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September 16, 2013
After Thompson concedes nomination, UFT to back de Blasio
Left, Bill Thompson conceded the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor today, calling on his supporters to back Public Advocate Bill de Blasio instead. UFT President Michael Mulgrew, right, said he would heed Thompson's request and ask teachers union members to reassign their allegiance to de Blasio. The next phase of the education election kicked off today as the UFT's pick for mayor conceded the Democratic nomination on the steps of City Hall. UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who was among Bill Thompson's supporters at the event this morning, threw his support behind Bill de Blasio, who finished last week's primary with a commanding lead. He said he would ask the union's leadership to endorse de Blasio this week. Thompson's loss was a significant blow for the UFT, which had declined to endorse mayoral candidates in the two previous mayoral elections and has not picked a winner since 1989. This year, the union decided to back Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Bloomberg in 2009, after determining in June that the former school board president and city comptroller had the best chance of winning in November.
September 11, 2013
Education advocates pivot and spin after de Blasio's ascent
As Public Advocate Bill de Blasio held firmly to a commanding lead in the Democratic primary race for mayor on Wednesday, education advocates and opponents began making adjustments to a reality that seemed implausible just a couple of months ago. De Blasio's closest competitor in the race, Bill Thompson, pledged this morning to keep fighting until "every voice is heard, that every vote is counted." The defiance came as Thompson's own chief fundraiser seemed to signal her own concession, calling de Blasio's 40 percent share of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting "a convincing victory." "I think the people have spoken. They’ve spoken decisively," said Merryl Tisch, Regents Chancellor and Thompson's campaign finance chair. Tisch spent the day visiting city schools with State Education Commissioner John King. Candidates must secure at least 40 percent of the primary vote to avoid a runoff and move on to the general election, where the Democratic victor will face Republican Joe Lhota. Thompson, who has 26.1 percent of the vote, has said he wants to wait until the city Board of Elections looks thousands of paper ballots that were collected, a count that will take place next week.
September 10, 2013
Schools play starring role as primary election day finally arrives
Months of mayoral candidates' promises and pavement-pounding culminate today, when New Yorkers head to the polls to pick their favorite candidate from each political party. City schools will play a starring role in the election. About 650 of the city's school buildings are being used as polling stations today, meaning that unfamiliar adults will be filing in and out all day, especially at drop-off time this morning, to wrangle with old-style voting machines. For some of them, Election Day is the only time they will ever step inside a public school. (Voting today? Take our voters guides to the Democratic and Republican primaries with you, and don't forget our tracker of all candidates' education positions. NY1, the New York Times, City Limits, the Center for Arts Education, among others, all produced resources for education voters, too.)
September 6, 2013
GothamSchools voter guide: The NYC mayoral primaries
We've published story after story about where the mayoral candidates stand on education. But with the primary around the corner, who should education voters vote for? The Democratic front-runners share many of their positions of education—many of them pushing back against Bloomberg's legacy—but they also have some key differences. The Republican contenders, meanwhile, have offered fewer specifics but are looking to maintain the status quo. Here, we took a look at where the candidates diverge on crucial issues of education policy and compiled their top priorities to help if you haven't yet made a final pick.
September 6, 2013
Parents would get a seat on Bill Thompson's proposed PEP
A day after his rival Bill de Blasio scooped up another endorsement from parents, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is promising to give a specially elected parent a seat at the decision-making table. According to a parent engagement plan released today by Thompson's campaign, Thompson would reserve one of his appointed seats on the Panel for Educational Policy to a parent who gets voted in by a diverse group of other parents. Rather than appointing his own voting member, Thompson would select whichever parent is picked by parent leaders culled from each of the 32 Community Education Councils. The CECs are diminished holdovers from when districts were controlled by school boards. Thompson's campaign staff said the proposal is an example of how Thompson would cede some of the mayor's control over the Panel for Educational Policy, a power that Mayor Bloomberg has used to aggressively — and contentiously — push through sweeping changes to the school system. In 12 years in office, a Department of Education proposal has never been rejected by the PEP, which consists of eight mayoral appointees and five members appointed by borough presidents. Under this proposal, the elected parent would remain an appointee of the mayor. That means that Thompson could technically remove the panel member at any time, a privilege that Bloomberg once exercised with cunning precision when he fired three of his appointees in 2004 for opposing his proposed ban on social promotion. It's unclear if Thompson is willing to actually give up any of the eight seats that are appointed by the mayor, a change that would require an amendment to state law. When he ran for mayor in 2009, he proposed a plan in which he would pick from a slate of diverse candidates selected by a 19-member nominating committee.
