Friday, February 05, 2010

Recent News Clips -- February 2-3-10

Daily News
Possible $1B funding for schools cause dispute between UFT and education officials
By Meredith Kolodner

Tuesday, February 2nd 2010, 4:00 AM

Education department and union officials praised President Obama's proposed changes to the way the feds fund education Monday - but each said the other could weaken New York's chances.

Obama wants to make an additional $1 billion available for school improvement if Congress passes sweeping changes to the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law.

The proposal has not been spelled out in detail, but states likely would have to compete for the additional cash. Schools would be rewarded for the progress students make on exams, not simply for the number of children who pass.

States that have merit pay for high-performing teachers may be eligible for more money. There would also be cash for schools that improve performance of the poorest students.

Education Department officials and the union squabbled over whether the city will be in the running for the extra money. Merit pay has been a hot-button issue with the union, and contract talks have ground to a halt.

"We'll do anything we can to win more money," said Education Department spokesman David Cantor. "If the union refuses to collectively bargain, we'll look for legislative solutions."

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said he believed the city could compete. "But if the city insists on slamming things through and not negotiating, then we have a problem," he said.

The union filed a suit Monday to block the planned closing of 19 low-performing schools.

New York PostUFT suit rips city's school ax
Last Updated: 5:45 AM, February 2, 2010

Posted: 2:31 AM, February 2, 2010

The teachers union and the NAACP yesterday turned to the courts to erase the city's plan to close 19 low-performing public schools.

The civil-rights group and the United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court accusing the city of ramming its plan through in a way "that would have made Tammany Hall proud."

They claim the plan violates state law because it fails to consider the impact of the closings on their communities.

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott countered that the city had met the letter of the law.

"We identified 19 schools that needed to be phased out because of their poor performance," he said.

NAACP leaders say the decision would hurt minority students.

Hazel Dukes, head of the state NAACP conference, said her group joined the suit "because parents have made complaints . . . about their children not receiving their rights in the school system."

The union says it had not been consulted about the planned closures in any meaningful way.

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have defended closing schools that they say are failing. Among the 19 schools slated for closure are six large high schools, including Jamaica and Beach Channel in Queens, Paul Robeson in Brooklyn and Columbus in The Bronx.

New York Post
The NAACP in the schoolhouse door
Last Updated: 1:25 AM, February 2, 2010

Posted: 12:39 AM, February 2, 2010

The NAACP has a proud history of championing the rights of African-Americans and other minorities. How sad, then, to see the group join a lawsuit meant to imprison kids -- many, black and Hispanic -- in 19 failing city schools.

The United Federation of Teachers filed the suit yesterday in response to city plans to shut the schools. As always, the point is to protect sub-par teachers.

The suit is based on technical, procedural issues: It claims, for instance, that the city failed to give ample notice of public hearings or "analyze" the closings' impact.

Really, now: How much analysis is needed? The schools have atrocious graduation and student-achievement rates -- particularly among minorities.

At Jamaica HS in Queens, for example, only about a third of African-American students graduate in four years.

Anyway, Albany has ordered eight of the schools closed. The scandal is that these schools haven't already been shut.

You'd think the NAACP would be leading a fight for better schools for these kids. Instead, it's teamed up with the teachers -- at the students' expense. It claims the closures discriminate against minority and special-needs kids.

Only the NAACP knows its true reasons for joining the suit, but perhaps UFT payments it got over the years had something to do with it: In its latest US Labor Department filing, for instance, the union reported funneling some $15,000 to the NAACP through July 31, 2009.

It's heartbreaking that so many minority and other kids have endured such abysmal schools for so long -- and sad indeed to see a group like the NAACP join a move to keep them there.

New York Post
Closing bad schools

Last Updated: 9:23 AM, February 2, 2010

Posted: 12:35 AM, February 2, 2010

The United Federation of Teachers, the NAACP and other advocacy groups and elected officials announced yesterday that they intend to sue New York City over its plan to close 19 of the city's lowest performing schools. They say that the plan to gradually "phase out" these failing schools and replace them with new schools will harm students -- including the city's neediest.

More than 50 years ago, another education lawsuit asserted the rights of children of color. Brown v. Board of Education affirmed the right of citizens to an equal education when the Supreme Court found that school segregation is a violation of the right to equal protection under the law. That was the civil-rights issue of that day.

And yet, more than half a century later, we are still failing to protect the interests of our African-American and Latino children. Here in New York City, the graduation rate for African-American and Latino students is rising, but it remains just over 50 percent. These outcomes reflect a crisis that is devastating our communities. It is the civil-rights issue of our time.

And it is why the UFT and others are so wrong in opposing these school closures.

Take Jamaica HS in Queens. Three weeks ago, at a public Department of Education hearing about the proposal to phase out and replace the school, multiple speakers commented on the school's past history of educational success. Surely there must be more that could be done to resurrect this storied institution, they said.

But leaving in place a school that has been unable to reverse failing performance for more than a decade only bequeaths failure to future generations. Despite the hard work of many dedicated teachers and staff, the very outcomes that those who defend these schools say they want to avoid -- larger number of dropouts, truancy, failure among highest-need students -- become more likely.

Jamaica graduates fewer than half of its students in four years. For African-American children, that rate drops to a deplorable 35 percent -- one in three.

It's 2010, and our African-American students can walk through the front door -- but a shamefully small number of those students walk out with diplomas.

And Jamaica is not alone. At Columbus HS in The Bronx, also slated for phase-out, just one in three Latino students graduates in four years. At Brooklyn's Paul Robeson HS, whose student body is 95 percent African-American, only one in 10 students earns a Regents diploma, which in two years will be required for graduation in New York state. Attendance at Robeson last year was only 69 percent.

We can do better. Six years ago, Park West HS in Manhattan was graduating 48 percent of its students, 98 percent of whom were African-American and Latino. The city phased out Park West; now five smaller schools use the building, 95 percent of whose students are African-American and Latino.

One school, Food and Finance HS, has a four-year graduation rate of 91 percent, even with 18 percent of its students qualifying for special-education services. Another, Manhattan Bridges Academy, serves 89 percent English Language Learners -- students who have yet to achieve even basic fluency in English. Yet its graduation rate is 66 percent in four years and 75 percent over six years.

These schools are beating the odds, as are new schools across New York City.

