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January 22, 2015
Speaker Silver’s arrest throws wrench in plans to resist Cuomo’s education agenda
The arrest of Sheldon Silver, who has helmed the Democratic conference in the state Assembly for 20 years, threw the state’s nascent legislative session into “chaos” and, at least temporarily, left the teachers union without its most vocal champion in Albany at a crucial moment.
June 24, 2014
City agrees to ease process for special needs students seeking private school tuition
Officials announced policy changes Tuesday meant to make it easier for parents of children with special needs to secure city funds for private school tuition.
March 25, 2014
In shift, Silver says budget talks involve money for charters "all over the state"
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said today for the first time that he is open to providing state facilities funds to privately housed charter schools, a potential policy change that the State Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo support.
December 19, 2013
More lawmakers call for SED to halt data-sharing plans
The State Education Department is facing increased pressure to curb its student data-sharing plans. Last week, Republican Senator John Flanagan introduced a bill to address looming concerns around the plan's data privacy and security. He also called for the state to halt the initiative, which is scheduled to begin next month, for at least a year. Now, a group of Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker Sheldon Silver and Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, are raising their own red flags. Like Flanagan, they want the state to halt the plan, but they are also suggesting that they might not ever want to see it start up again. The controversy is over an initiative funded in part by federal Race to the Top grants designed to help districts use information about an individual student's personal and academic history to create more individualized lesson plans and inform a teacher's instruction. Some data elements being collected include test scores, report card grades, information about special needs, attendance records and disciplinary records.
March 13, 2013
Lighter NYC schools penalty could help budget talks progress
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan praised the news that New York City's state school budget penalty would be temporary. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was not satisfied with the surprising announcement that New York City's steep budget penalty would be temporary, but his education committee chair said she thinks the news could could ease budget negotiations in Albany. "To me that means we're halfway there," Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said today during the legislature's joint hearing on the state's proposed education budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Assembly, and the State Senate have each proposed spending plans and they must come to a consensus before the end of the month. This year, because Passover and Easter fall at the end of March, legislators are shooting for a final budget by next week, which means they must strike a deal by the end of the weekend to meet timeline requirements.
February 27, 2013
City's school budget cuts move forward while state's are on ice
A court order and support from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver aren't enough to stop the city from slashing its schools budget this year. City officials said today that they were fiscally obligated to move forward in making a midyear budget adjustment to account for an expected $250 million deficit during the final months of the school year, even though a judge has for now barred the state from taking back the funds. The move has the attorney who convinced the judge to halt the state budget cuts planning to sue the city, too.
January 30, 2013
Cuomo proposes state takeover in NYC teacher eval impasse
Appearing with legislative leaders this morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would seek the right to take over teacher evaluation planning in New York City if local negotiations fall through again. Cuomo said he still hoped Mayor Bloomberg and teachers union president Michael Mulgrew can break their impasse and agree to a deal on their own terms. But the two sides have failed to reach a deal for more than a year, despite mounting financial penalties for the city, and they fiercely defended their positions in back-to-back legislative hearings this week. Negotiations resumed this week, and Cuomo said he's planning to "firmly request" they get a deal done. "If they don't, then let the state step in and let the state ... determine the evaluation process and impose it on the city of New York," said Cuomo, who was flanked at a press conference by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate leaders Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos.
June 29, 2010
Fight over charter school funding freeze pushed to next year
After repeatedly lobbying the mayor to find more funding for charter schools, charter school leaders believe the battle in Albany is over for this year. The state's education spending for next year is still in limbo: Yesterday, Paterson vetoed a budget that included $419 million in education aid, and the legislature may or may not override the veto. But with no players — neither the governor nor the legislature — showing interest in unfreezing charter school funds, advocates are now setting their sights on next year. "People are already lining up for the 2012 budget," said James Merriman, head of the city's Charter School Center. One last hope for charter school supporters is that Mayor Bloomberg might himself un-do the funding freeze with city funds. Charter school leaders have been petitioning City Hall to fill in the funding freeze using city dollars. On Friday, the mayor made his first public call for equal per-pupil funding for charter schools in a letter sent to Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson (printed in full below the jump). But the mayor stopped short of demanding that some of the funds be given to charter schools this year: It is in keeping with our commitment to fairness and equity that we treat all public schools, charter and non-charter, alike. Given the complexities involved, it would be unreasonable to think that all of the issues involved will be resolved in this session. What is essential is that we move forward with a commitment to end disproportionality.
