Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Yet Another Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues, 

Last night, we celebrated the extraordinary class of 2020—and in case you don't find that impressive enough in itself, I'm going to name drop like there's no tomorrow. If you don't believe me, please visit to relive some of the best moments, including messages from Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kenan Thompson, Andy Cohen, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. There are also our students themselves, whoever they are, and many more famous people I forgot. I promise it will make you forget about the draconian budget cuts this letter is really about. Hopefuly, you'll forget them altogether!  
Yesterday, we reached another important milestone as well. As you may have seen, Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council released the City’s Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins today and ends June 30, 2021. We call it "Adopted" because we want you to think we didn't make it up, that someone else started it somehow and we just picked it up because we are just so gosh darn good-hearted.
The Adopted Budget was created and negotiated in a climate of absolute desperation in which none of us knew what the hell to do. The gala luncheons! The fancy offices! The clean buildings we work in! The reliable heat and air conditioning! Fortunately we still have those things, no one in my office was touched by it, and I'll be able to continue providing you with these self-congratulatory emails. I know you may be screwed ten ways to Sunday, but Tweed looks exactly as it always has. None of us ever really communicated with one another anyway. Honestly I barely know anyone's name in that building, let alone what the hell it is they do there. I'm usually busy writing email.
I have been fighting for every single dollar we can get to continue to serve our students, staff, and families, who need us now more than ever. Though it may not seem that way when the mayor says he's laying off 22,000 people and I don't raise a peep, we must double down the work of Equity: giving students what they need as individuals to succeed in school and in life. We do this by offering them the highest class sizes in the country, overcrowding schools to over 200%, and threatening to fire teachers in a pandemic. However, when we do those things, rest assured they will be done with Equity and Excellence, the hallmarks of our administration.

Despite all my flowery words, we are completely screwed, Neither the mayor nor I have a frigging clue how we can open the schools in September even under a hybrid model, about which we know nothing, and for which we have no plan. We continue to take no responsibility whatsoever and blame State and federal government, because if they don't pay for your jobs, we're surely not gonna do it ourselves. New York City is the economic, educational, and cultural heartbeat of our state and nation—and Broadway is closed until January because people who buy $800 Hamilton tickets are too fragile to get sick and die right now. Rest assured we have no such reservations about city schoolchildren, let alone their frigging teachers and families.
DOE and the City’s Adopted Budget  
While many important questions remain, I want to share what we know about the budget.  
Overall, the Adopted Budget includes $400 million in new cuts, and $125 million in restorations of previous cuts, across FY 2020 and FY 2021.  
New cuts to FY 2021 include:   

·         $50 million in summer busing savings as a result of Summer in the City programming going remote this summer.  We were gonna pay for it for no reason whatsoever, but Leonie Haimson raised such a damn fuss we gave up on it.
·         $30 million in savings to central and field offices resulting from the hiring freeze and OTPS reductions. We will reduce the OPCDs and the OKLVs. There will be no more KUCHs As stated to divisional COOs, this means that virtually all HLUGCEs and JGSGVSs will not be (&^%$*!!!  
·         $10 million in cuts to some afterschool program.  
·         $21 million in cuts to per session budgets, because we're no longer going to pay you for all the extra work we'll be demanding. You will do that because you love and support us.
      We also won't be bothering with that Teacher's Choice stuff, because you can all buy your own damn computers and home studios and whatnot for the remote learning we ordered you to do with no training or preparation, and if you don't like it you can quit. We were probably going to fire you anyway, or make you come to work in a pandemic in an incredibly risky environment.
·         Further reductions to food and shelter for those of you who are still indulging in such frivolities. Grow a spine and suck it up.
We will continue to keep you posted as developments arise, but it’s also important to recognize that there was some positive news. 

·         We were really embarrassed by those bastards who write for the New York Post, so we're restoring money to Fair Student Funding, which was never fair anyway. We will still determine what's fair to pay schools and give them less than that.
·         The Single Shepherd program, as well as certain social worker positions, have been restored after the Post embarrassed the crap out of us for dumping it. We're hoping to save money by not paying some of these people and hoping they don't notice until it's too late.
          We will make up some missing funds by ticketing the crap out of you.
Even with these restorations, going back to last July, the net impact of budget reductions over Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 has been over a billion dollars.  
Without additional assistance, the entire city—not just the DOE—will be in an even more compromised position. We're not at all sure how we're going to teach these students we all care about so much after we fire thousands of their teachers, but hey, we'll improvise. Maybe we'll hold classes outside instead of inside. The virus doesn't transmit as fast that way, I read somewhere. Sure it gets cold sometimes, but hey, this is New York.
We must continue to work together to serve our students and families, no matter what. I will continue to fight every day to show how bad I feel that we've made all these cuts, but hey, I'm the guy who demanded we have 108,000 epidemiologists sign a survey before I'd close schools in the midst of a raging pandemic. You won't hear me say boo about how badly these cuts affect people as long as my job depends on keeping Bill de Blasio happy.

School Safety Agent Transition 
Yesterday, to get people to shut up and leave us alone, we transferred school safety from NYPD to DOE. This is largely a cosmetic move, since the DOE will provide neither leadership nor guidance.  Nonetheless, we hope to appear anti-racist and centered around the day to day experiences of our young people even as we cut down on an already woefully insufficient teaching staff. In fact, there was a successful state lawsuit saying we discriminated against our students by saddling them with huge class sizes. We haven't done jack squat to address that in the past, and we certainly won't be doing anything about it now either.

In this moment in time, students, families, and many of you have joined hundreds of thousands of fellow New Yorkers in our streets to demand greater justice for communities of color. But make no mistake: students will continue to face the highest class sizes in the state, whether it be virtual, hybrid, or actual classes. While giving your children as little attention as we can get away with, we will pretend that creates the conditions for academic excellence for our students—our chief mission. Because all classes will be oversized, because no one will receive sufficient attention, we will continue to maintain that represents Equity and Excellence for All. 
In the next year, a task force will begin the multi-year shift of the School Safety Division, starting with additional DOE-led training for SSAs in key areas like de-escalation, implicit bias, and restorative justice. When the transition is complete, SSAs will be DOE employees and nothing whatsoever will be accomplished. But people with think something happened, and perception is reality.
I know that in this moment in time, change seems to be around every corner. I am confident that no matter how many of you we fire, no matter how many of you get sick and die, no matter how many of you or your students lose loved ones due to our callous ineptitude, we will emerge stronger and this will be our finest hour.  Yeah, that's the ticket.
Your commitment and service would be admirable at any time. In moments like this, it is nothing short of remarkable. Thank you for your service. While I'm not sure whether we'll be able to continue to pay any of you if you survive the pandemic, consider this a virtual hearty hand clasp. You can imagine how much you must all mean to me.
In unity,
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