President Obama knows this and has initiated a nationwide "Race to the Top" that mandates states and cities close and transform their lowest performing schools. He knows we must do this if we're to uphold the promise of Brown.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently warned, "Closing underperforming schools is a state and local responsibility." States and school districts, he says, must insist on change: "They have a moral obligation to do the right thing for those children -- no matter how painful and unpleasant."

New York state has followed suit, placing the schools above on a list of 34 New York City schools mandated for closure and transformation.

But the UFT lawsuit -- disregarding the president, his education secretary and the state government -- seeks to prevent change from taking place at Columbus, Jamaica, Robeson and elsewhere.

So, to the UFT and other plaintiffs, we would say this: Continuing to send students to failing schools, especially when we know how poor the odds are that they will succeed in those schools, and when we have evidence that we can do better, represents a fundamental violation of the civil rights of our children of color and their families.

For decades, the civil-rights movement fought in the courts on behalf of African-American and Latino children. This time, the battlefield in the fight for social justice should be the classroom, not the courtroom.

Don't let another year go by. Do right by our students, and replace these schools.

Dennis M. Walcott is New York City's deputy mayor for education and community development.

Daily News
Chancellor Joel Klein says all city schools will be able to educate students with disabilities
By Meredith Kolodner

Tuesday, February 2nd 2010, 4:00 AM

After years of criticism, the city promised yesterday that the "vast majority" of schools will be able to educate students with disabilities by the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.

Advocates have long complained that too many schools - especially small ones and charters - cannot properly serve students with disabilities.

As a result, about 13% of special education students go to schools devoted only to students with disabilities, even when those disabilities are not terribly severe.

"The city's public schools will chart a new course for children with disabilities," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said in a statement.

He said the goal would be to give disabled kids more opportunities to improve.

The initiative, which will focus on professional development at 200 schools beginning next year, has been in the works for two years.

New York Post
City plans to overhaul schools' special-ed services
By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter

Last Updated: 9:23 AM, February 2, 2010

Posted: 2:41 AM, February 2, 2010

City education officials announced yesterday an ambitious plan to enable the needs of a large majority of special-education students to be met by public schools by 2011.

The plan -- which would begin by upgrading services at 200 schools in the coming school year -- would, for the first time, let all kids with individualized education plans attend their local school -- rather than limit them to schools with certain programs.

School officials said the program would put more special-education kids alongside their general-education peers and better tailor instruction to students' needs.

They said they have yet to determine the price but added that the program was not a cost-cutting measure.

"This plan sets high expectations for children with disabilities and provides the long-term commitment necessary to help meet them," said Laura Rodriguez, the city Department of Education's chief achievement officer for special education and English language learners.

But some special-ed advocates were skeptical, saying they had heard similar promises before.

"Unless and until there's some actual movement, my whole approach is 'Prove it to me,' " said Ellen McHugh, of Parent to Parent.

Daily News
Four schools with speciality curriculums chosen to replace three Queens schools being phased out
BY Clare Trapasso

Tuesday, February 2nd 2010, 4:00 AM

The city has selected the four schools that are to replace the three Queens high schools being phased out - and each has its own outside-the-box curriculum.

"We want to draw people to these schools," said Debra Kurshan, director of the Education Department's Office of Portfolio Planning.

The Hillside Arts and Letters Academy and the High School for Community Leadership are to open their doors in the Jamaica High School building in the fall.

Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability will replace Beach Channel High School and the Cambria Heights Academy will take the place of the Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship High School.

The Panel for Educational Policy voted last Tuesday to phase out the three schools one year at a time, despite community opposition.

A third school is slated for Jamaica and a second one is planned for Beach Channel the following year.

Hillside plans to focus on visual arts, music and writing. The Community Leadership school will emphasize community service.

Rockaway Park's curriculum will center around environmental and social sustainability. Students can study organic foods and nutrition, green building and development, as well as renewable energy and culinary arts.

Cambria Heights Academy will focus on technology.

All of the schools will offer strong college preparatory curriculums, according to Kurshan.

Community leaders had mixed feelings about the new schools.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach) said he wants to make sure Rockaway students can get into the new school, which is not expected to be locally zoned.

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) had his own concerns.

"Both have great potential, but they are, at their essence, experiments," Lancman said of the two schools slated to move into Jamaica High School. "The concepts are new, the principals are new and the entities themselves are new."

Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Houses Residents Association, was more optimistic.

"They'll be good for our community," said Corbett, whose Flushing public housing complex is zoned for the new Jamaica schools.

"In large high schools, students have a tendency to get lost," she said. "Now they're going to have that attention that they need."

Daily News
WrestleMania IV! Queens teacher makes fourth-graders at Public School 65 grapple in class
BY Thomas Zambito

Tuesday, February 2nd 2010, 4:00 AM

It was the fourth-grade version of a steel-cage match - with teachers playing referee and children seeing their classmates bloodied.

A Queens teacher and an aide orchestrated a sick wrestling contest between students in a locked classroom, prosecutors charged Monday.

Joseph Gullotta and Abraham Fox were charged with child endangerment and yanked out of the classroom they allegedly transformed into a gladiator arena.

The incident happened Thursday, after 10-year-old Tomas Rivera got into an argument with a classmate at Public School 65 in Ozone Park, officials said.

Gullotta suggested that instead of taking out his anger on his nemesis, Tomas should wrestle another classmate, Justin Stokel, 9, authorities say. A girl in the class was told to shut the door, and students were told to stand at a safe distance as the mini-grapplers got ready to rumble.

"Everybody in my class was laughing," said Jonathan Michael, a fourth-grader. "They were fighting over some pencils, and they were bleeding."

During the wrestling match, Tomas' head struck Justin's mouth. Justin had a cut lip, and Tomas' head was swollen and badly bruised. Officials said Fox warned Gullotta that Justin might need stitches, but both men barred the boys from going to the nurse for almost two hours - then told them to lie about what had happened.

School officials learned about the bizarre brawl when a parent of one of the combatants overheard him talking about it.

Gullotta, 29, was sent to a teacher reassignment center - a so-called "rubber room" - and Fox, 43, was suspended without pay, said Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg.

Their lawyer declined to comment, and they declined to speak to a reporter at their homes on Long Island. The boys involved could not be reached.

"When parents send their children off to school, their teachers have an obligation to provide a safe environment for them," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

With Michael J. Feeney and Leigh Remizowski

New York Post
Teacher was kids' brawl monitor: DA

Last Updated: 7:43 AM, February 2, 2010

Posted: 2:09 AM, February 2, 2010

The first rule of fourth grade - no talking about fight club.

