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November 5, 2013
Casting ballots a final exam for two aspiring education mayors
For the two leading candidates for mayor, voting this morning was something of a final exam — even though neither cast his vote at a school. "I feel like I'm taking a standardized test," Democrat Bill de Blasio said as he filled out the ballot at a library near his home in Park Slope. (De Blasio has pledged to "put the standardized testing machine in reverse" if he's elected.) In Brooklyn Heights, Republican Joe Lhota cast his ballot at the polling site at Congregation Mount Sinai. He said he was "very optimistic" about the election results, which are projected to have him losing to de Blasio by a potentially historic margin.
November 5, 2013
In Harlem, mixed feelings about de Blasio and charter schools
For much of the run-up to today's mayoral election, Harlem was ground zero for debate over the role charter schools should play in the city's education system. Eva Moskowitz, whose charter school network launched in Harlem, helped lead opposition to Democrat Bill de Blasio's plan to charge rent to charter schools that use space in public school buildings, while Republican Joe Lhota chose a charter school in the area to remind voters that he would continue the Bloomberg administration's policy of letting co-located charter schools operate rent-free. But even though the neighborhood has one of the highest charter-school enrollment rates in the city, most voters there today — but not all — said they were casting their ballots for de Blasio.
November 4, 2013
De Blasio vs. Lhota: the edu-voter's guide to the final matchup
If you're like most New York City voters, you've already decided who you're voting for in tomorrow's mayoral election. (The latest poll puts support for frontrunner Bill de Blasio at 65 percent, and only 8 percent say they might change their minds before Election Day.) But if education is a top priority and you're still on the fence, here's the final rundown of what de Blasio and Republican candidate Joe Lhota say they would do as mayor and head of the nation's largest school system. Mayoral control Both don't want their power diluted significantly: De Blasio and Lhota have said that the mayor should appoint the majority of the members of the Panel for Educational Policy. But they also agree on that PEP members should serve fixed terms and not at the will of the mayor, which would give the body somewhat more autonomy from City Hall.
October 25, 2013
Few parents join Lhota as he continues to push charter issue
Rose Lopez and her daughter, Stephanie Lopez, an eighth-grader at Harlem Village Leadership Academy, were among the few charter school families to join Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota at a campaign stop today. As Bill de Blasio prepared to visit a school — and snag a cheesecake — with President Barack Obama today, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota took a few moments to attack de Blasio's position on charter schools in East Harlem this morning. Lhota's appearance outside the public school building that houses Harlem Village Leadership Academy, which was listed on his schedule as a "press conference with charter school parents," included only a few parents. It was a much less splashy moment than Lhota's appearance at the rally of charter school parents who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this month. There, he spent two hours talking with enthusiastic students and parents, many of which said they were frustrated with Bill de Blasio's statements that he would make well-financed charter schools pay rent to operate in public space.
October 21, 2013
Poll: NYers divided on whether charter schools should pay rent
For the last month, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota has argued vociferously that Democrat Bill de Blasio doesn’t speak for the majority of New…
October 16, 2013
Mayoral candidates exchange jabs over charter schools in debate
As expected, charter schools were an early and significant point of disagreement between Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota during the first of three televised mayoral debates Tuesday evening. The candidates share starkly different visions for the role of charter schools in the city's school system. But their dispute on Tuesday night also hinged on a new issue — whether de Blasio had "flip-flopped" on the issue, a charge that he batted away as a page "out of the Republican playbook."
October 15, 2013
Dueling rallies set as charter schools emerge as campaign issue
Dueling rallies from rival advocacy groups and a new ad from Republican Joe Lhota are once again making charter schools a major issue in the city's mayoral race. Families for Excellent Schools, which organizes parents at charter schools, has called a press conference before tonight's mayoral debate between Lhota and Democrat Bill de Blasio. Organizers said their message will reiterate a call for the next mayor to open 100 new charter schools in his first four years in office. Around the same time in Brooklyn, New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a coalition formed to oppose the Bloomberg administration's education policies during the campaign, will rally outside the Panel for Educational Policy meeting. The panel is expected to approve more than a dozen proposals to expand or open charter schools inside district buildings in 2014 and beyond, long after Mayor Bloomberg has exited office, and the group's press advisory says the protest will target "Bloomberg's 'lame-duck' proposals" and "Lhota’s charter-centric message of doubling down on failed and divisive Bloomberg policies." The two events come a day after Lhota released a new campaign ad highlighting the stark contrast between his charter school stances and Democrat Bill de Blasio's.
