[ProgressiveEd] Text of March 20 WSS article on centralizing grant-writing at Tweed

[email protected] [email protected]
Thu, 20 Mar 2003 21:23:32 +0000

I have attached an e-copy I got of the article from the West Side Spirit on 
centralizing grant writing at Tweed.  The Tweed decision-making process bothers 
as much as the decision itself.  
For the record, I have seen the same attempt to centralize grant writing in 
higher education by State agencies and/or centralized university 
bureaucracies.  It never works and ends up with grant writing reverting to 
local entities.  It would be nice to see some balance in Tweed's approach to 
this (as in so much else).  Local schools would write grants for local projects 
(perhaps with a sign-off from Tweed), central staff would provide support for 
local grant-writing, and central staff would write grants for system-wide 
Carolyn Prager, Advocates for Public Representation in Public Education 
"It is important that proposals for next year support the Children First 
Restriction on School Grants Contemplated
Leaked memo: Applications must be compatible with Klein plan
By Helen Chernikoff
Schools filling out grant applications for next school year will probably have 
to receive approval from the city's Department of Education, according to the 
draft version of a memo.
The department wants veto power over grant applications to both private and 
public sources of funds because it wants to ensure curricular consistency 
citywide, states the memo, headed "Preapproval of Competitive Grant 
The memo, which prompted mixed parent reaction, was leaked by a department 
source. Dated March 7, it went from Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam to the city's 
superintendents, with a carbon copy to Chancellor Joel Klein and others.
The Department of Education did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on 
the memo.
"As we reorganize this spring, it is important that proposals for next year 
support the Children First agenda," states the corrected version of the memo. 
"To ensure that all new and future grant applications are in alignment with the 
Chancellor's instructional plan, any school or group of schools is required to 
submit the attached Proposal Preapproval Form."
To complete that form, school officials must write a brief essay explaining the 
connections between their grant and the Children First initiative, as Klein has 
named the sweeping reorganization of the public school system made possible 
Albany gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg control of the schools last summer.
The problem with aligning grant proposals with Children First is that nobody 
understands Children First, wrote Upper West Side parent activist Cecilia 
in an e-mailed response to the memo.
"Does anyone know what the 'chancellor's instructional plan' is or what the 
'Children First' agenda really is? Have either of these been articulated in 
a way that a grant proposal could be assessed in comparison?" wrote Blewer.
Because it is in draft form, the memo affords a rare glimpse at a Department of 
Education policy in development, a process shrouded in secrecy.
The sentence telling superintendents to run their grant applications past 
central, for example, contains the word "asked" in addition to the word 
"required." But "asked" has a line through it, and "required" has a line under 
it, indicating that what might have been conceived as a request was transformed 
at some point into a command.
Even parents who approve of the possible policy change said they'll probably 
chafe at the imposition of an additional layer of bureaucracy.
On the plus side, however, the move might be "an attempt to provide equity 
systemwide," said Karen Feuer, a public-school parent. She is president of the 
school board of District 2, which encompasses the Upper East Side and most of 
Manhattan below Central Park.
Wealthier schools tend to grab the lion's share of grant money because those 
parents have relevant experience and the leisure time necessary to write a 
successful grant.
Others doubt that the Department of Education will be able to enforce this new 
requirement without modifying it. Melanie Arwin of District 2 is one such 
parent. The volume of grant applications, large and small, flowing out of the 
city is prohibitive, she said.
On the Upper East and Upper West Sides alone are schools, such as P.S. 9 on 
84th Street, with parent associations that regularly raise hundreds of 
of dollars annually from a combination of grants and direct parent 
P.S. 163 on West 97th Street recently received a grant from the Council on Arts 
Education to make a neighborhood quilt, according to Blewer.
Last August, P.S. 84 on West 92nd Street received $300,000 from the state's 
Reading Excellence grant program, Principal Marilyn Ruda said at the time.
In the past two years Arwin's district has received grants to finance 
from new high schools to staff libraries.
Arwin's instincts tell her the word "competitive" in the memo heading is 
significant and connotes only big grants, such as those over $500,000. If and 
when the policy goes into effect, she speculated, the Department of Education 
will have to define "competitive" more precisely or it will be "inundated with 
the little grants" every school writes to its local bank.
Schools must submit the form to Dr. Sandra Kase, senior instructional manager 
for government and grant programs, by email or fax as early as possible in the 
application process, and no later than two weeks before the grant deadline.
That timetable is one of the most problematic aspects of the policy change, 
commented Arwin, who generally approves of it.
"At first blush it sounds horrible," she wrote. "But ... once they resolve the 
speed requirement (most grants seem to be get written right down to the wire) 
won't affect individual school fundraising at all."
It was not immediately clear whether the likely restrictions on schools' 
grant-writing would apply to their parent associations or other supportive