A Queens teacher turned his classroom into a boxing arena for two feuding students, telling the boys to settle their beef with their fists as their stunned classmates watched the bizarre spectacle, authorities said yesterday.

And to make sure no one found out his twisted teaching technique, the instructor, Joseph Gullotta, 29, allegedly supplied the kids with excuses for the nurse to explain away any injuries.

In one corner was a 10-year-old. His opponent was a year younger. The Post is withholding the kids' names.

Before beginning the match at the impromptu fight club at PS 65 in Ozone Park, Gullotta instructed a girl to close the classroom door. He ordered the rest of his pupils to back up and make way for the battle, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

The two combatants came out swinging and then began wrestling.

During the bout, the older boy's head rammed into the younger one's mouth. The younger boy suffered a cut lip; the older one, a bruised head.

"When two fourth-graders became involved in a verbal dispute, their teacher allegedly told one of the students that he should 'take it out' on another student," Brown said.

"When parents send their children off to school, their teachers have an obligation to provide a safe environment for them."

Teacher's aide Abraham Fox, 43, was in the classroom during the clash, but did nothing to break it up, the DA charged.

Neither student was offered a visit to the school nurse, despite Fox's observation that the 9-year-old might need stitches, Brown said.

Then out came the schoolbooks for two periods of more traditional instruction before Gullotta finally allowed the younger boy to visit the nurse.

Gullotta allegedly supplied him with a cover story for his injuries: He was to tell the nurse that he dropped a pencil and bashed heads with his classmate as they both bent down to pick it up.

He repeated the tale and told the nurse that the other boy was hurt as well.

She sent him back to get his adversary. Gullotta escorted the 10-year-old to the nurse's office and allegedly told him to repeat the made-up story.

The incident was discovered only after one of the boys' parents heard the child talking about it.

Gullotta and Fox were charged with two counts each of acting in a manner injurious to a child under 17 and could face up to a year in jail if convicted.

Fox was suspended without pay; Gullotta was reassigned to a rubber room.

People answering the door at the Long Island homes of Fox and Gullotta declined to comment.

New York Times
January 29, 2010

Experts Say a Rewrite of Nation’s Main Education Law Will Be Hard This Year

In his State of the Union address, President Obama held out the hope of overhauling the main law outlining the federal role in public schools, a sprawling 45-year-old statute that dates to the Johnson administration.

But experts say it would be a heavy lift for the administration to get the job done this year because the law has produced so much discord, there is so little time and there are so many competing priorities.

In 2001, when Congress completed the law’s most recent rewrite, the effort took a full year, and the bipartisan consensus that made that possible has long since shattered. Today there is wide agreement that the law needs an overhaul, but not on how to fix its flaws.

Since it was recast into its current form by the second Bush administration — and renamed No Child Left Behind — it has generated frequent, divisive debate, partly because it requires schools to administer far more standardized tests and because it labels schools that fail to make progress fast enough each year as “needing improvement.” That category draws penalties and has grown to include more than 30,000 schools.

Several states sued the Bush administration over the law in the last decade, unsuccessfully. Connecticut challenged its financing provisions, saying it imposed costly demands without providing adequate financing. Arizona fought rules on the testing of immigrant students.

“Its hard to see how they can get” a rewrite done, said Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, which includes about 80 groups representing teachers, superintendents, principals, school boards and others. “If there’s some bipartisan agreement about what the administration proposes, and the Republicans say, ‘We want to work together,’ then maybe. But I think its going to be tough.”

During the 2008 campaign and his first year in office, President Obama’s posture was popular with almost everyone: the law embodies worthwhile goals like narrowing the achievement gap between minority and white students, he said, but includes flawed provisions that need fixing. Once any rewrite begins in earnest, however, Mr. Obama will need to support specific changes that will be unpopular with at least some groups.

“Few subjects divide educators more intensely,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a speech about the law in September.

In that speech, Mr. Duncan leveled some of his own criticisms of the law, including that it labeled schools as failures even when they were making real progress, and that it often inadvertently provided incentives for states to lower academic standards to avoid sanctions. He said he was eager to begin a rewrite.

“This work is as urgent as it is important.” Mr. Duncan said.

Mr. Obama communicated a lower sense of urgency on Wednesday, perhaps because the administration’s legislative agenda for the year is already packed.

“I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay,” the president said.

While he also urged Congress not to abandon the health care overhaul, on the education law, he said only, “When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress.”

Mr. Duncan said in an interview on Thursday that key lawmakers “share our sense of urgency” about the need for an immediate rewrite, and were already pitching in.

Last week Mr. Duncan and more than a dozen other administration officials met with the Democratic chairmen and ranking Republican members of the education committees in both houses of Congress to discuss the rewrite of the law, first drafted in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“We are blue-skying this thing, taking a big-picture approach, to try to coalesce the themes that are most important,” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s early, a million things could go wrong, but I’m hopeful.”

Changes in the Congressional leadership could complicate the effort. The death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who worked closely with President George W. Bush in 2001, removed a passionate believer in the law.

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who replaced Mr. Kennedy as chairman of the Senate education committee, has other priorities. He wants to continue the law’s focus on closing achievement gaps, but to include an emphasis on school nutrition and physical fitness programs.

“We also need to take a new approach to things that are not working, like using the same solutions for all school problems,” Mr. Harkin said.

Some Republicans, including Representative John Kline, the Minnesotan who is the ranking minority member of the House education committee, say they want changes to the law, but are in no hurry.

“He’s not interested in an arbitrary deadline,” said Alexa Marrero, Mr. Kline’s spokeswoman. “It’s a lot more important on something like this to get it right than to just get it done.”

Chester E. Finn, Jr., an assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration, wrote in a blog post on Thursday: “One can only wish them well, but reworking this monstrously complex statute is apt to prove almost as challenging as health care.”

“The odds of getting a full-dress reauthorization done between now and August are very, very slender,” Mr. Finn said in an interview.

NYC and NAACP Battle About Race and Education
Updated 4:22 PM EST, Tue, Feb 2, 2010
The city isn't exactly seeing eye to eye with and old civil rights institution.

Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis Walcott, who is black, said Monday that it is "mind boggling" that the NAACP is suing to keep 19 failing NYC schools open.

The Bloomberg administration recommended closing the schools because of what they call unacceptably low performance and graduation rates as low as 40%. That recommendation was approved at a vote last week.

