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October 14, 2011
Mayoral control "trial," Bronx schools summit set for Saturday
A week after hundreds of its members who worked in schools were laid off, the DC-37 union is hosting a trial of the Department of Education. The Coalition for Public Education, a local activist group, organized the trial, to be held Saturday at DC 37's downtown headquarters, to air concerns about public education under mayoral control. Already more than 100 parents, teachers, students, and community members have signed up to testify, according to Akinlabi Mackall. The event is meant to resemble Panel for Educational Policy meetings' public comments segment, which frequently attract many people but rarely influence the panel's decisions, said Mackall, the father of a public school graduate. “The PEP and the mayor have pretty much turned a deaf ear to the voices of teachers and students," he said. “We’ve seen people be very eloquent and very passionate, but then there’s just a rubber-stamp response.” He said CPE would record the testimonies and present them to state lawmakers. The group will also use the complaints as a blueprint for organizing future meetings around issues that trial participants raise, he said. Some of the same criticisms are likely to arise at a second education event being held Saturday 12 miles north, at Lehman College, where Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is convening a borough-wide education summit.
September 29, 2011
DOE contract investigation renews attention on PEP's role
Reports that a Department of Education technology contractor improperly stole millions of dollars from the city are returning attention to the way the school system reviews contracts. Building more oversight over contracts was one of the goals of the reauthorized mayoral control law passed by state lawmakers in 2009. The law handed review power of contracts to the Panel for Educational Policy, the citywide school board controlled by the mayor. But since 2009, several panel members have complained that they lack the information necessary to review contracts before approving them, making their oversight authority meaningless. In the case of the contract with Future Technology Associates, the firm accused of fraud yesterday by the city schools investigator, panel members had less than a day to review detailed information about the contract before voting on it in September 2009, according to email messages obtained by GothamSchools. Officials shared the information in response to a request by the Manhattan representative on the panel, Patrick Sullivan. The contract came up for a renewal vote at the first meeting of the PEP after the mayoral control reauthorization. In an email to Sullivan the day of the meeting, department General Counsel Michael Best cited reauthorization as motivating school officials to prepare more thorough background materials. Sullivan, an opponent of the Bloomberg administration's education policies, responded that those materials — which included a draft agreement between the city and Future Technology Associates — were not sufficient. He said that a day to review them was not enough time.
August 31, 2011
We read Steven Brill’s “Class Warfare” so you don’t have to
Eva Moskowitz did not generate the idea for Harlem Success herself; Randi Weingarten has been criticizing her successor, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, to her friends; and former Chancellor Joel Klein thinks that at least two of his former deputies have gone soft on reform in their new school districts. These are among the claims in "Class Warfare," Steven Brill's new book on the education reform movement. Much of "Class Warfare" will be familiar to GothamSchools readers. The book's main characters include, on one side, former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and, on the other, teachers unions president Randi Weingarten; many of its main plot points center on New York City, and some of the key classroom scenes take place in Harlem. But the following insights — some of them more solidly sourced than others — were news to us. Here's a run-down of Brill's most intriguing New York-related reporting: The war behind the war: Bloomberg v. Klein On labor issues, Bloomberg sometimes undercut Joel Klein. Klein’s team thought they could get the UFT to sign off on a change in the teacher termination process. But Bloomberg, who was nearing reelection, told them not to push their luck. “The mayor blinked,” the DOE’s one-time labor chief, Dan Weisberg, told Brill. “The mayor just gave up.” Weisberg said he “clashed almost daily” with City Hall over back-channel contract negotiations in 2005.
May 26, 2010
The Cuomo-Duffy ticket: pro-charter, pro-mayoral control, and one union blessing
A Photoshopped combo: Robert Duffy, Andrew Cuomo's selected running mate, along with a photo of an anti-mayoral control poster. Duffy supports mayoral control. (Via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/dalboz17/4505529374/##Flickr##) Newly announced gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo's choice of running mate, announced this afternoon, seals the deal on his education position. The Cuomo ticket is in basically the same camp as Barack Obama and Joel Klein: in favor of charter schools and mayoral control and not afraid to challenge the teachers union. The running mate, Robert Duffy, mayor of Rochester, has advocated for bringing mayoral control of schools to Rochester, against teachers union opposition. To defend his argument, he has cited the school system "down the Thruway" — the New York City schools under Chancellor Joel Klein. A former Klein staffer, Jean-Claude Brizzard, is Rochester's schools superintendent. And in his State of the City address earlier this month, Duffy singled out Uncommon Schools' Rochester charter school, True North, for praise. That's in keeping with what Cuomo has been saying about education since officially announcing his candidacy this week. "I believe public education is the new civil rights battle and I support charter schools," he declared, announcing a list of core principles that also included his support for gay marriage and abortion rights.
