Friday, May 14, 2010

PTA Teaching Assistants Funding Continued - Good News For Schools With More Affluent Parents, No Impact On Roosevelt Island's PS/IS 217

You Tube Video of Mountain Music Lincoln Center Performance at PS/IS217

Received the following message from Assembly Member Micah Kellner regarding Public School Parents Association funding of Teaching Assistants:
...I am happy to report that today an agreement was reached between the United Federation of Teachers and the New York City Department of Education which will maintain our PA-funded teaching assistants for the 2010-11 school year. The program will be a continuation of the temporary agreement from last summer for the current school year.

While today’s news is a victory for our schools, we must not lose sight of the main goal—a permanent, long-term agreement to maintain our invaluable teaching assistants. Since the temporary solution was reached last year, I have worked very hard to bring the UFT and DOE back to the negotiating table in order to develop a comprehensive plan for the future. I will continue to work with the DOE, UFT, our parent leaders, and school administrators to ensure that a long-term solution is reached as soon as possible.
I asked PS/IS 217 PTA's President Nikki Leopold and Treasurer Phoebe Flynn how this might impact Roosevelt Island's Public School. They replied:
Unfortunately this has little impact on PS/IS 217 - although we wish it did. Other schools in Micah's district spend heavily on these assistants, and are able to do so because of the extensive fundraising of their PTA's. PS 77 (the Lower Lab School), for example, has the ability to spend $250,000 annually on TA's - all of which is PTA funded. That is more than double our PTA's yearly budget! Our PTA cannot compete at this level for a number of reasons:
1) The average General Fund donation requested at these schools is between $750 - $1,000 per student. This is quite simply beyond the means of most of the families attending PS/IS 217.
2) As it is, we have not come close to 100% participation in our General Fund Drive of $100 per student, for a myriad of reasons. For one, we have a large number of International Students, who are here on a short-term basis and who are unfamiliar with the concept of "paying" for Public School (& why wouldn't they be?).
3) Another is the abandonment of the school by many of those parents for whom such a contribution would be possible, combined with a lack of support from the community, the businesses and the elected officials.

Ideally the costs for TA should come from the DOE, thus ensuring that all students benefit and not just those with an affluent parent body. Both our PTA and the Administration would love to have the funds available to put TA's into our classrooms, particularly in grades K - 2. However, our school does manage to keep our class sizes smaller than at those other schools, and so the lack of TA's does not significantly impact students learning, and allows us to use our funds in other ways.