And Walcott was defending the city against some very strong racially tinged rhetoric at a news conference to announce the lawsuit, filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court.

"As long as there is an NAACP there will be no segregation!" insisted Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP NY chapter, implying that low performing students of color were being abandoned by the school system instead of given the resources they need to improve.

The Bloomberg administration has refuted accusations that they will starve the 19 schools of resources during the three year phase out period. A fear expressed today by Christopher Petrillo, a student at Beach Channel High School, in the list to close.

"They'll take resources out of the school. They'll cut vital teachers and security. They'll cut everything until we are nothing," Petrillo said.

The teachers union, some parents and local politicians are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which focuses primarily on the City's alleged failure to analyze the impact of the school closings on students.

But the suit appears intended to block the closings, not just quibble with the process..

Local politicians are clearly at odds with what they call Mayor Bloomberg's "hidden agenda." Councilman Robert Jackson called Chancellor Joel Klein and the Panel members who supported the closings "political hacks of the Mayor."

And Councilman Lew Fidler accused Bloomberg of closing public schools so he can make room for charter schools and bust the teachers union.

Mayor Bloomberg, a supporter of expanding charter schools has said he supports closing the lowest-performing 10 percent of public schools. And he claims he has demonstrated significant success in closing and replacing more than 90 other schools over the past eight years.

But if Bloomberg has an agenda, it's likely so does the teacher's union. UFT critics say they are trying to protect the teachers from those failing schools at the expense of students. While it is difficult for the DOE to fire teachers, younger teachers who have been displaced from a school are more vulnerable to layoffs. And layoffs are a distinct possibility in the current fiscal climate.

Walcott says if fear of layoffs is behind the lawsuit then there should be a conversation about layoffs. Not about keeping failing schools open.

"We're talking about schools that have not done their job. And we're talking about putting in place schools that will do their job," Walcott said.

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said "If you're gonna put all these high need students in our schools you have to give us the support to do the right thing."

There's plenty of emotional debate over exactly what the right thing is. Should failing schools be closed? or infused with extra cash?

President Obama's Race To the Top program involves a mandate to close the lowest performing 5 percent of schools nationwide.

The NAACP also takes issue with that program.

"I disagree with the President on Race to the Top," said Dukes.

Staten Island Advance
Teacher's union, NAACP to sue over NYC school closings
By Associated Press
February 01, 2010, 11:32AM
NEW YORK -- The teachers union and the NAACP are filing a lawsuit that seeks to block the closing of 19 low-performing New York City schools.

Advance file photo/Jan Somma-HammelThe teacher's union and the NAACP are suing to keep 19 under-performing schools from being closed. From left; Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

The union says the plan to close the schools violates state law because it fails to consider the impact of the school closings on the community.

New York City NAACP leaders say they will join the lawsuit because the school closings will hurt minority students.

The Panel for Education Policy voted last week to close the 19 schools, which it said are failing. The panel is controlled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Hundreds of teachers and parents attended the panel's meeting to protest the closings.

Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have defended the closing of schools which they say are failing their mission.

Fox News
UFT, NAACP Sue Over School Closings
Updated: Monday, 01 Feb 2010, 5:14 PM EST
Published : Monday, 01 Feb 2010, 5:14 PM EST


The fight over the closing of 19 New York City public schools has landed in court. The NAACP and the union that represents teachers have sued the city over the plan.

The Department of Education is set the close the city because it says the schools have been underperforming.

The United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP say in the lawsuit that the city's plan would be unfair to minorities and violates state law.

The process for closing the struggling schools begins with a plan to stop accepting freshman students. Students already enrolled can continue and graduate if they meet requirements.

The Panel for Education Policy voted last week to close the schools, which it said are failing. Mayor Michael Bloomberg controls the panel. He and School Chancellor Joel Klein have said that the schools aren't doing their job.

Last week, hundreds of students, parents, and teachers protested the plan at the panel's open meeting in Brooklyn.

Since the city changed the law to give the mayor direct control over schools, 91 schools have closed and replaced with smaller institutes and charters.

--With the AP

NY education commissioner: Block some funding cuts

By MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press
Last updated: 6:47 p.m., Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ALBANY -- New York state Education Commissioner David Steiner told lawmakers Tuesday that if Gov. David Paterson's proposed cuts in education funding go through, it would take years for schools to achieve adequate funding levels.

While Steiner was making that well-received pitch to lawmakers for more education funding in the state budget, Paterson was telling reporters he is reviving his plan to greatly increase the number of charter schools statewide.

His earlier effort was struck down by the Legislature, even though failure to raise the cap on the number of charter schools threatened the state's chances for $700 million in the first round of competition for federal "Race to the Top" education funding.

"It's no secret New York state is having severe problems financially, so if there's money out there you would think we'd want to go out and get it," Paterson told reporters. "Who knows? We may still win in round one. But if not, I'm going to make sure we win round two."

Paterson said he will try to raise the cap to 460 charter schools, from the current 200, among which six charters remain available. His cap would hit a benchmark in the application that Paterson said would give New York the best chance at the federal money.

In the Legislature's budget hearing, lawmakers sought to build support for stopping most or all of Paterson's cuts, and adding aid. Paterson proposes cutting school aid by $1.1 billion, or about 5 percent, to contend with a fiscal crisis and a nearly $8 billion deficit projected for the fiscal year beginning April 1.

Paterson's budget division says that even with the cut, school aid has increased 42 percent, or more than $6 billion, since 2003-04 and most school districts have reserves to cover the lost aid without cutting programs or raising local property taxes.

But Steiner said slowing down the steady rise in funding for schools, required by the state's highest court in a New York City schools case, will hurt state finances for years.

"Each year the formula is frozen, it adds to the eventual cost of restoring it once the economy turns around," Steiner said of school aid, now just over $20 billion a year. A long delay could make it "infeasible" to catch up to the track ordered by the court because of decades of the state's underfunding of New York City schools.

Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers union, said Paterson's proposed cuts would take a devastating toll on schools and taxpayers. NYSUT is one of Albany's most powerful lobbying forces, spending millions of dollars each year on lobbying and campaign contributions.

"The governor's proposal is the first word in the annual budget battle," said Iannuzzi. "Legislators from both parties clearly understand the impact this proposal would have on the ability of schools to meet the needs of students. We are counting on them to improve this spending plan to ensure that the final budget, the last word meets the needs of our public schools."