September 3, 2013
Candidates slam Bloomberg school plans that they may inherit
Mayoral candidates spent Tuesday criticizing a slew of controversial space-sharing proposals that they'd have to inherit if they are elected to succeed Mayor Bloomberg. "I just find it incredibly arrogant," Bill Thompson said of the plans while campaigning with the city teachers union this morning in Queens. Though Bloomberg has just four months left in office, he's approved or proposed 54 school siting plans that wouldn't take effect until at least the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, more than eight months after his administration vacates office. The Panel for Educational Policy, which Bloomberg controls, approved 25 of the plans earlier this year, and the Department of Education on Friday released proposals for another 29 plans that will be voted on next month. Nearly 900 of the city's 1700 schools now share space inside buildings as part of an arrangement known as "co-locations." At least 100 charter schools share space with traditional public schools, which supporters say has helped expand the number of school options that parents have to pick from. But critics say they pit schools against one another and force them to compete for resources and students.Many proposals, they say, are pushed through with little input — and often despite opposition — from local communities. Friday's proposals reignited ire from opponents who see the moves as an overreach of Bloomberg's authority.
August 30, 2013
At $1.5 million, UFT leads all outside groups in election spending
The teachers union accelerated its political spending this month, pouring nearly $1 million into the campaigns of Bill Thompson and other candidates who received the union's endorsement. The political committee set up for the United Federation of Teachers, called United for the Future, has so far spent just over $1.5 million on the 2013 elections, campaign filings show. Most has been spent on Thompson, but nearly $300,000 also went to local city council races and $28,000 toward comptroller. The union is one of several independent groups that have registered with the city's Campaign Finance Board under new transparency laws that require outside groups to disclose how they're spending money during the campaign. The expenditures are permitted as long as they are made without input or communication with campaigns. So far, 14 such groups have filed spending with the campaign finance board, and the teachers union has been the biggest spender. The next highest spender at $1.3 million is Jobs for New York, Inc., a real estate-backed committee that's focused on local races.
August 28, 2013
Poll: Path to victory for UFT’s mayoral candidate is narrow
A new Quinnipiac poll has Public Advocate Bill de Blasio surging into the lead in the Democratic race for mayor. De Blasio would receive…
August 26, 2013
As candidates squabble over universal pre-K funds, a fact check
Chancellor Dennis Walcott read to a group of 4-year-olds at the Bank Street Head Start center in November 2011. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten fueled mayoral candidate Bill Thompson's attacks on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's plan to fund universal pre-kindergarten, calling Thompson a "doer" and de Blasio an idealist. "We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize," Weingarten said during a call with reporters that the Thompson campaign arranged. Since last week, Thompson and his allies have been criticizing de Blasio's plan, which would raise taxes on New Yorkers earning over $500,000 a year to fund universal pre-K. They say de Blasio's plan relies too much on approval from Albany and does not consider that the state doesn't even use all of the state pre-K funding that it gets. Their first point is a fair one. De Blasio's plan would require legislative approval, a step he says would come readily but which could be a heavy lift. The New York Times cited this shortcoming to explain why it did not endorse de Blasio. But on the second point, about the unused state funding, Thompson's campaign's math does not add up. Calculating the true cost of expanding pre-K to all city 4-year-olds is a challenging task, pre-K advocates say, but no matter how the numbers are crunched, they suggest that the city would need more funding.
August 19, 2013
State senator finds holes in de Blasio's plan for universal pre-K
From the office of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio State Sen. Diane Savino accused mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today of not understanding the legal issues behind providing universal pre-kindergarten to New York City students. De Blasio has proposed taxing households that make more than $500,000 to fund full-day pre-K for all New York City children. The senator, who spoke on a conference call set up by Bill Thompson's campaign team, said creating universal pre-K in the city is not a matter of getting more money, but rather changing laws in Albany. "Either Bill [de Blasio] doesn't know how we fund universal pre-K or he’s just pandering. Because the fact is we don’t need to spend more money on this program," she said.
