Seeking Funding to Bring Technology to M.S. 8

A Brownstoner reader and P.S. 8 parent got in touch to highlight one particular project up for Participatory Budget funding this year. The proposal allocates $200,000 to M.S. 8, the new middle school extension of P.S. 8, to fund the purchase of laptops, laptop carts, and smartboards. The school opened this past fall without funding allocated towards technology. M.S. 8 serves students from Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, and Vinegar Hill, and is expected to be at full capacity by the 2014-15 school year. Parents are aiming to get the word out and rally votes for the funding. The voting period takes place between between April 1st and 7th; check out the dates and locations for voting right here.

16 Comment

  • So, a school with 16% of the students eligible for free lunch wants city tax money to purchase laptops. if each family not eligible for school lunch donated $400 to the project, or if PTA got corporate donations, they could purchase items and the city money could be used to fund projects for more needed in the community

  • Ms 8 has 16% free lunch students. IS 64 in district 39 has 84% free lunch students. why isnt the money going to a more needy school instead of one in a wealthier neighborhood. Participatory budgeting is a program by which the most organized folks not the neediest folks in district get the goodies

  • Just because another school may also be deserving, cobblehillite, doesn’t make MS8 any less deserving. To use your example, I know quite a few people whose kids go there, and though they may not be eligible for free lunch, they also don’t have the funds to shell out the $400 you suggest.

  • Less than 4% of the entire district (about 5,200 people) voted in District 39’s Participatory budgeting ballot in 2012. the winning proposal garnered less than 1% of the vote. 958 out of 150,000 people is a special interest no matter how you slice it. i dont know why people think this process is fair, democratic and good for the district.

  • Also, i believe the job of a city council person is to walk the district and find out what needs to be funded. Brad lander needs to know the district and fund what is best for the whole district (he is actually a person i deeply respect). he will be judged via the legitimate ballot box when he runs for reelection.

    In participatory budgeting, a small group of organized well-to-do folks can garner less than a thousand votes and get funds allocated to them whether it is best for the district or not. Those without internet access, without twitter, and without organizations are shut out of this process. PB is an abdication of an elected responsibility by the council

  • I think cobblehillite makes a legitimate point. On the other hand, $1M is only a portion, a smallish one at that, of a council member’s discretionary funds.

    Also, while Brad Lander was an early adopter of the participatory budget process, MS 8 is in Steve Levin’s district. Almost ten council members are doing the exercise this year.

  • gman, ps58 is in lander’s district. they have 13% free kids. they have a proposal for participatory budgeting. With demographic shifts in carroll gardens, it is hard to argue that 58 parents need government help for a project when jhs62 is much more needy.

  • On participatory budgeting generally, you raise good points, but I think it’s important to look at it in the context of what it is replacing: a very un-transparent allocation process in which we generally have very little information about how city council members allocate their capital dollars. I like the way PB brings into the open a process that was (and is otherwise in NYC) made largely behind closed doors. Your point about the small number of people who participated last year in D39 is a good one; I’m interested to see whether there are more people participating this year, as the process gets better understood and better known. One interesting thing is that the people who do participate may be different than those who participate in regular elections; according to this article, relatively more diverse and less wealthy people may participate/vote in PB elections than in regular elections ( Also, on the merits of who benefits, I was interested in the fact that on the D33 ballot, there are significantly more projects for public housing (6) than any other category (4 other categories and 16 total projects on the ballot).

    On school needs, another way of looking at school budgets focuses on “fair student funding.” A few years back, as I understand it, the city started looking at school budgets and trying to find ways to compare them. The powers-that-be came up with per student funding amounts that would allocate more money to schools with needier populations (for example, English Language Learners are allocated more money). Based on that metric (which is supposed to take into account the relative needs of students), PS/MS 8 is pretty badly off, receiving only about 4/5 of what it should get under the city funding formula. I don’t know how this compares to the specific schools you mention, but it is generally low in comparison to other schools.

    But you’re right that many things need money, and it’s hard to decide how to allocate limited funds. I like the idea of experimenting with different approaches, seeing how they work and who benefits, with the clear goals of expanding access to information about allocation of public resources and trying to broaden the pool of people who are engaged in these decisions.