"We need to focus the Department of Education funding into the classroom," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers union that represents New York City teachers. He said the state needs to avoid the "disinvestment" of city schools in the 1970s.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Paterson's $1.5 billion cut in aid to the city would force layoffs, including 8,500 teachers.

Daily News
Mayor Bloomberg's gloom and doom budget plan brings bad news for city workers
Lisa Colangelo

Wednesday, February 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg released a budget plan with two scenarios: bad and worse.

Under the bad plan, 4,286 city employee jobs would be eliminated - 3,452 through attrition and 834 through layoffs. Twenty fire companies would be closed, police overtime slashed and the number of school nurses cut. The NYPD would be allowed to shrink by more than 800 positions through attrition.

The worse plan paints a brutal picture of life in New York City if Gov. Paterson's budget passes, slicing $1.3 billion in state aid. Thousands of police officers and firefighters would be laid off. Street cleaning and street litter basket pickups would end. And the list goes on.

It's unlikely that either Bloomberg's or Paterson's plan will go through as presented.

State legislators, up for reelection this year, will fight to restore aid to the city. The City Council will negotiate with mayoral aides and throw in some of its own money to hash out a budget more palatable to both sides.

But two things are sure - services will be cut and jobs will be lost. And once again, the focus is on the city's workforce and organized labor.

Bloomberg has asked members of the United Federation of Teachers to accept 2% increases over the next two years on the first $70,000 of their salaries, instead of the 4% that had previously been budgeted. If not, he warned, they must be prepared to give up 2,500 jobs.

"The world has changed," Bloomberg said.

This sets the stage for the already tough negotiations between the city and the UFT to become even more difficult.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew has said Bloomberg's proposal is "unacceptable."

As for the other city unions, Bloomberg said the little money put aside for 1.25% raises has been swept aside to help fill the yawning deficit.

To get any salary increase, unions will have to give up some pension and health benefits or show extra productivity.

Having employees contribute 10% toward health care premiums would save the city $350 million in fiscal year 2011, Bloomberg said.

When asked if this new strategy will cover all future contract negotiations, Bloomberg snapped: "There is no money for raises. There isn't money to continue to employ the people we have.

"Forget about raises. That is so far down the road."

Bloomberg may be focused on getting state aid settled, but contract negotiations are waiting in the wings.

The District Council 37 contract expires next month. Budget pacts with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association are up on July 31.

Bloomberg has been pushing for pension reform, and tried to make his case again last week.

He said the city no longer can afford the increasing costs of pensions and health benefits.

He said the city has a "moral obligation" to continue benefits for current employees.

"I do not believe we have any obligation to offer the same benefits to those we haven't hired," Bloomberg said.

The attack on pensions and health insurance is sore point for city workers, who believe they are important compensation for people who take modest-paying civil service jobs.

"When you take a city job, you're not going to get rich," said Harry Nespoli, head of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association and the Municipal Labor Committee. "You want to feed your family, pay the bills and get a pension."

Those pensions only seem lucrative now because the private sector is hurting, he said.

Nespoli noted that the MLC, a coalition of city unions, did work out a deal with the city to save millions on health insurance last year.

"We've given back raises for benefits years ago," he said.

It's just the beginning of a long budget drama, with many acts still to come.

DC 37 reelects executive director

District Council 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts handily won reelection last week over challenger Claude Fort, president of Local 375.

"I'm very happy that our members had the faith and confidence to restore me to office and give me my full board," said Roberts.

She may be headed for some tough times. DC 37's contract expires next month, and Bloomberg has said any raises will have to come with pension, health care or productivity givebacks.

"It's a crime that he's talking about givebacks on health care for individuals making $16,000 to $17,000 a year," said Roberts. The average salary of a DC 37 member is in the $30,000 range.

"It may be tough, but we are up for the challenge," she said. "We're not going to be the scapegoats."

Schools Chancellor: State Budget Cuts Would Force 8,500 Layoffs
by Beth Fertig
NEW YORK, NY February 02, 2010 —Schools chancellor Joel Klein says he'll have to lay off up to 8,500 teachers if Gov. David Paterson's budget cuts are adopted. During testimony in Albany today, Klein called on lawmakers to reduce hundreds of millions of dollars in education cuts. He also asked them to change a law that requires principals to get rid of their newest hires during layoffs to protect more senior teachers.

"We may have to pull a math teacher who's getting great results helping over-age students get back on track from his classroom and replace him with a teacher who struggled with that population in a previous school," Klein says.

Klein also wants to stop paying teachers if their positions are eliminated and they aren't picked up by another school after a year. The teachers union opposes this change.

The city now claims the total budget gap to schools for the 2010-2011 year would be $1.2 billion under Paterson's proposed budget. That includes a cut in state funding of more than $400 million, plus an additional $80 million expense the city has to pay because the state is now paying for mandated summer school for special education students. The city says it's also been shortchanged because enrollment grew. And the rising labor and contractual costs contribute to another $600 million expense.

New York Post
Klein bid to ease 'ax' rule
By BRENDAN SCOTT Post Correspondent

Last Updated: 5:24 AM, February 3, 2010

Posted: 3:33 AM, February 3, 2010

ALBANY -- Citing a Post story about a rogue Queens teacher who manages his real-estate empire from a Department of Education "rubber room," schools chief Joel Klein pleaded with lawmakers yesterday to ease limits on the firing of educators.

The chancellor, in Albany to testify against proposed budget cuts, said the "absurd" restrictions on firing teachers devoured precious resources at a time when the city can least afford it.

"On Sunday, the New York Post ran a front-page story about a teacher who has been reassigned to the rubber room for more than seven years," Klein said.

"In the event of layoffs, I wouldn't be able to get rid of this teacher. Instead, I'd be forced to lay off other teachers so this reassigned teacher can continue showing up each day to a rubber room," Klein said.

Teachers deemed unfit for classrooms are sent to such "reassignment centers" while the city crawls through the lengthy termination process.

The Post story explained how rubber-room teacher Alan Rosenfeld -- who owns $7.8 million in real estate -- draws an annual salary of $100,000 despite allegations of sexual advances on students.

A DOE hearing officer had given Rosenfeld a slap on the wrist -- a week off without pay -- for "conduct unbecoming a teacher" in the case.

Rosenfeld was cleared to return to teaching -- but Klein ordered him to stay put at the center, deeming him too dangerous to be near kids.

