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December 19, 2016
Success Academy audit turns up ‘irregularities,’ New York City comptroller says
The New York City comptroller on Monday released an audit that raises “serious concerns” about the operations of Success Academy.
Show me the money
June 22, 2016
Comptroller finds evidence of weak financial oversight at two charter schools
Two city charter schools risked thousands of city dollars with sloppy financial management, according to audit results released Wednesday by the city comptroller’s office.
February 26, 2014
First DOE audit from Comptroller Stringer raises questions about milk contracts
Updated with response from Elmhurst Dairy. In his first audit of the city’s Department of Education, Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday that the…
August 28, 2013
Spitzer talks up Albany school funding record on campaign trail
Eliot Spitzer with State Sen. Marty Dilan and supporters outside a Brooklyn school. Correction appended Eliot Spitzer is touting his education record during his time as governor in the race for New York City comptroller, pledging to use the same approach he took in Albany in order to scrutinize the city school system. In what has become a closely watched race, due mainly to Spitzer's late entrance, many aspects of Spitzer's brief tenure as governor have been sharply scrutinized. His opponent in the Democratic primary, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, has focused on a few, including legislative gridlock, a politically charged police surveillance program, and the prostitution scandal that ended with his resignation after just 15 months in office. But an area that Stringer's campaign has stayed mum on so far is Spitzer's record on education, which several funding advocates praised today. Though his time in Albany was short, they said Spitzer fought hard to convince the legislature to fulfill a school funding mandate for poorer districts to the fullest extent as part of a settlement that came out of a lengthy lawsuit called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. "Governor Eliot Spitzer was a clear champion on CFE," said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, which was formed to lobby and organize on behalf of the campaign.
April 5, 2013
Liu's latest education report urges home computers for students
Comptroller John Liu wants the city to help every low-income high school graduate head off to college with his or her own computer. In a new report, Liu — who is also running for mayor — urges the city to partner with technology companies to provide refurbished computers to students who otherwise might not have a computer in college. He also recommends that the city encourage businesses to donate their outdated computer equipment to schools; and expand nonprofit programs that place computers in students' homes and train students to repair their schools' computers. The report on closing the "digital literacy divide" is the latest in a series about how the city can boost the number of its students who graduate from college and contribute to its economy. Altogether, Liu, who is responsible for the city's fiscal stewardship, calls for nearly $40 million a year in new spending on computers and technology programs. (Expanding the student-led computer support program could save the city $15 million a year, according to the report.) The report does not mention mobile technology, which a study released last month by the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggested might be closing the digital divide in some ways.
January 31, 2013
Liu proposes fixed terms, public nominations for PEP members
Comptroller John Liu's report on the Panel for Educational Policy includes a proposal for a nominating committee. The city's school board, used as a rubber stamp for mayoral proposals since 2002, would gain independence under a plan put forward today by Comptroller John Liu. The plan makes Liu the first of the likely candidates for mayor to propose specific changes to the board, known since 2002 as the Panel for Educational Policy. Any changes would require the approval of the state legislature, which is next set to consider New York City's school governance in 2015, to become permanent, but a new mayor could take some of the steps immediately upon taking office. Whether and how to reform the panel is one of the stickiest questions that mayoral candidates face on education.
December 20, 2012
Liu says city should pay CUNY tuition for top high school grads
Comptroller John Liu visited UFT headquarters after being elected in 2009. Today, Liu proposed new education and economic policies, including the "community schools" model the UFT favors. The city should ease the path to college for top high school students by promising them free tuition at city colleges, Comptroller John Liu said today in a "State of the City" speech, his second in 2012. In the speech, Liu put forth a slate of policy proposals, including several focused on education, that he said would enhance the city's economic future. Liu is a likely mayoral candidate, but as comptroller his job is to safeguard the city's financial prospects. "The offer of free tuition would help motivate students and elevate CUNY, one of our city’s most valuable gems, to the level of a competitive prize," Liu said, according to his prepared remarks. "It would also be a life-saver for many working families who are struggling to send their kids to college." Liu did not explain how the city could fund the initiative, but it would not cost much. With tuition set at $5,400 a year, even if every student in the top 10 percent of each graduating class enrolled and would not ordinarily receive financial aid — an unlikely scenario — paying their way would cost less than $12 million a year. Other proposals Liu made today would cost the city a lot more.
March 29, 2011
Comptroller finds city underreported high school drop-outs
City school officials have underreported the number of students who dropped out of high school in the past by reclassifying some of them, according to a report released by the State Comptroller today. The report, which comes out of an audit completed by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office in January, examines a group of students that are labeled as "discharged," meaning they have left the school system for legitimate reasons, such as moving to another state or deciding to enroll in a G.E.D. program. It finds that some of these students should actually have been labeled as drop-outs, but because of paperwork errors or school officials' failure to follow state regulations in certain cases, they were counted as discharged. Students who are discharged don't count towards the city's drop-out rate and some advocates have argued that principals can misuse the discharge code, entering students who simply dropped out in order to inflate their graduation rate artificially. Overall, the comptroller's report found that even with the improper discharge classifications taken into account, the city's graduation rate was "generally accurate." To determine whether the city's Department of Education was improperly classifying drop-outs as discharges, auditors in the comptroller's office examined the records of students who started high school in 2004 and should have graduated in 2008, but were discharged along the way. They randomly chose 500 of the 17,025 general education students who were discharged and 100 of the 1,923 discharged special education students.
