Saturday, May 14, 2011

City Prepares to Spend Nearly $1 Billion on Education Consultants as it Fires 4,100 Teachers by Rachel Monahan - NY Daily News

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As the city prepares to lay off 4,100 teachers, the Department of Education is planning to spend nearly $1 billion on consultants next school year, a new analysis shows.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer blasted the agency's budget as a "black hole" and took issue with the 6% increase on consultants, after his office pored over the latest budget documents.
"There are a whole lot of troubling increases that have nothing to do with spending money in the classrooms," said Stringer, noting the city's plans to lay off teachers was "political gamesmanship" and the "solution" may lie in the $20 billion Education Department budget.
"This is a black hole that gets darker and deeper as time goes on," he added.
"It's time to shine some light on what these services really are."
Stringer's analysis, which agency officials dismissed, found the agency is increasing its spending on consultants under the central administration budget by $25 million - with $23 million of the increase spent on computer services.
The analysis also found increased spending on consultants to recruit teachers by nearly $1 million - while the city is cutting teachers.
Education Department officials have said that it's necessary to continue recruiting teachers to shortage areas like special education even during cuts.
City Education Department officials rejected the analysis, saying that most of the consulting budget is for required services and directly goes to serving students with disabilities.
"The Borough President either fails to recognize an important fact about these consultant costs or he is intentionally misleading people," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said. "The truth is that over $840 million of the $981 million he cites are dedicated to direct services for our students with the vast majority going towards our students with disabilities which are services that are required under the law."%A0
Agency officials also disputed that the computer contracts are increasing so steeply, saying instead that they underestimated expenses last year.
Jose Gonzalez, whose sons Alvaro, 10, and Allan, 9, attend Public School 73 in the Bronx joined a protest against budget cuts held yesterday at City Hall.
"We want a better education for our children. How are we going to do that?...They're really wasting money on consultants and contracts," said Gonzalez, a member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.