August 15, 2013
On education, mayoral hopefuls don't talk about their limitations
One mayoral candidate wants to ban testing. Another has pledged to close charter schools. And one wants to raise city income taxes to fund early childhood education. Despite coming from different candidates, the pledges have one thing in common: They can't be fulfilled from inside City Hall, despite mayoral control of the city's schools. The legislature and the governor's office change tax laws and controls how school aid is spent. The Board of Regents and the State Education Department set policy and regulations around testing. And state's charter authorizing bodies control which charter schools stay open and which close. While the chief executive of New York City will always have clout in Albany and legislators might be inclined to go along with a newly elected mayor's proposals, some of the candidates' proposals would be hard sells. A review of candidates' education proposals shows that they have been less than eager to talk about these limitations on the campaign trail, leaving questions about their ability to follow through on key elements of their education platforms.
August 15, 2013
Quinn, de Blasio tangle over schools as campaign trail heats up
Newly considered a frontrunner in the Democratic mayoral primary, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is taking aim at City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and he's using her education record as ammunition. Their dustup over after-school funding was only one of several statements that mayoral candidates made today about their plans for the city's schools, as the pace of proposals — and re-proposals — picks up with the primary just weeks away. Displaying a chart titled "New York City Out-of-School Time Seats Past Six Years Under Bloomberg and Quinn" at a press conference outside East Side Community High School today, de Blasio decried Quinn as complicit in recent cuts to city-funded after-school and child-care programs.
August 8, 2013
UFT's one-month political spending on Thompson totals $580k
The city teachers union spent more than half a million dollars in less than a month on the campaign trail to support Bill Thompson's mayoral candidacy, new filings show. The money has paid for more than a dozen mass communication and canvassing campaigns, including several mailings, robo calls, and a radio spot. The United Federation of Teachers is required to disclose certain details about how it's spending money on the local elections, according to campaign finance laws that were enacted last year. The union's political activities are being managed through a new political committee called United For The Future, which was filed on July 12. The rules also require organizations to disclose the source of their funding and, according to the UFT's filing, the union appears to have received funding from itself. A political action committee called Educators United, which is registered to 52 Broadway, the same address where the UFT is headquartered, contributed $1 million on Aug. 1. The UFT endorsed Thompson in June and has vowed to spend millions to back him in a crowded Democratic primary and general elections. It's the first open mayoral election since school governance was given to the mayor's office and education has been a major issue throughout the campaign.
August 8, 2013
As educrat, Bill Thompson also faced heat over new standards
As a seasoned New York City elected official who once presided over the city's Board of Education, Bill Thompson is no stranger to the tension that policymakers face when trying to raise academic standards. But as a mayoral candidate on the campaign trail, Thompson emerged this week as a vocal critic of the city's implementation of tougher learning standards. Students were tested on the standards for the first time this year, to disappointing marks, results that Thompson blamed on a failure by the city to give teachers the training and classroom resources they needed to teach the standards. "The current administration has forced teachers to implement new standards without giving them the curriculum or the tools they need to do it successfully," Thompson said on Tuesday. Thompson's criticism is notable because he was once on the other side of the policymaking aisle as a city education official more than a decade ago. During his tenure as board president, the state handed down tougher new graduation standards. For the first time, students would have to pass Regents exams to graduate.
August 6, 2013
Mayoral hopefuls hit Bloomberg over looming test score decline
Mayoral candidates have declared open season on Mayor Bloomberg's education legacy on the eve of new test scores that will be much lower than in the past. What began last week as a fight between the teachers union and City Hall spilled out onto the campaign trail this week with a flurry of critical comments from Democratic contenders about test score gains under Bloomberg and his eagerness to tout them as evidence of his administration's success. "The days of the mayor dislocating his shoulder patting himself on the back should be over," Anthony Weiner told reporters this morning at an education event. Weiner said it wasn't "entirely fair" to blame Bloomberg for the anticipated drop in scores, which reflect student performance on state tests that were for the first time aligned to more challenging learning standards known as the Common Core. But Weiner later added that the "constant emphasis on testing in schools has created nothing but trouble" and even suggested that Bloomberg helped "fudge" the scores at top-performing schools for political gain. "There was a spate of press conferences about how amazing schools were doing that were later discredited when those numbers came crashing back to Earth," Weiner said.
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