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.
August 31, 2009
Advocacy group vows to carry control fight into new school year
The fight over mayoral control isn't over, according to a stalwart group of activists who convened a meeting Saturday to plan how to increase local control of city schools. Comptroller candidate John Liu and mayoral candidate Tony Avella joined an energized and sometimes raucous crowd of around 70 public school parents, teachers and advocates at the launch event for the Coalition for Public Education, held at the lower Manhattan headquarters of the municipal union District Council 37. The coalition could be one legacy of this spring's protracted debate over school governance. That debate was finally settled, at least for the next six years, when Gov. Paterson signed into law a new bill that continues a modified version of mayoral control. Vowing to keep the fight against mayoral control going into the new school year, coalition organizers announced rallies in four boroughs for the first day of school next week. "The struggle continues on this battle," said Esmeralda Simmons, director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College. "Do not be fooled into thinking that because something has happened in Albany, there's nothing else that can be done."
August 14, 2009
Bloomberg's resurrected panel is a mix of old and new
The citywide board that became a hotly-debated issue in the fight over mayoral control is back with a mixture of old and new faces. Mayor Bloomberg announced his eight appointees to the Panel for Educational Policy on WOR Radio's The John Gambling Show this morning. Of the people he named to the board, four will return to their previous positions, while the other four will join the panel for the first time. Bloomberg said that the new panel will complete the process of restoring mayoral control. "It is the last step in re-establishing the school governance that has led to all of these improvements over the past seven years," he told Gambling. The newly-formed panel will not be an exact replica of the previous one, but the changes are more modest than some had hoped. Going into this summer's school governance fight, critics who charged that the PEP was little more than a rubber stamp for the mayor's policies had hoped to give members fixed terms and to prevent the mayor from appointing the majority of its members. Though neither of those changes happened, the new panel will have some increased oversight of things like contracts and school utilization. The mayor's appointees have close ties to his administration. One new PEP member, Gitte Peng, spent five years as a senior education policy adviser to Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis Walcott. Peng helped craft the original school governance legislation that consolidated the mayor's control of the schools. Walcott briefly served as president of the Board of Education this summer before mayoral control was reauthorized. Bloomberg said today that Peng's appointment would permit Walcott's presence "live on" at the board.
August 11, 2009
Back from the recent past, citywide panel gets first member
Renewed mayoral control is only a few hours old, but Manhattan's borough president has already announced his pick for the soon-to-be revived citywide school board. Borough President Scott Stringer said he would reappoint Patrick Sullivan to the Panel for Educational Policy. The PEP was eliminated on July 1 when the city's school governance law expired and will soon be resurrected now that the law is back in place. Stringer first appointed Sullivan, who is a a senior vice president at Chartis International — an insurance corporation — and a public school parent, to the panel two years ago. He quickly became the board's most vocal critic of Chancellor Joel Klein's educational policies. Stringer explained the decision today via phone while sitting in a noisy lower Manhattan diner. "I thought it was important today to make it clear that we're going to have an appointee who has a reputation for being the most vigilant and the most independent member of the PEP," he shouted. "He calls it the way he sees it."
August 7, 2009
The fruitful alliance of Arne Duncan and Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch and Arne Duncan. (Images via Creative Commons) The New York Post patted its own back today, hard, for helping the state renew the mayor's control of the public schools. The surprising thing is that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined in, thanking the newspaper, owned by the ambitious Rupert Murdoch, for its "leadership" and "thoughtfulness." New York City newspapers have a proud tradition of waging campaigns both on and off the editorial page, and then congratulating themselves when they hit their marks. But having a cabinet member for a sitting president join the cheering is more unusual. "I think that must be out of context, that Arne Duncan is giving the Post credit for mayoral control," the president of the principals' union, Ernest Logan, said when I called to ask his impression. The news series the Post ran extolling mayoral control Richard Colvin, who directs the Hechinger Institute for education journalism at Columbia University, said he found the whole news story baffling. "It reads like nothing I've ever seen. It reads like the worst kind of back-patting, self-congratulatory press release that has no perspective whatsoever," he said. Duncan's quote does illustrate a strange alliance that fought hard for mayoral control's renewal, Murdoch and the secretary of education among them.
