The reason for belt tightening? Under-enrolled classes. Mr. McCalla said that all classes with fewer than 15 students are being "scrutinized" for reductions in January, at mid-year. This activity is a prelude to the inevitable spending cuts in 2010-11 since the state gravy train of school aid has ended.
Years of state aid growth masked the necessity for inevitable downsizing as more than 2,000 students (and counting) exited to the city's nine charter schools. Charter schools aren't a recent phenomenon in Albany; they first appeared exactly ten years ago and are continuing to expand. Throughout this period, more money flowed annually from the state Capitol, allowing district officials to punt on downsizing. Finally, only last year did the district close Livingston Middle School, a chronically failing institution. Can anyone claim with a straight face that students were not better off in other schools while Livingston was an educational mess?
There is no delight in anyone losing their job, and the Albany district has mostly avoided actual layoffs in spite of the decade-long depopulation of students in district schools. Albany should have been more aggressive in downsizing in the years leading to this point, which would have been less painful when accomplished gradually. Instead, the easier thing for the district has been to blame charter schools; demand more state aid; and seek a "moratorium" on new charters in spite of their academic success and popularity from the city's pesky parents wanting to enroll their children in them.
District officials are still at it by blaming their financial problems on charter schools which "siphon" $26 million out of a massive $204 million budget, as reported in the Times Union. Can anyone in the district do the math? Its own numbers tell us it is spending more than $23,000 per district student compared to only $12,000 for each student at a charter school -- a comparative bargain by any measure. From a charter perspective, it's a gross inequity.
The inevitable has arrived -- no tears for Albany.
for The Chalkboard
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