving up a whole level, able to read and spell
more complex words, write out whole sentences. That's because they
received so much more attention. How can we throw that all away?"
Schuchman said. 
Originally published on February 13, 2003 
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