The city is investigating whether it can now nail Rosenfeld for conducting outside business while at the center, which is against department rules.

Klein said the city could pay for 370 teachers if the rubber rooms were closed.

Mayor Bloomberg last week warned that budget woes would force him to lay off up to 2,500 teachers if unions don't accept a reduced pay hike.

Daily News
Chancellor Joel Klein gets slammed by state pol for treating parents' concerns as 'annoyances'
By Glenn Blain

Wednesday, February 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

ALBANY - City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein went to state lawmakers Tuesday looking for help with a billion-dollar budget deficit - but he came away with a scolding.

Klein was roasted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) for ignoring the concerns of parents and lawmakers and treating them as "annoyances."

"You come to us for money, but you don't come to us for involvement," Kruger said.

Kruger also referred to Klein's tenure as "nine years of torture, nine years of acrimony, nine years of nail biting and hand twisting."

An unflustered Klein, who testified before a joint Assembly-Senate hearing on Gov. Paterson's proposed 2010-11 budget, said he would try to address Kruger's concerns - but also defended his record.

"When you do tough things, you are going to get pushback and resistance," Klein told the Daily News afterward.

Klein warned lawmakers that Paterson's budget proposal would cut aid to city schools by $442 million and, when combined with other mandated cost increases, lead to a $1.2 billion deficit in the coming school year.

New York Post
'Charter' bus trip
BRENDAN SCOTT Post Correspondent

Last Updated: 5:42 AM, February 3, 2010

Posted: 4:29 AM, February 3, 2010

ALBANY -- A crush of parents and children from Harlem angrily confronted the state Senate's leading charter-school foe yesterday as Gov. Paterson and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein called on lawmakers to immediately lift the charter cap.

The rowdy throng of charter supporters marched on the Senate chamber to demand a meeting with Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), who emerged last month as one of the most vocal opponents to Paterson's failed bid to expand charter schools statewide.

"Move, Bill! Get out of the way!" the group shouted as it tromped into the ornate Senate lobby. Some wore "Democracy Prep" hats.

At least one hoisted a sign asking, "Perkins, would you refuse to meet with the UFT?"

Perkins smiled as he encountered the boisterous crowd -- most from his own Harlem district -- on his way to vote.

He walked directly into the shouting mass and promised to meet with the advocates before they left town.

"We can discuss how we can move forward with the best education opportunities for our kids," said Perkins, whose district includes 17 charter schools.

Nichy Williams, whose 10-year-old attends St. HOPE Leadership Academy, said she wanted Perkins to drop his opposition to the cap hike.

"He wants to deny our children a better education," Williams said. "We're hearing every day that the public schools are failing and the charter schools are providing better opportunities."

The encounter capped off a day of rallies organized by charter-school groups to fight funding cuts proposed last month by Paterson.

The visit came two weeks after lawmakers dealt the charter movement a setback by failing to raise the state's cap on charter schools.

About 20 charters remain unclaimed under the current 200-charter cap, potentially sinking the state's bid for up to $700 million in federal aid.

Paterson, who led efforts in Albany to raise the cap, told one gathering of advocates that he would continue to push the issue.

"Who knows, we may still win in Round 1," he said. "If not, I'm going to make sure we win Round 2, because I haven't given up on raising the cap on charter schools."

Meanwhile, Klein, the city schools chief, also pressed the issue while in Albany to testify against planned budget cuts.

He called on lawmakers "to raise the cap within the current legislative session without any provisions that would stymie the growth of charter schools."

A big rally for charter schools

Advocates seek more aid as Paterson, others praise their operation, but critic draws jeers

By SCOTT WALDMAN, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ALBANY -- Thousands of charter school parents, advocates and students from across New York descended upon the Capitol to rally for more aid on Tuesday.

A group of about 3,000 came to Albany to protest what they are calling a "double cut" in Gov. David Paterson's budget proposal. Charter schools are funded through public money from school districts and private donations. Advocates argue less state aid for public districts mean the independently run schools will also see their budgets cut since their funding depends on spending levels of district schools. The second cut, they say, results from Paterson's proposed freeze on charter funding, which was set to rise this year.

They chanted "Please no freeze" as a rotating crew of official -- including Paterson -- took to the Convention Center stage to praise the longer school days and reform agenda of charters. The governor earned hearty applause when he said his initial opposition to charter schools was wrong and that he is now a supporter.

"I realized charter schools are not rivals to public education," he said. "Charter schools are advancing protocols we can take back to use in public education."

The annual rally, which included representatives from 86 schools, was about three times the size of last year's, and comes at a time when the charter school debate has stalled in the Legislature. Paterson initially balked at raising the charter cap of 200, then suggested a bill that would eliminate it. That effort is stalled as Assembly Democrats offer their own bill that proposes doubling the charter cap rather than wiping it out.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, D-Harlem, got a less friendly reception. The charter opponent was practically booed off the stage as he pleaded with the audience to hear him out. Afterward, Perkins said charter schools had oversaturated neighborhoods, including some in Albany, and that they were a form of segregation that kept poor black children in separate schools while damaging the public schools. In Albany, district officials predict about $30 million of their more than $200 million budget will go to charters next year.

Hundreds of parents traveled on buses of screaming children to attend the rally, meet with legislators and wave signs with slogans like "Opportunity in our neighborhood" and "When you try to kill charter schools, you are attacking me."

Nellie Bostic, a volunteer at the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School, grabbed Paterson in a bear hug when he left the stage. She said she respected his ability to tell a room full of people that he was wrong about charters. Bostic said it was necessary to press the Legislature to give broader support to charter schools.

"They need more funding," she said. "They need more people working with the children."

Charter advocates weren't the only ones doling out criticism about school policy on Tuesday: Legislators made things uncomfortable for state Education Commissioner David Steiner and New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein, who came to Albany to give testimony on the proposed 2010-2011 budget.

The two men sparred with the panel over issues ranging from data management to teacher discipline. Sen. Carl Kruger, the Democratic chair of the Finance Committee, lambasted Klein for what he described as school administrators' tacit disdain for legislative oversight.

"You come to us for money, but ... we're sort of like the orphan children who are never really around the family table at the time of the dinner," Kruger said.

Scott Waldman can be reached at 454-5080 or by e-mail at Capitol intern Bryan Fitzgerald contributed to this report.

Daily News
Albany attacks charter schools, yet again: Parent says charters are getting a double funding cut
By Valerie Babb

Wednesday, February 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

Right now, state lawmakers are threatening the most important thing in the world to me - my child's education - and neither I nor the 3,000 charter school parents I went to Albany with yesterday will stand for it.