March 20, 2011
City comptroller launches audits of school tech programs
City Comptroller John Liu announced today that he is launching audits of two of the Department of Education's most ambitious technology programs developed under former Chancellor Joel Klein. The comptroller's office plans to examine the Innovation Zone, or iZone — a $50 million initiative the Department of Education is touting as a strategy to improve schools during budget-conscious times. Funded through a combination of Race to the Top winnings, private donations and $10 million in tax dollars, the iZone is paying for experiments in online learning, staffing, and school time in 80 schools this year. Liu also plans to audit ARIS — the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System — an $81 million online data warehouse that debuted in 2008 and eventually overcame some of its early glitches. ARIS began as a contract with IBM, but soon became a project of Wireless Generation, a company that was recently purchased by News Corporation. The city plans to pilot a second phase of the database, known as ARIS Local, in some schools this spring. Both projects have their skeptics and supporters, but it was mainly the former who attended Liu's townhall meetings, where participants suggested that the comptroller investigate whether both of these programs were accomplishing their goals.
March 10, 2011
Comptroller rejects $20 million teacher recruitment contract
Comptroller John Liu rejected a $20 million contract for teacher recruitment today, calling the proposal wasteful given the city's current fiscal climate. Yet the main reason for the comptroller's refusal came down to paperwork. A spokesman for the comptroller's office said that the five-year contract with The New Teacher Project was rejected this morning because of problems with the DOE's submission. In reviewing the contract, officials in the comptroller's office said that the DOE did not include information on conflicts of interest or what the dates of service would be. The department can choose to resubmit the contract. The New Teacher Project, or TNTP, is a non-profit that handles the recruitment and training of New York City's Teaching Fellows. It also studies teacher job markets around the country. In a statement sent to reporters, Liu — a possible candidate in the next mayoral election — said he objected to the contract's premise. The city does not need to spend money recruiting new teachers, he said. “Twenty million dollars to recruit teachers as the DOE insists on laying off thousands of teachers seems curious at best,” Liu said.
September 9, 2009
A new school year, but school control so far is largely unchanged
After all that hand-wringing about "checks and balances" and "mayoral accountability," the school year has arrived, and the way the system is run is completely unchanged. A revised law has been on the books for nearly a month, but the new system is still a mystery. Though the law calls for a new parent center, greater oversight of the Department of Education's contracts, and an independent auditor of the department's education data, all of these alterations are in their infancy, and none have been put in place. Won as part of a deal between a group of runaway senators and Mayor Bloomberg, the parent center is perhaps the most concrete change with the least clear future. It will be housed at CUNY and will cost the city and state $1.6 million, but education officials have yet to define its role or how it will differ from the DOE's current parent outreach, the Office for Family Engagement and Advocacy. Asked how far along the center's development is, a DOE spokesperson had no comment.
July 22, 2009
Comptroller-DOE feud takes center stage at audit announcement
Comptroller William Thompson is releasing his second education audit in two days right now, this time focusing on testing conditions and oversight in the city schools. Also for the second time in two days, the comptroller has barred a Department of Education spokesman from his announcement. Today's audit exposes "major flaws in testing by the New York City Department of Education," Thompson's office said in a press announcement this morning. But the audit says, "Our observations conducted at the sample schools on the day of testing did not reveal any instances of cheating." Today's report is already drawing some of the same criticism from the city as yesterday's audit, about how city schools qualify students for graduation. That audit found sloppy record-keeping at many city schools but no clear evidence of grade-tampering. City officials charged that Thompson conducted the graduation audit for political, rather than professional, reasons. As the city comptroller, Thompson's job is to audit official city statistics. But he is also the main challenger to Mayor Bloomberg's reelection bid. DOE press chief David Cantor leveled the first complaints about today's audit just minutes after the press conference began — a press conference that he was not attending after being kicked out by a member of Thompson's staff.
April 3, 2009
Pressure is mounting on DOE to follow city contracts rules
City Council Member Melinda Katz introduced a resolution asking the state to change the law so that the Department of Education is required to follow…
March 17, 2009
To challenge mayor on schools, Thompson cites Diane Ravitch
Comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson Jr. (Via Azi's Flickr.) Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is also a candidate for mayor, ended his appearance on NY1's "Road to City Hall" last night with the clearest preview yet of how he will challenge Mayor Bloomberg on the schools front. He will quote Diane Ravitch. Thompson cited Ravitch, the NYU education historian who has emerged as a prime critic of the mayor's education efforts, after host Dominic Carter painted a picture of how Bloomberg is likely to portray the comptroller in campaign ads. Carter imagined ads that would single out the comptroller's tenure as president of the Board of Education, in a pitch to associate Thompson with the days before mayoral control of the schools, which the mayor has characterized as dismal. Thompson replied by challenging Bloomberg's portrait of the city schools' progress since 2002. He said that the "eminent" Ravitch has shown that test scores went up just as much before Bloomberg took office as they did when Thompson served as Board of Education president. (He served in that role from 1996 to 2001.) A spokesman for Thompson today sent me to this Ravitch quotation as evidence. The key sentence: The gains under Crew and Levy from 1999-2002 were larger on the state tests in both reading and math than under Klein from 2003-2007. I reached Ravitch by telephone today. She told me that she was surprised to hear herself cited by Thompson. (Like me, she happened to be watching NY1 at just the right moment last night — though probably unlike me, in her case the timing of "Gossip Girl" had little to do with that.) "I’m not involved in his campaign or anyone else’s campaign," Ravitch told me. "I don’t do politics. I haven’t been politically active since the Hubert Humphrey campaign in 1968."
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