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March 31, 2014
In New York City, a new siting process paves the way for more charter schools
The state budget bill's expected passage includes several dramatic education policy shifts for the city, but perhaps none have been more fiercely debated than new provisions for providing new city charter schools with free or subsidized space.
October 22, 2013
King to hit Harlem schools circuit with top Democratic lawmaker
Commissioner John King has a busy day scheduled in New York City tomorrow. First, King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch are meeting up in Harlem where they'll visit schools in the district of Assemblyman Keith Wright, a senior legislative member with influential positions in the state's Democratic Party. Wright will take them to P.S. 180 and Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts, an embattled middle and high school that nearly closed last year and posted some of the lowest test scores in the state. In the afternoon, King will travel to midtown Manhattan for what could be a more tense encounter: a panel conversation with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, one of his fiercest critics. The panel is hosted by Teaching Matters at The Harvard Club starting at 12 p.m. The events are scheduled on the day after King released evaluation data that showed barely any teachers received low ratings, which he said he hoped would ease concerns of teachers union leaders. For months, Weingarten and local union leaders called on King to hold off on tying high stakes to teacher evaluations until after schools fully adopted new Common Core learning standards, which students were tested on in April. Test scores plummeted and critics reprised calls for a moratorium in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the state teachers union said today that the evaluation data did not sway their concerns. "The state’s rushed implementation of Common Core and last April’s testing debacle call into question the use of these scores in any high-stakes decisions affecting individual teachers or students," said New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi. Such a change would require a change to state law, which would require support from legislators like Wright. In an interview today, Wright said he recognized that the issue was a "hot topic" but said such a change wasn't a priority among his parent constituents.
February 6, 2013
With mixed messages, charter school backers lobby lawmakers
Harriet Tubman Charter School students were among several groups to visit Bronx Assemblyman Erik Stevenson's office on Tuesday. When elected officials visit schools in their district, they generally follow a scripted routine. They cut ribbons, make speeches, and smile for pictures. When the roles are reversed — as they were on Tuesday, when hundreds of charter school parents, students, and teachers convened in Albany to lobby lawmakers — the conversations aren't always so predictable. Some of the charter school advocates stuck to talking points determined in advance by the lobby day's organizers. The New York City Charter Center and the New York Charter School Association want the legislature to give charter schools the right to operate pre-kindergarten programs, something state law currently precludes. The agenda is a response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to give $25 million to district schools that offer more full-day pre-K seats. But in interviews and individual meetings with lawmakers, students and parents spoke about education issues that affected them personally. Almost all said they love the schools they attend, but they expressed concerns about their schools' safety, space, and resources. One parent from an upstate charter school said her child's special needs were not being adequately addressed.
January 25, 2013
New Brooklyn lawmaker wants first crack at school closure ban
Walter Mosley, with Hakeem Jeffries, speaking to supporters on Election Day last year. (Credit: The Local: Fort Greene / Clinton Hill) Brand new Brooklyn Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley wants to pick up where his high-profile predecessor left off: trying to block Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to close schools. Before he was elected to Congress last year, Hakeem Jeffries was the lead sponsor on a bill that called on a two-year moratorium for closures in New York City. It passed overwhelmingly in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, but then lost momentum. First, it died in the Republican-controlled Senate and then lost its sponsor when Jeffries headed to Washington, D.C. Now, union officials and other advocates who oppose the Bloomberg administration's school closure policies are looking for a new lawmaker to carry the torch for this year's session. “There’s quite a few people who are looking at doing it,” teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told GothamSchools this week.
September 21, 2012
Harlem leaders champion new school run by Teachers College
Principal Worrell-Breeden looked on as first graders from the Teachers College Community School sang "What a Wonderful World" and recited the song in sign language. West Harlem community leaders heralded the coming of the year-old Teachers College Community School yesterday as a new district school option for a neighborhood packed with charter schools. The elementary school, which opened in East Harlem last year and moved to Manhattanville this fall, is managed by Columbia University's school of education. In recent years, many new schools have come to West Harlem in the form of high-profile charter school networks that have brought both educational opportunities and controversy to the neighborhood. Like those schools, the fledgling elementary school admits students randomly through a lottery process, and it relies on a mix of public and private funding to operate. But it also has the widespread support of political leaders who have served as some of the most vocal critics of the city's charter school policies, among them State Assemblyman Keith Wright. Wright has proposed legislation to give parent councils veto power over city plans to require district and charter schools to share space. A range of Harlem community leaders, including City Councilman Robert Jackson and Donald Notice, president of the West Harlem Development Corporation, turned out to the school's opening ceremony yesterday to laud the effort Columbia has made to support the school and help renovate its new, permanent home on Manhattanville's Morningside Avenue.