For the second year in a row, the state is planning to double-cut public charter school funding. The first cut comes through planned reductions in district school spending; charter school funding is tied to district spending levels, which means that when district spending falls, charter funding falls in proportion.

The second comes through a funding freeze that will only affect charters - which already get less public money per pupil than regular district public schools.

It's the second year in a row the state government is doing this to charter schools and the families they serve. Last year's freeze cost charter schools an average of $1,000 a pupil. This year's freeze would have a similar impact.

Charters are not asking for immunity from public school funding cuts. We're just asking not to be cut twice while everyone else is cut once.

Do our lawmakers care about this inequity at all?

I want to repeat what many people don't understand. Charter schools are public schools that happen to be run by nonprofit groups. They are open to anyone who wants to attend them. When there are more applicants than slots, they choose by lottery.

This kind of quiet funding assault is not fair. In fact, it is flat-out discrimination.

I entered a lottery and enrolled my child in Harlem Link Charter School because it was the best public school for my child, and the school culture matched my family's values. I wanted my child to have the best education possible. I believe in public school options - and I don't believe in having my child forced into a failing or overcrowded school.

Unlike many elected officials who claim they are public school advocates but do not have their children enrolled in public schools, I can't afford private school, nor can many of the parents who choose to enroll their children in public charter schools.

There are thousands of parents like me and thousands more beating down the doors of successful charters trying to get in. Yet Albany lawmakers are tuning us out. Doing the bidding of charter opponents, our leaders are not only limiting the growth of charter schools; with these latest funding cuts, they are making it far harder for existing charter schools to thrive.

Why else would charter schools, which are successfully serving children in underserved communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem, Albany and Rochester, be singled out?

If lawmakers actually follow through and approve this cut, they know full well what will happen. Charter schools, which are already reeling from last year's double cut, would be put at even more serious financial risk.

Charters cannot survive when consistently starved of resources; no entity could.

Enough is enough. Public charter school parents are tired of feeling like we've done something wrong for seeking out a better education for our kids. We're tired of seeing our kids treated like second-class students when it comes to funding.

We will continue to fight against the unfair treatment of children who attend charter schools. We will continue to fight to put kids first.

Babb is the director of the Charter Parent Advocacy Network.

Daily News
'Small victory' for PS 106 parents; Students move out of moldy trailers to main building
BY Tanyanika Samuels

Wednesday, February 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

Public School 106 parents claimed a small victory after city officials agreed to move students from leaky classroom trailers - that were infested with mold and home to feral cats - back into the school's main building.

"It's only a small victory because we haven't heard anything concrete about the future," said Parents Association President Desiree McKay. "We still need a permanent solution."

City Education Department officials maintain the transitional classroom units (TCUs) are now safe for occupancy.

"The TCUs were thoroughly remediated and cleaned before children were placed back in them, and remain so today," said spokeswoman Margie Feinberg. "The principal has decided to move children into the main building in response to concerns raised by parents."

Students at the Parkchester school were back in their classrooms this week. It remains unclear whether the trailers will be used in the future.

Outraged parents started their crusade last fall after they discovered rampant mold in the trailers and about 100 cats living under the units.

The school had housed six classes - about 160 first- and fourth-graders - in seven of the 10 trailers. The other units are used by the parents association or are not in use.

After the Education Department sent inspectors, cleaning crews removed the cats, patched holes in the units and cleaned the mold.

The students returned to the trailer classes after winter break.

"We thought the DOE had done a complete disservice to the parents, and compromised the health and safety of children at PS 106," said Beverly Roberts, president of the Parkchester branch of the NAACP.

"At that point," she said, "the battle was on."

Parents and supporters said the water leakage had not been fixed, and predicted the mold would soon return. They rallied and met with city education officials.

Last week, the city agreed to move the students back into the main building. For now, classes will be held in such rooms as the science lab and the music room.

"I'm happy that the kids are being brought back into the main building, but this is only for the short term," said Sebastian Ulanga, who heads Community School District 11. "We're going to have to be diligent about petitioning for an annex so that the kids can come to school with their heads up and don't have to worry about health issues."

Daily News
School 'Fight Club': Queens wrestling teacher told kids to punch classmate, ex-student says
BY Clare Trapasso, Barry Paddock and Thomas Zambito

Wednesday, February 3rd 2010, 12:05 AM

It wasn't the first fight club.

A year before he was arrested for forcing fourth-graders into a wrestling match, a Queens teacher was accused of ordering students to punch an unruly classmate.

The disturbing accusation against Joseph Gullotta came to light as students and parents at Public School 65 expressed outrage about the goings-on.

"It's shocking," said Jovan Ortiz, 10. "I thought he would learn."

Jovan, who was in Gullotta's class last year, said the teacher came up with a brutal scheme to control his behavior.

"My teacher said if I got out of my seat, kids were allowed to punch me in my face," he said.

His mother, Wajana Vallechillo, said she filed a complaint after classmates punched Jovan in the stomach twice.

During a sitdown at the Ozone Park school, Gullotta cried and said he was just trying to "toughen up" Jovan, the mother said.

Officials wouldn't comment on Vallechillo's specific allegation, but said they haven't substantiated any complaints against Gullotta, 29.

"If this would have been nixed then, this wouldn't have happened," Vallechillo said.

"He teaches through violence. He incites violence in children."

That's exactly what prosecutors say Gullotta did last week when two students got into an argument.

Prosecutors say he suggested 10-year-old Tomas Rivera vent his anger by wrestling with 9-year-old Justin Stokel, while other students watched in the locked classroom.

"I was surprised because I never saw a teacher let a student do that," said Selena Morales, 9, who was in the class. "I was kind of scared, terrified."

Both boys were injured and were told to lie about how it happened when they were finally allowed to see the school nurse two hours later, prosecutors said.

Gullotta and teacher's aide Abraham Fox, 43, were charged with child endangerment and yanked out of school Friday.

Gullotta, a teacher at the school since 2004, was sent to a reassignment center known as a "rubber room."

Fox has been suspended without pay.

Fox's father blasted cops for taking the word of two kids.

"He saw no fight in the classroom," the father said. "Nothing happened, nothing untoward, nothing unusual. ...

"They should have said there's no evidence to back your statement based on two 10-year-old children.

