Teacher's Aides in NYC Schools

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This week, the Department of Education ordered an end to the practice of parents independently hiring aides to help in the city's public schools. Elizabeth Green of Gotham Schools explains the practice and the implications of the ruling. Then, Rebecca Daniels, past president of District 2, discusses how this will affect day-to-day operations at local schools.

Parents: What should your PTA dues be used for? Comment below!


Rebecca Daniels and Elizabeth Green

Comments [28]

Martha from Upper East Side

I am a teacher at a NYC school. We are overcrowded and have had assistant teachers for the past few years. The AT's were invaluable to us. I truly don't know how our school is going to function next year without them. The AT's help us with tasks we aren't allowed to do per the Union contract such as lunch and recess duty. We need someone supervising the children at those times, so AT's filled the slots there. Also, how are we supposed to provide small group and differentiated instruction if there is only one teacher in the room for 30 kids? Impossible. I agree with the comment above that it's not right to equalize the schools by taking away resources from some. The DOE should be greatful that parents who can, are willing to foot the bill to help make our schools better.

Jul. 22 2009 10:57 PM
HMI from Brooklyn

It is notable that no one from the teachers' union has a word to say here in defence of this (indefensible—and irrational) policy. As Perreira points out, that union has only a peripheral interest in education.

Jul. 22 2009 06:21 PM
Perreira from NY

Another example of uncontrolled power - used to benefit the interests of the powerful themselves like in any solid dictatorship by taking away from the people.

The teachers union does not care about kids or the quality of education. They only care about their members.

The chancellor finds another way to drive kids out of public schools (to his favorite charter schools...), thereby reducing class size without additional funding, and to further curtail unwanted parent involvement (within the limits of their financial means, those most concerned/involved are often the ones donating more to PTAs).


Jul. 22 2009 04:17 PM
Susan from ny, ny

There already exists a kiva-like site that fosters micro-financing. It's called donors choose and the link is below. Its largely targetted to NYC public schools.

Jul. 22 2009 03:24 PM
Antoinette from Brooklyn

If hiring teaching assistants improves a teacher’s ability to teach by performing tasks that take away from teaching time such as calming an angry child or cleaning a spill then every effort should be made to have them in as many schools as possible not remove them from the schools that have them.

The intelligent solution is the raise the level of all schools not lower them to the least performing. The type of thinking that lowers the bar in the interest of fairness doesn’t help anyone, it puts everyone down.

I propose a brother-sister school program where the teaching assistants are shared between the 2 schools and paid for by both PTA through some equitible formula– this would avoid the outside management of PTA funds (such as a tax) and may actually have cross-pollination between the schools of best practices.

Also, the Andersen school is a citywide school so children from a diverse set of economic backgrounds benefit from the PTA funds.

Jul. 22 2009 12:53 PM
IK from NYC

My kids go to an excellent NYC public school that is over-crowded because it is highly desirable. Parent-funded teachers assistants is how we cope with this basic fact to provide a good education for our kids.

The effort by the teachers unions to remove parent-funded teachers assistants is a clear example of union interests trumping the education children. The acquiescence by the DOE to this demand is an example of politics trumping education. The amen chorus of activists is an example of ideology trumping education.

Actually educating kids is like swimming upstream.

Jul. 22 2009 12:46 PM
Mike from Inwood

Looking at the NYCDOE website, I see the total budget is $21.05 billion for about 1.1 million students. This is over $19,000 per student. The day-to-day operating budget is $17.6 billion, which comes to $16,000 per student. I think back to the city's law suite against the state which claimed the City schools were under funded compared to Long Isand and upstate schools. The upstate school I attended had a graduation rate that was over 99%. Roughly half the graduates attended a 4-year college. My town had the highest welfare rates in economically-depressed, rust belt Onondaga County. The amount spent per student was significantly less and NYC spends. I think the difference was the parents. PTA participation was high and, despite the poverty, many fewer children came to school from disfunctional homes with severe emotional problems.

Jul. 22 2009 11:45 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill/Fort Greene, Brooklyn

My child is still in utero and boy am I hoping a lot of these issues will be resolved in the most positive direction possibly by the time my kid is in school.

On that note though, why is it that the arguement is that richer PTAs should not be able to provide more than poorer PTAs? And this is coming from someone that is currently in a one income household since finding work is impossible right now. All schools deserve to get everything needed to provide the best education possible to all students rich/poor/middle class. I liked the #4 Scott from Astoria's comment, every parent should be able to provide the best they can for their kids and certainly should not be punished for trying to do so.

