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August 13, 2013
Albanese says he could offer both retroactive raises and pre-K
CUNY Institute of Education Policy head David Steiner spoke with mayoral candidate Sal Albanese this morning. Long-shot mayoral candidate Sal Albanese has a proposition for the city’s labor unions: Let me change your pension plans, and I’ll give you retroactive raises. “What I would propose in exchange for retroactive pay is reforming our pension system,” Albanese said today at a forum at Hunter College. “I want the unions to allow me to reform the pension system. We have a clunker of a system. It’s not modern.” One of the next mayor’s first responsibilities will be to negotiate new contracts with the city’s municipal unions, including the United Federation of Teachers. Mayor Bloomberg has allowed the contracts to expire, and many unions say they plan to push for back pay for their members once they get to the negotiating table. Albanese said offering the back pay, which Bloomberg says the city cannot afford, is possible if the unions agree to other changes to their benefits. Albanese cited a Toronto pension system as a model for reform, saying that it outperforms New York City’s. If New York City’s system functioned as well, he said, “we would save about $2.5 billion a year.” Albanese made the comments at the latest forum held by the CUNY Institute of Education Policy this morning at Hunter College. David Steiner, New York State’s former education chief, is hosting mayoral candidates to let them explain how they would run the city’s schools.
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.
June 12, 2013
Liu stands his ground, Weiner impresses in charter-led forum
Former congressman and mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner poses with a parent and student from Girls Prep Bronx at a forum led by charter school parents Tuesday night. Many parents gave Weiner a favorable review. Some mayoral candidates who have been critical of charter schools avoided uncomfortable questions by skipping a forum hosted by charter school advocates Tuesday night. But Comptroller John Liu not only showed up but said he would issue a potentially crippling blow to the charter sector if he becomes mayor. Liu said he would charge rent to charter schools that occupy space in city buildings, reversing a Bloomberg administration policy of awarding unused space in school buildings to charter schools that want to operate there. The policy has allowed the city's charter sector to flourish. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former congressman Anthony Weiner — who emerged as the audience's clear favorites — both said they would not consider charging rent, something that some critics of charter schools want the next mayor to do. "The model of charter schools is in part based on not paying rent," Quinn said. "So if you say you're going to pay rent, then you're not going to have charters."
June 1, 2013
Mayoral candidate Albanese: No one is a winner
Sal Albanese, a mayoral candidate who is also a former public school teacher, issued this press release in response to the teacher evaluation system that State Education Commissioner John King imposed on New York City tonight: "At first glance, Commissioner King appears to be imposing a pretty reasonable teacher evaluation plan on the city. Unlike the Bloomberg administration, King does not seem to delight in the firing of teachers. Instead, as he notes, the new plan makes an effort to help ‘teachers teach better so students can learn better.’
May 29, 2013
Mayoral candidate Sal Albanese is his own education advisor
GothamSchools is profiling the education policy advisors to each mayoral candidate. When asked who advises Sal Albanese's mayoral campaign on education policy matters, communications director Todd Brogan pointed to the candidate himself. An Italian immigrant who moved to Brooklyn at the age of eight, Albanese has been a student, teacher, and policy maker in the city's schools, giving him a perspective that is unique among the crowded field of Democratic mayoral candidates.
May 16, 2013
Student moderators grill mayoral candidates at Harlem forum
Perhaps the candidates who showed up to Wednesday's mayoral forum in a Harlem school auditorium thought they'd get a break when they saw who was asking the questions: a couple of high school kids. But Michael Cummings and Alize-Jazel Smith, seniors at Democracy Prep Charter High School, turned out to be tough moderators. They shushed Bill Thompson when he spoke out of turn, politely interrupted Comptroller John Liu when his time was up, and pushed candidates to answer the questions they were asked if they had strayed off topic — as one candidate did often. "So, Mr. McMillan, just to be specific," said Cummings, referring to Jimmy McMillan, the perennial also-ran candidate of the Rent Is Too Damn High party. "Do you support or do you not support co-location inside school buildings for public schools and charter schools?"