August 6, 2009
A new player set to enter city education politics tonight
A New York non-profit whose political action committee supports critics of mayoral control is making its debut into city education politics tonight. But its strategy is to hold off supporting city candidates this election year and instead spend the fall collecting community input. Glynda Carr The effort kicks off tonight with two "neighborhood dialogue" meetings in Brooklyn and Queens, said Glynda Carr, executive director of Education Voters of New York, a three-year old branch of the national Education Voters of America. The group has previously supported some of mayoral control's staunchest opponents in Albany. But Carr said that she aims to launch a public conversation about schools freed of political agendas, including her own. "These neighborhood dialogues aren't going to be framed," she said. Carr said she planned to use the fruits of the fall meetings to map out an agenda for future local campaign work. If she succeeds, her group could become a key player amid a crop of new lobbying groups directing their dollars with education issues in mind.
August 4, 2009
A system that does not work for our children
This column was originally published in Spanish in El Diario. The Center for Immigrant Families (CIF) joins others across the city and nation who are working for justice and equity in our public schools-one of our last remaining universal public goods in the United States. Public education is a human right, not a luxury, and our schools should nurture the development and learning of every child. As parents, caregivers, and concerned community members, we want schools that reflect, respect, serve our communities — and that draw upon the rich resources within our communities as sources of learning and support. Mayoral control and the system we have now does not support this vision. Instead, under Mayor Bloomberg, a top-down, business model has been imposed on an educational system that promotes high-stakes and punitive testing.
July 30, 2009
Assembly members unenthusiastic about parent training center
A bill that would create a parent-training center is expected to sail through the Senate next week. But it could face an uphill battle in the Assembly. Assembly members said today that they had serious doubts that the state should spent money on a parent-training center when the city's school system has already gone through a round of budget cuts. Others were skeptical that parents of public school students would benefit from training. The center would cost the state $1.6 million, and would be housed at CUNY. "It sounds like a colossal waste of money to me," said Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Queens). "I know people want to have parent training, but our problem has never been that the parents don't know what they're doing, it's that there's no power locally," he said. "Obviously the senators seem to think they have a deal, but no one has checked with us," Weprin said. Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) was equally unenthusiastic. "I'm not a fan of the idea of parent training centers," he said. "If we want a better relationship between parents and the DOE [Department of Education] it's not about parents needing to be trained better, it's about making sure the DOE is listening to parents." "It seems like a boondoggle to me," he added.
July 30, 2009
The Senate plans to restore mayoral control a week from today
State senators have finally set a date for their return to Albany to renew mayoral control. Liz Benjamin of the Daily News is reporting…
July 28, 2009
Parent advocacy groups could be a parting gift of control debate
One outcome of Albany's debate over mayoral control may have nothing to do with state law. The political wrangling may end up leaving the city with permanent parent advocacy groups. Last Friday, Democratic state senators reached a deal with Mayor Bloomberg (that may or may not pass), essentially ending the drawn-out negotiations. Yet groups that were in the thick of the political fight just last week are intent on remaining active, even if the mayoral control debate has largely ended. Learn NY, which was set up roughly a year ago by allies of the Bloomberg administration to campaign for mayoral control's renewal, will continue to exist until the Senate passes a bill bringing mayoral control back. After that, the group's future is uncertain. Learn NY spokeswoman Julie Wood refused to comment in greater detail. On the opposite side of the debate are groups like the Campaign for Better Schools, the 3Rs Coalition, and the Parent Commission on School Governance, all of which advocated for significant changes to the 2002 school governance law, but favored keeping mayoral control in place. Each them face their own existential questions.
July 24, 2009
Senators agree to reinstate mayoral control before school starts
After several hours of heated discussions, Democratic state senators emerged from a meeting today declaring that they had reached an agreement with Mayor Bloomberg on mayoral control. Standing outside of 250 Broadway, where a dozen of the city's senators met and others listened in by phone, Democratic conference leader John Sampson said, "One thing you can say today is, we have an agreement with respect to school governance." Senators cautioned that the deal's language has yet to be finalized on paper, but what they described mirrors an earlier agreement that fell apart last week. Today's agreement would add extra checks to a mayoral control bill passed by the Assembly, including a parent training center based out of CUNY, an increased supervisory role for superintendents, and a new citywide arts panel. According to a statement released by Sen. Carl Kruger's office, the deal also includes the creation of a Senate subcommittee to oversee the Department of Education. "All's well that ends well," said outgoing UFT president Randi Weingarten, who said that she has been acting as a "go-between" for the two sides, spending Thursday night on the phone helping to broker today's deal. A spokeswoman for the mayor's office, Dawn Walker, released a statement saying: The agreement "preserves the accountability and authority necessary to ensure that the gains we've made — in math and reading scores, graduation rates and school safety — continue. At the same time, the agreement addresses concerns that have been raised by legislators in a way that makes sense." Sens. Sampson and Pedro Espada were vague about when they would return to Albany to pass the Assembly's mayoral control bill. Espada said it would happen "before children start school in September." But Walker's statement sets the date as the first week of August.
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