  • Hi,
    They should get Epson brightlink instead of the outdated and expensive smartboards
    Also when they get funded which I hope they do wait and see how much of the budget goes to waste by the so called RESO A integrators form the capital planning division (biggest scam in the doe)

  • everyone brings up good points however there are a lot more transparency issues in the council than how the million per district is spent. real reform would address the whole issue of councilpeople getting paid “lulus” for chairing a committee — i.e., a carrot so councilpeople go along with speaker. my solution is that council people allocate the money — which they are “hired” to do. the council person should publicize his/her decision and justification, making the process more transparent. i think it is unfair that some schools will get the money and others wont because the latter ones have a more organized and engaged PTA. To me that is not fair

  • The original post mentions only PS 8 and MS 8 (which are in Levin’s district). MS 58 was introduced into the conversation because … oh, never mind.

  • i’m agreeing with cobblehillite here. PS8/MS8’s PTA raises at least $500,000 per year. i’m not saying these kids don’t “deserve” the technology, or that schools as a whole shouldn’t receive funding from city council budgets. i also think increased transparency is good.

    but the question with respect to public school funding from the public coffers, understanding that all kids are deserving, should really be: where is the greatest need? we all know that discretionary funding, and school funding, is a zero sum game and this seems to me to be yet another way in which schools with an affluent, involved parent body gather for themselves funding that might be better spent on less affluent populations. stating the obvious, i guess. but at least it’s above board.

    as for “fair student funding,” the assertion that schools with wealthy populations receive less under these formulas than schools with poorer populations doesn’t really hold true as a general matter.

    ps 8 does have a low percentage under this formula, and certainly some equally wealthy nyc schools are, for some mysterious reason, getting incredibly high funding percentages under this formula. but as for ps 8, its percentage is only nominally lower per student than ps 44 and ps 56 get (about 81% vs around 84%), and those are two schools in district 13 that have between 85 and 95% needy students!

  • well_phed you make very good points. my original point is that participatory budget is not a good policy for three reasons:

    1. the most organized groups in a district will probably end up with the funds as they will know about the submission process and turn out

    2. a tiny % of the district will turnout and determine where money goes

    3. city council people are abdicating hteir elected responsibility

  • I don’t know that participatory budgeting is the best way to allocate public money, but it does strike me as better than what happens otherwise in NYC – which is, I think, the City Council members making the decisions without a lot of out-in-the-open public process. The way things are usually done, non-profit groups (that meet certain standards) can officially apply for the money; I think, but I’m not sure, that public entities (like schools) don’t have to officially apply, that they can ask more unofficially. I don’t know how, exactly, decisions are made, and I haven’t seen much justification for decisions. I honestly think the behind-closed-doors — more common — NYC process privileges more organized/connected groups even more than participatory budgeting.

    I also think people from all walks of life often organize well – as (perhaps) shown by the presence of 6 public housing projects on the D33 ballot (out of 16 total projects). As far as I can tell, the projects on the participatory ballots I’ve seen don’t seem to reflect the overwhelming influence of relatively organized or monied groups – they seem to be pretty good, needed projects in various parts of the districts. Some seem to fill more pressing needs than others, some strike me as better — more implementable, more sustainable — projects that others, but none seem out-of-place on the ballots.

    Also, on what projects make it on the ballot, as someone noted earlier, this is a small amount of the money council members allocate, a portion of their capital budgets. Last fall, there were meetings at which community members raised lots of ideas; many didn’t make it through various screens (projects couldn’t cost too much or too little, and they had to last a certain period of time to qualify as “capital” projects). The projects on the ballot don’t simply reflect whether groups (like schools) have needs, but whether groups have needs that meet the criteria for this particular slice of money.

    • Slyone, i dont know if participatory budgeting is better or worse than the current byzantine way that discretionary funds are allocated but i think that the participartory budgeting schemes in NY are fraught with peril.

      I think that school PTA’s (especially ones in genetrifying communities) are clearly organized interest groups just as the non-profits run by relatives of city council people are organized interest groups.

      the process as outlined on the web include community members attending neighborhood assemblies, and the “selection” of delegates who transform ideas into proposals, with support from Council Member staff and other experts. this process is skewed towards those who attend community board and other community meetings already, have ties to the Board and have time to commit. i also have real concerns about elections being held without oversight.

      Another way to do this is for the city council person to find needy projects in the community, to be transparent about the process and selection and to face the voters like any elected officiail. it is more efficient, cheaper and COULD result in a needy project getting done for people in the community who have no other avenue to address problem

  • So downtown Brooklyn/Metro Tech isn’t zone for this school? That’s a load of crap!