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City Schools Could Lose $500M in Funding Under Trump, Teachers Union Fears

By Amy Zimmer | January 9, 2017 7:30am
 Francis Lewis High School on Utopia Parkway is among the schools that could lose millions under the Trump administration, the UFT said.
Francis Lewis High School on Utopia Parkway is among the schools that could lose millions under the Trump administration, the UFT said.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

MANHATTAN — President-elect Donald Trump's vision for a voucher-based education system for low-income students could cost city schools half a billion dollars in lost federal support, according to an analysis from the city’s teachers union released Monday.

More than 700,000 students in more than 1,200 city schools could see bigger class sizes, fewer teachers and less enrichment and after-school programs if Trump pulls federal dollars now used for Title 1 funding at public schools with low-income students, the analysis from the United Federation of Teachers found.

Many fear that the Trump administration will enlist congressional support to redirect Title 1 funding from public schools to pay for a voucher program that would give low-income families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.

Congressional hearings are scheduled this week for Trump’s nominee for U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who played a big role in taking money away from public schools in her home state of Michigan in favor of charters.

“We need to hear in detail from Ms. DeVos — a fervent advocate of vouchers and charter schools — what the administration’s plan is for Title 1, which is specifically designed to aid poor pupils and which New York City relies on to help serve our neediest students,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.

Without Title 1 funding to help defray costs of teachers, guidance counselors, aides and administrators, school resources would be gutted, from high school on down — and Mulgrew believes with funding holes needing to be plugged at Title 1 schools, the "damage would spread through the system."

Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton, New Utrecht, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Madison high schools would lose nearly $9 million in all, the UFT found.

Francis Lewis, Hillcrest, Bayside and John Bowne high schools in Queens would lose more than $6 million. 

Staten Island’s Curtis and New Dorp high schools would lose nearly $3 million. The Bronx also would suffer, with Truman and DeWitt Clinton schools losing more than $2.5 million, the union estimates.

Meanwhile, more than 900 elementary and middle schools across the boroughs would also lose money.

More than a dozen would lose $1 million each, including P.S. 10 in Kingsbridge Heights, Sunset Park’s P.S. 94 and 169, P.S. 70 in the South Bronx’s Claremont Village, P.S. 89 in Elmhurst and I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights.

DeVos, a major political donor and conservative activist, also contributes money to New York City’s Success Academy Charter Schools and is a supporter of the charter movement in general, the UFT pointed out.  

Her track record in Michigan — which has among the country's highest number of students in charters —  has come under fire.

In Detroit, for instance, about 70 percent of charter schools ranked in the bottom quarter of the state’s schools in the 2013-2014 school year, according to a report from Politico which noted that DeVos led the charge against attempts to regulate the charter industry.

She was very anti-union there and helped bolster religious schools in the state as well as the homeschooling movement, said David Kirkland, a professor of urban and English education at NYU Steinhardt who has conducted a large amount of research in Michigan.

DeVos' approach in that state amounted to “a declaration of war against public education,” Kirkland said.

As many as 60 public schools in Detroit closed because of de-funding, he said.

“We would expect more resources and a ramping up of the charter industry in New York City,” Kirkland said of a DeVos-headed education department.

"The rub will be that city schools will be forced to compete with charters in ways that are unprecedented. New York public schools will buy into aggressive charter solutions. They might turn to a no excuses model or test-and-punish models.”

The city may lose many public schools “not because of failure but because of population,” Kirkland added, with a shift not only to charters but also to the for-profit education industry.

The city's charter schools sector, however, has been fairly quiet on the nomination of DeVos — perhaps because New York's charter industry favors — and faces — more regulation than Michigan.

James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, penned an op-ed in the Daily News saying there needs to be "meaningful vetting" and that "the growth of at-home, online charter schools is an example of simple greed and inadequate state oversight."

He wrote, "The bedrock of chartering isn’t that the marketplace or even choice will make good schools, as some Republicans, perhaps Trump included, seem to think."

Also, Sonya Douglass Horsford, a professor at Teachers College, believes that a voucher program is “ironic and hypocritical,” given Trump’s “criticism of federal overreach and prohibition of federal involvement in education policy.”

Vouchers, she said, contradict the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recently passed by Congress, which redirects education authority away from the federal government to the states in terms of policy and funding decisions.