May 13, 2013
Candidates vie for UFT support, with varying degrees of success
Six mayoral candidates attended the United Federation of Teachers mayoral debate Saturday during the union's spring conference. Left to right: Bill Thompson, Adolfo Carrión, Jr., Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, Sal Albanese and John Liu. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn fought hard to distance herself from the Bloomberg administration during a mayoral debate hosted by the teachers union on Saturday, but she could not escape being the only candidate to be booed by union members angry at the mayor's education policies. When UFT officials asked the mayoral candidates at the teachers union's spring conference whether they believed the next chancellor needs to be an educator, Quinn's answer stood out from the chorus of "yes" responses. "Not necessarily," she said. It was not a new stance for Quinn, who has said for months that she believes a qualified non-educator could successfully lead the school system. But when she cited as someone who fit the bill U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whose agenda overlaps with Bloomberg's, she drew loud boos from the crowd. It was a major misstep for Quinn, the Democratic frontrunner, as she worked to hit the right notes during the United Federation of Teachers' mayoral debate, which came a month before the union — one of the city's most powerful political forces — plans to endorse a mayoral candidate for the first time since 2001.
May 8, 2013
Citing experience, Thompson rules out Tisch as schools chief
Bill Thompson stumping at an education event earlier this year. Bill Thompson squelched any rumors that the latest education heavyweight to back his mayoral campaign could also be his pick to run the school system. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who is chairing Thompson's campaign, would not be a good fit to be the next New York City schools chancellor, Thompson said after an education forum in the Bronx Tuesday night. "I don't think that Chancellor Tisch is a lifelong educator," Thompson said. "I think she's got a job that she's more interested in. I don't think that she has any interest in the New York City job." Ever since Tisch announced she would become the Thompson campaign's top fundraiser and advocate, there have been whispers that Thompson might reward her with the top spot in the education department. By ruling her out as chancellor, Thompson puts those rumors to bed. He also offers more clarity about the qualifications he would look for if he gets to choose the next schools chief.
May 8, 2013
Asked to critique the union, mayoral candidates look to the past
PHOTO: Provided by Matt WhooleyMayoral candidates gather in the auditorium of Eagle Academy for Young Men. Mayoral candidates had to dig deep into history to unearth an unpleasant memory about the United Federation of Teachers at a schools forum in the Bronx on Tuesday night. Asked to recall a time when they disagreed with the UFT, Bill Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn cited the union’s initial opposition to district centralization nearly 20 years ago. Thompson at first praised the UFT's role in the re-centralization, which shifted some hiring responsibilities to the chancellor and required changes to state law. Pressed to name a time that he disagreed with the UFT, Thompson said it was when the union obstructed the same shift. “The resistance, before that, of the UFT to change the system that existed, to changing from decentralization, was a mistake,” he said.
May 3, 2013
At parent forum, mayoral hopefuls vow to stop grading schools
Four of the city's mayoral candidates appeared Thursday evening at a parent-focused forum at P.S. 29 in Brooklyn, which was moderated by Diane Ravitch, a critic of the Bloomberg administration's education policies. City schools' annual letter grades would become a thing of the past if any of the mayoral candidates who attended a parent-oriented forum in Brooklyn Thursday evening takes over City Hall next year. Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, John Liu, and Bill Thompson each vowed to stop issuing the grades, which the Bloomberg administration has issued since 2007. The city has used the grades — which are almost entirely based on student test scores for elementary and middle schools — to pick which schools to close and which principals to reward. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and all of the non-Democratic candidates in the race skipped the forum, which was organized by a parent group that formed to oppose high-stakes testing and co-sponsored by the teachers union-aligned Alliance for Quality Education. The school grading issue was one on which the candidates had not clearly staked out positions before moderator — and outspoken critic of the Bloomberg administration — Diane Ravitch asked them about it. But their unanimity reflected the tenor of the evening, in which the four men clamored to demonstrate their alignment with the parents who organized the event and against Mayor Bloomberg's school policies.
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