Jul. 22 2009 11:41 AM
jhamburg from Brooklyn

PTA's are essentially hyper-local elective taxes which help foster both individual motivation and creates a community.

The problem with sharing PTA funds is that it removes the local incentive to contribute to 'our' school. In essence it just becomes another tax.

A possible model for shrinking disparities in funding is a matching funds model. Perhaps a small percentage of local funds are added to a citywide kitty. Schools below the median funding level receive some sort of match.

This type of model could fairly level the field.

Jul. 22 2009 11:38 AM
o from ny

please! money is not always the answer. parents, make the time and volunteer to be a teachers aide on a rotating basis. you will also have insight to how the school is being run

Jul. 22 2009 11:31 AM
max from ues

set up a kiva-like microfunding website where ptas can post proposals for funding and citizens can "invest" in small amounts

Jul. 22 2009 11:29 AM
Calabria Gale from Manhattan

I have two comments:

1. What will this do to reduce parental control over administrations in these wealthier areas? It would be interesting to talk to principals about their thoughts and feelings over this.

2. These schools use the teaching aides as training grounds for new teachers. How will this change affect the hiring at these schools?

Jul. 22 2009 11:27 AM
Jemal from Jamaica

This is Jemal in Jamaica, former caller. The program that provides funding for afterschool services in our school is SES (supplemental ed services). Because our improvement in performance last year took our school off the list of schools in need of improvement, we are no longer eligible for some of these funds under NCLB.

Jul. 22 2009 11:27 AM
kay Boyd from Brooklyn, NY

Humm... I wonder how much of the funds for "teacher aides" is forthcoming from parents of children who had to opt-out their kiddos from private schools and clutter the "public school" system.

Any recall about Sandy Weil contributing $M1 to some private school a few years ago?
kay (my kiddo is in University; graduate of SOF, NYC)
Kindest regards, k

Jul. 22 2009 11:26 AM

Maybe The Park Slope PTA can adopt the Windsor Terrace PTA -- they can be like pen pals!

Jul. 22 2009 11:23 AM

"rich ptas sharing w less fortunate ones" --

not to be callous, but isn't this what taxes are for?

isn't giving as much as possible to your kids' school one of the benefits of being relatively wealthy?

the only fair resolution to the question is to have a voluntary vote by the rich ptas w regard to sharing w the poorer ones.

Jul. 22 2009 11:22 AM
Kathleen from Manhattan

Re: Jamal's call. The school probably no longer had to offer parents NCLB-Supplemental Educational Services. These services can be offered after school, but technically they are not after school programs. Parents must select a provider and enroll their children. Less than 40% of eligible students are enrolled in these programs in NYC.

Jul. 22 2009 11:19 AM
Scott_A from Astoria

That said (earlier post), some requirements do need to be met for those new hires (security concerns, etc). In addition, it's worrysome that these programs might cover up inadequacies so that those who might be spurred to action will only fight to fix their local school, and not the entire system.

We need a better way for concerned parents to advocate for change system-wide - which seems to be exactly what Mayoral control prevents. The very people who care the most about improving school standards have been locked out of such roles in NYC - we need to find a better way.

Jul. 22 2009 11:16 AM
hjs from 11211

doesn't anyone think it's a shame we can't pay for education with our taxes. a shame that we as a nation won't invest in our children, we won't invest in the future. :(

Jul. 22 2009 11:15 AM

One would have to be sympathetic to parents wanting to help their children, but 1. some parents are in effect getting the use of public facilities for their private tutoring 2. there is the unintended consequence of parents who cannot afford dues sufficient for these purposes being discouraged from PTA involvement.

Jul. 22 2009 11:15 AM
edie from uws

I haven't heard any comment in this debate about what the Chancellors Regulations actually SAY parent organizations can pay for. Seems like the PTAs in question have been careful to hire only where they ARE allowed to, in the face of quite a few conditions, so this is quite a change in policy. Union pressure has made a huge policy difference, in a place where the "fair" practice was pretty finely honed.

fyi - where the rules are (or were) - The Chancellors A-660 (Section I,K,p.16, if you want to check on the web) - says "funds may be used for hiring supplemental staff, e.g. art cluster teachers." The constraint is that teachers NOT be "core instructional teachers or other staff...for programs or instruction during school hours," and the other condition is that funds must be "accepted" by he superintendent with "prior approval" by the designee of the Chancellor. In practice, I think this means that the Community District Office should have some OK as to what goes on.
Given that same regs prohibit parents from hiring DOE personel, and do have to observe employment practices, which puts quite a burden on them, why is this such a big deal?

