Mayor Michael Bloomberg still calls himself the "education mayor," but the shrinking budget can no longer support expanding reforms. Yet in one area, Bloomberg is still ramping up despite overall cutbacks.
NY1's analysis of the budget shows he wants to spend close to $900 million on education technology next fiscal year.
“The importance of technology is something that we believe in,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
However, to find extra funds for that belief this year required some creative budgeting.
For example, principals were notified this week that textbook funding can now be used to purchase computer hardware and software. That was $264 million last year.
The Department of Education also redefined classroom computers as part of school buildings. That allows them to use $350 million of capital funds over the next three years to purchase and install computers, smart boards and printers.
Plus, in the operating budget, the DOE wants $52 million for technology contractors, up 86 percent from last year.
“My son came home and said, ‘hey mom, we're all getting laptops at school next year,’ and I said great, but what about your teachers?” said Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters.
City officials say their hands are tied. They need to get the school system prepared by 2014 for a national shift toward taking standardized tests online.
However, the reality is more complicated. The mayor wants the city on the forefront of developing the 21st century classroom.
The way technology is used in classrooms is constantly evolving. Two years after the city pronounced all schools wired and wireless, it now says every building needs an upgrade, which will cost the city another half a billion dollars next year alone.
“We have a responsibility on making sure that our students can compete in today’s society around technology,” said Walcott.
The mayor also plans to cut 6,000 teaching positions. Although most of the money directed toward technology can't be spent on teacher salaries, many question whether this is the year to increase any spending.
“You don't go out and buy a brand new car when you can't pay for your mortgage,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers union.
The DOE budget proposals still need City Council approval, and councilmembers are already questioning the amount of money earmarked for tech.
Computers over people, computerized standardized testing over a real education, technology consultants over teachers.
That's the future.