October 8, 2013
At rally, charter parents stuck between Lhota and a hard place
Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota greets young charter rally participants on Tuesday morning. For a full account of the charter school rally, see Geoff Decker's report here. Just before 11 a.m., Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota leaned down to eye level with five year old Kenyon Lovett, a student at Success Academy Cobble Hill. He wants to be an architect, his mom explained. "What do you want to build?" Lhota asked as dozens of reporters and curious parents pushed closer. "Is that the mayor?" another girl asked as she squirmed toward the candidate. Lhota basked in the attention from parents and students this morning at the end of their march across the Brooklyn Bridge in support of charter schools, greeting children and answering questions outside of City Hall Park an hour after delivering a speech at the Association for a Better New York touting his support for the charter sector. That position puts him at odds with Democratic frontrunner Bill de Blasio, who has advocated for capping the number of charter schools in the city and charging charter schools rent to operate in public buildings. At the rally, many parents admitted that they were perplexed about how to square their Democratic ties and their desire for a mayor who is friendly to the charter school movement. Kenyon's mother Yolanda White told reporters that she had never voted for a Republican. But Lhota's support for charters means that if she can convince herself that his policies are reasonable, "I have no problem jumping the line for him," she said.
October 8, 2013
As rally kicks off, some charter school operators publicly opt out
Saying that today's rally to support charter schools "sends entirely the wrong message," a group of charter school advocates is publicly opting out. In an open letter, five charter school operators and two people who help charter schools operate say they disagree with the premise of the rally, to send a strong message to Democratic mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio that he should support the city's charter sector. They say they would rather wait to see what de Blasio does if he is elected and build a relationship with him then than take to the streets against him now. "First, such a march seems at best premature," the letter reads. It adds, "Second, if we focus on the substance of Mr. de Blasio’s platform, it would seem that there is much to celebrate, not protest."
October 8, 2013
Lhota pledges to “fix our public education system once and for all”
As charter school supporters gathered to march over the Brooklyn Bridge this morning to send a message to Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, Republican Joe Lhota was making his pitch to be the city’s next education mayor. "Unlike Bill de Blasio —- I will not constrain our children’s education or their future to the zip code in which they live," Lhota said in a speech to the Association for a Better New York this morning before heading the march himself. That’s the same group of business and civic leaders to whom Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio announced — and last week, remade, his proposal to raise taxes to pay for expanded pre-kindergarten programs. Lhota said he also supports expanding pre-K but did not say today how he would pay for an expansion. Lhota’s complete comments on education, as prepared for delivery, is below.
October 6, 2013
Joe Lhota slams Bill de Blasio’s “hypocrisy” on charter schools
On the eve of a citywide march to support charter schools, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota is taking aim at Democrat Bill de Blasio’s position on the publicly financed but privately managed schools. De Blasio has said he does not want the city’s charter sector to expand, and he also has said he would charge rent to the roughly two thirds of city charter schools that currently operate rent-free in public space. (Lhota supports charter schools but is not attracting wide support from charter school advocates for pragmatic reasons, we reported on Friday.) In a Sunday press release, Lhota said those positions are at odds with de Blasio’s professed desire to reduce inequality in the city because charter schools, which on average have higher test scores than the other schools in their neighborhoods, serve mainly poor students. "There is no way he can be concerned about breaking the cycle of poverty while being opposed to charter schools," Lhota said in a statement. Calling de Blasio a “hypocrite,” Lhota also pointed out that de Blasio’s own high school alma mater in Cambridge, Mass., shares some similarities with contemporary charter schools. Lhota’s complete press release is below:
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 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.
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.
July 25, 2013
Weiner evades issue dealing with sexual misconduct in schools
This week's Anthony Weiner sex scandal had an odd side effect for the education policy debate in the mayor's race. It caused AFT President Randi Weingarten to raise an issue that has been a thorn in the union's side. "So how can Anthony run for Mayor, when a teacher for the same conduct would be fired," Weingarten said in a tweet yesterday. She was referring to a push to tighten punishments for teachers found guilty of inappropriate behavior that the union here has opposed. Since 2007, the city has been unable to fire nearly 100 people working in schools for a variety of sexual indiscretions that range from verbal abuse to physical contact, according to the Daily News. It’s a tiny fraction of one percent of the city’s 80,000-plus school staff, but a group of anti-union advocates have tried to make the issue a question in the mayor's race, asking candidates if they support giving the city more power to fire people for sexual indiscretions. Weiner is one of the candidates who hasn't responded to a questionairre by the advocacy group pushing candidates to take a position on tightening the rules and his spokeswoman did not respond to GothamSchools' questions. Getting caught for sending lewd pictures of himself to women is the type of behavior that would put Weiner in the city's crosshairs if he were a teacher.
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