Jul. 22 2009 11:13 AM
Doris from Little Neck

I agree with Kathleen & Daphne. When my children went to a school in District 24 that received a LOT of Title I funding they had tremendous programs (free afterschhol, full-time music, art & gym teachers.) The PTA couldn't provide these programs. When we moved to District 26 I found that nothing came for free and any additional programs were typically funded by the PTA. This was on the elementary school level. As my kids have gone on to middle school and high school parent involvement is non-existent (20 parents at a meeting for a school that has an enrollment of over 900 students!), and therefore we cannot fund the programs or pay for the supplies we'd love to see our children receive. Certainly the principals can't get the same funding their Title I counterparts receive and it makes it very difficult for them financially.
Another issue I'd like to see you raise is the business of separate Parents' Associations. Supposedly this is against Chancellor Regulations, however, he was seen schmoozing with the leaders of KAPA at their end-year dinner in June. Apparently they have a huge membership. Are principals getting money from this group and what are they doing with it?

Jul. 22 2009 11:12 AM

In my daughter's overcrowded Manhattan elementary school, every teacher I know of, union members all, seems extremely grateful for the aides supplied by the parent association. Is the union really representing its members in this case?

Jul. 22 2009 11:12 AM
budgeting for pta

if anything the competent ptas should be invited by a city-wide pta organization or other organization to share best practice fund raising, event planning and spending.

we rent instead of buy and don't have an suv. as such, i've noticed that we have the extra 500 bucks a year put aside for the pta. (also noticed we eat much better than folks with the overpriced mortgages and suvs).

in lots of cases, esp. in suburban towns and boroughs, it's a matter of priorities as mentioned above.

Jul. 22 2009 11:11 AM
Scott_A from Astoria

If it were obvious that the school lunch was not nutritious enough for young minds to grow, would you prevent parents from sending extra food to school with their child if they could afford it? Or would it be preferable to let them remain malnurished because every child might not get the extra food needed for sufficient nutrition?

Of course, it would reasonable to want to supplement the inadequate lunch program. Indeed, as parents it would be our duty to do so. And as teachers/administrators of inadequate programs, it would be our duty to allow others to remedy the system's shortcomings if they can. You don't let 100% of the students starve if some of them can be saved by their parents because "it wouldn't be fair if they don't ALL starve."

Why then would you want to prohibit parents from doing the same thing with inadequate teaching?

Jul. 22 2009 11:09 AM
Daphna from Upper West Side

The difference spent per student in Title I schools and non-Title I schools can be $3,000 or more. If you go to and look up the enrollment and expenditures for individual schools you can do the math yourself.

PTAs that hire classroom assistants do so to support their teachers. Classroom assistants take kids to the nurse, take care of supplies, and keep the coat closet from spilling out 28 coats, lunches and backpacks. In general, they help with the 100 little jobs that keep a classroom smoothly functioning. They let the teacher do what s/he was hired to do--teach the students.

There is not a union equivalent to what the classroom assistants do. Para-professionals are hired to assist individual students with special needs not assist the teacher, and school aides do not work in the classroom.

Jul. 22 2009 10:35 AM
James from Brooklyn

Discrepancies exist citywide in the collection of PTA dues and in PTA fund raising.

A PTA in Brooklyn recently invited Ira Glass to speak at a fund raising event. The event drew crowds. Apparently a parent had the expertise and ability to invite Ira Glass to the event.

A parent in Washington Heights may have skills and expertise in managing a household and baking cupcakes for a bake sale.

Both are valuable expertise but which is more marketable?

As a NYC teacher, I think the discrepancies are unfair.

Jul. 22 2009 10:34 AM
Kathleen from Manhattan

Schools with English Language Learners and Special Ed students get extra funding (Title III and IDEA). Schools with poor students get supplemental funding (Title I). Schools with middle class students get nothing extra. Why shouldn't parents be able to supplement the services for their children if the NYCDOE will not?

School allocations are posted on the NYCDOE website.

Jul. 22 2009 10:12 AM

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