June 22, 2012
With focus on teacher data deal, other education bills moved too
All eyes might have been on the teacher evaluation shield bill this week, but that wasn't the only education issue lawmakers tackled this spring. A host of other education bills traveled through both houses of the legislature in recent months, with varying success. Here's a brief rundown of those bills and how they fared: Senate, Assembly pave way for universal kindergarten in New York City In New York City, more than 3,000 children — or 4 percent — of all five-year-olds are not enrolled in kindergarten. Expanding that service has become a pet issue for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other council members, but it first required a change to state law that would allow the city to revise age regulations. Currently, the city requires only that six-year-olds attend school. The bill passed easily through the Assembly earlier this month, 141-1, and passed in the Senate Thursday just after 9 p.m. The passage doesn't automatically enact universal kindergarten, however. To do that, city officials will have to agree to new age regulations. Mayor Bloomberg initially raised questions about the expansion's cost — he estimated the additional enrollment could run $30 million a year — but the city Department of Education has since come out in support of the legislation. The bill still needs a final signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in order to become a law. "We are reviewing the legislation," said a Cuomo spokesman.
February 28, 2012
For opponents of mayoral control, fight starts with co-locations
District 3 CEC member Noah Gotbaum and Sonya Hampton, a parent from P.S./M.S. 149 and vocal charter school critic, lead chants against co-locations at rally. When the Bloomberg Administration threatened to shut down a school in Assemblyman Keith Wright’s district this year, Wright vowed to create legislation to repeal mayoral control of the schools. The city didn't go through with the closure, but Wright is making good on his word — at least to a degree — by introducing a bill that would chip away at one of the mayor's most controversial powers: the ability to install schools inside other schools' buildings. The bill would require elected parent councils known as Community Education Councils to approve any co-location proposal before it may go into effect. Co-location proposals often generate heated debate within districts, particularly when the city is proposing to move a charter school into a district building. The CECs regularly play a vocal role in opposing charter school co-locations within their district schools, but they have no power to stop them or any other co-location. Instead, the Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, must approve co-locations. Parents, politicians, advocacy groups and representatives of at least three CECs rallied infront of Department of Education headquarters this morning to show their support for Wright's bill, saying they hope it will pass because the CECs already must vote on zone lines within their districts. Co-locations were the only subject of today's rally; but according to Noah Gotbaum, a member of CEC for District 3, the CECs are hoping the co-location bill will be the first step toward legislation restricting the city's ability to close schools, and eventually leading to the outright end of mayoral control.
February 8, 2012
City reverses plans to close Wadleigh middle school, KAPPA VII
Two schools that had faced closure votes this week are being taken off the chopping block. The Department of Education said today it would no longer seek to close the middle grades of Wadleigh Secondary School of Performing and Visual Arts or the KAPPA VII middle school in Brooklyn. Teachers reported getting the news at the end of the day today, one day before the citywide school board was set to vote on the closure proposals. Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the department had made the decision after listening to community input at public meetings and behind the scenes. "While these two schools continue to struggle, what we learned is that they are also poised to quickly improve," he said in a statement. But supporters of the schools, particularly Wadleigh, said the city's statement was a smokescreen and said they would still travel to Thursday's Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Brooklyn to protest closure votes for 23 other schools. The real reason for the unusual reversal, they said, was that influential politicians in Harlem had sprung to Wadleigh's aid — and threatened the Bloomberg administration in the process.
July 8, 2009
Harlem lawmakers push for neighborhood-focused charter cap
Protestors at P.S. 123 yesterday applauded lawmakers pushing for limits on charter schools in Harlem. Eva Moskowitz, the C.E.O. of the Success Charter Network, was a particular target. (Photo screenshot from video below.) The next front for the Harlem school wars could be Albany. City Council member Inez Dickens yesterday proposed changing the state law to cap the number of charter schools that a single operator can open in a given school district. She was speaking at a protest against the Success charter school network's expansion into a traditional Harlem public school, P.S. 123. Dickens said she had the support of state Sen. Bill Perkins, and Keith Wright, an Assemblyman representing Harlem, said he would introduce legislation to make that change on his side of the legislature. A neighborhood- and operator-specific cap would add to what exists now, a cap on the number of charter schools across New York state at 200. There are 1,500 public schools in the city. Such a cap would also squarely challenge the strategy the Success Charter Network has pursued of opening a large number of charter schools in a designated area; Eva Moskowitz, the network's CEO, has said her goal is to open 40 Harlem charter schools in the next 10 years.
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