"He saw a bleeding lip and recommended he go to the nurse."

With Michael J. Feeney and Henrick Karoliszyn

New York Post
Dad overheard son talk of teacher 'fight club'

Last Updated: 9:16 AM, February 3, 2010

Posted: 4:12 AM, February 3, 2010

The "fight club" scrap at a Queens elementary school was uncovered only after the father of one of the combatants heard his son whining that he didn't have enough fans in his corner.

Tomas Rivera said that he overheard his son complaining to his sparring partner -- as the pint-sized pugilists played video games Thursday evening -- that he wasn't getting enough applause during their bout at PS 65 in Ozone Park.

"I heard him go, 'Oh, they were cheering you more than they were cheering me,' " the father told The Post.

Rivera then quizzed his son, also named Tomas, and the 10-year-old spilled the beans about the clash, which was allegedly set up by Joseph Gullotta, the kids' fourth-grade teacher.

Rivera said his son initially had a beef with another student when Gullotta told the boy, "Don't fight with him because I like you guys too much."

Instead, the teacher allegedly told his son to take out his aggression on longtime pal Justin Stokel, 9.

"Mr. Gullotta told him, 'You are my favorite star student, why don't you start a fight with him instead?' "

During the match, the kids butted heads, leaving Stokel with a split lip and Rivera's kid with a possible concussion.

Like in the flick "Fight Club," Gullotta allegedly told the boys not to spill the beans and supplied them with a phony story to tell the school nurse -- that they bashed their heads together accidentally as they both bent over to pick up a fallen pencil.

Rivera said that if he hadn't caught wind of the kids' conversation, the brawl would have gone undetected.

"He wasn't going to snitch on his teacher," Rivera said of his son. "He really respected him."

Rivera reported the incident to school officials the next day and then went to the cops.

"The police found it so strange and unorthodox that they arrested him," Rivera said.

Both families have hired lawyers who say they intend to file a notice of claim against the city.

Gullotta, a teacher since 2004, and Abraham Fox, 43, a 20-year para-professional who allegedly helped supervise last week's scuffle, were charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child under 17. They each face up to a year in prison if convicted.

Parents received letters yesterday from the school saying that both men have been reassigned pending an investigation.

Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley and Yoav Gonen

New York Post
Girl decks principal at troubled Qns. school

Last Updated: 7:19 AM, February 3, 2010

Posted: 4:21 AM, February 3, 2010

The principal of a rough-and-tumble Queens middle school that has made headlines for its violence in recent years was knocked down and out by a student's flying fist, witnesses told The Post.

Longtime JHS 226 principal Sonia Nieves had to be taken to a hospital for a head injury Thursday morning after she intervened in a cafeteria squabble between two teens -- one of whom landed a punch squarely in her face.

The 15-year-old girl was arrested and charged with assault, cops said.

Although there were differing accounts as to whether Nieves was actually the intended target, students said violent incidents at the South Ozone Park school -- which last August was placed on the state's "persistently dangerous" list -- were a dime a dozen.

"There are fights here everyday. This school is out of order," said eighth-grader Nyeema McFarland, 13. "They don't know how to control students here."

Both city and state education officials insisted that the school has already seen improvements this year through the added supports that were mandated by the school's designation as persistently dangerous.

Additional reporting by Kirsten Fleming

New York Times

February 3, 2010

Quick Response to Study of Abstinence Education

A study of middle-school students that found for the first time that abstinence-only education helped to delay their sexual initiation is already beginning to shake up the longstanding debate over how best to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

“This is a rigorous study that means we can now say that it’s possible for an abstinence-only intervention to be effective,” Dr. John B. Jemmott III, the University of Pennsylvania professor who led the study, said Tuesday, hours after results of the study were released. “That’s important, because for some populations, abstinence is the only acceptable message.”

In Dr. Jemmott’s research, only about a third of the students who participated in a weekend abstinence-only class started having sex within the next 24 months, compared with about half who were randomly assigned instead to general health information classes, or classes teaching only safer sex. Among those assigned to comprehensive sex-education classes, covering both abstinence and safer sex, about 42 percent began having sex.

Dr. Jemmott’s research followed 662 African-American students at urban middle schools, who were paid $20 a session to attend the classes, plus follow-up and evaluation sessions. The abstinence-only classes covered HIV, abstinence and ways to resist the pressure to have sex.

“Because African-Americans tend to have a higher rate of early sexual initiation than others, we thought that within two years, a reasonable number would start having sex,” Dr. Jemmott said. “If we went younger, we couldn’t show that intervention works.”

The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, appears just as the Obama administration is eliminating federal financing for abstinence-only programs, and starting a pregnancy-prevention initiative that will finance programs that have been shown in scientific studies to be effective.

Recognizing the political sensitivity of the research, and how unexpected are its results, the journal ran an accompanying editorial cautioning that public policy should not be based on the results of a single study and that policy makers should not “selectively use scientific literature to formulate a policy that meets preconceived ideologies.”

“The results may be surprising to some in that the theory-based abstinence-only curriculum appeared to be as effective as a combined course and more effective than the safer-sex only curriculum in delaying sexual activity,” the editorial said. “None of the curricula had any effect on the prevalence of unprotected sexual intercourse or consistent condom use.”

The executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, Valerie Huber, said she hoped that the new study would lead to restored federal support for abstinence programs.

“The current recommendation before Congress in the 2011 budget zeroes out abstinence education, and puts all the money into broader comprehensive education,” Ms. Huber said. “I hope that either the White House amends their request or Congress acts upon this, reinstating abstinence education.”

Ms. Huber also said she found it especially interesting that African-Americans were the focus of Dr. Jemmott’s study since, she said, “our critics would contend that the abstinence message would be least effective with the most at-risk youth.”

Even longtime advocates of comprehensive sex education heralded the findings.

“This new study is game-changing,” said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in a statement. “For the first time, there is strong evidence that an abstinence-only intervention can help very young teens delay sex and reduce their recent sexual activity as well. Importantly, the study also shows that this particular abstinence-only program did not reduce condom use among the young teens who did have sex.”

Ms. Brown noted that the abstinence-only classes in the Jemmott study centered on people with an average age of 12 and that unlike the federally supported abstinence programs now in use, did not advocate abstinence until marriage.

The classes also did not portray sex negatively or suggest that condoms are ineffective, and contained only medically accurate information. Dr. Jemmott’s abstinence-only course was designed for the research, and is not in current use in schools.


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