May 25, 2010
Two men and the union in a room, talking charter cap
Maybe we’ll have a charter cap deal after all. We’re hearing that the mayor’s top political aide, Howard Wolfson, is in Albany right now meeting…
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…
June 30, 2009
Critics of 2002 law hopeful Senate will pass a compromise bill
As Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg warn of "total chaos" and ominous "uncharted territory" if mayoral control expires tonight, another, less-frenzied possibility is emerging. The possibility hinges on the success of efforts underway right now to produce a compromise mayoral control bill in the Senate, according to a spokesman for the Campaign for Better Schools, which is pushing a compromise. A compromise would find a middle ground between the bill introduced by state Senator Frank Padavan, with the support of Mayor Bloomberg, and the one introduced by Senator John Sampson, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, who favors adding checks to the mayor's power. But it would still mean the June 30 deadline would pass without a new school governance law to replace it. That's because in order to become law, both houses of the legislature have to vote for the same bill. But a compromise bill would be different from the one the Assembly passed two weeks ago. "Our point is that schools will open up as usual tomorrow, even if mayoral control expires," said the spokesman, Shomwa Shamapande. "Let’s get the legislation right and make sure parents have a voice." Shamapande would not disclose details of the talks he said are underway, saying he does not want to jeopardize the effort. I asked him if he is confident the talks will produce a compromise. "We’re hopeful. I’m not going to go with confident," he said.
June 26, 2009
City secretly renewed police control over school safety in 2003
A 1998 agreement that gives the city's police department control over school safety is still in effect, despite city officials' insistence that it had expired more than six years ago. The revelation has advocates and elected officials lambasting the city for not disclosing the agreement's extension. The original agreement, between Mayor Rudy Giuliani and then-Board of Education President William Thompson, was set to expire in 2002 and was widely assumed to have done so. But in fact, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein quietly renewed the agreement in January 2003. The renewal came to light for the first time this month, after Assemblyman Karim Camara urged his colleagues to consider school safety issues when deciding how to vote on mayoral control, according to Udi Ofer, director of advocacy for the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU was working with legislators to raise the profile of school safety in the mayoral control fight. When Camara met with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Silver showed him a copy of the memorandum's renewal, Ofer said. The paragraph-long agreement was signed by Bloomberg and Klein on Jan. 22, 2003, and does not include an expiration date. The renewal contradicts information the City Council received during a 2007 hearing on school safety, where council members repeatedly asked whether any formal document existed to define the relationship between the city schools and the police department.
June 18, 2009
Senate Democrats seen as last hope for mayoral control critics
As the fate of New York's school governance legislation shifts to the Senate, groups advocating for language that would curb the mayor's power are left to weigh their options. Initially, many hoped that the bill passed in the Assembly would contain fixed terms for members of the Panel for Educational Policy, or would prevent the mayor from appointing the majority of the panel's members. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's bill that sailed through the Assembly on Wednesday did neither. Yet groups like the Parent Commission and the Campaign for Better Schools remain optimistic that the bill that is eventually enacted will look different. Some opponents believe that they've oddly benefited from the Senate meltdown. With the Senate Republicans saying they'll support Silver's bill, Democrats there could perceive going along with the Speaker's bill as capitulation, the opponents reason. Instead, opponents hope Democrats will seek to distance themselves from the Republican position by offering amendments to the bill.
June 16, 2009
Silver's bill clears its last hurdle before tomorrow's Assembly vote
ALBANY, NY — One branch of the state government is functioning today. Lawmakers in the Assembly pushed Silver's mayoral control bill through the ways and means committee this afternoon, readying the bill for a final vote tomorrow. The bill immediately passed with no discussion. At least three Assembly members voted against Silver's plan, including Mark Weprin and Jeff Aubry of Queens and Deborah Glick of Manhattan. Aubry said he was concerned that the bill did not place fixed terms on members of the citywide school board and that it gives the mayor a majority of the appointees to the Panel for Educational Policy. Both he and Glick are supporters of the "Better Schools Act." Tomorrow, the Assembly will vote on the bill, and even its most vocal critics agree that its passage is guaranteed. UPDATE 2 (from Elizabeth): Billy Easton of the Campaign for Better Schools points out that nothing is final, even if the Assembly bill passes. "Tomorrow is an Assembly vote on their initial proposal," he said. "That does not mean that that’s the final vote that they will take on this matter. We have to see what unfolds." Easton added that lobbyists for the campaign are meeting with members from both the Assembly and the Senate. Exactly how negotiations between the two houses will unfold, however, is almost impossible to figure out. Anna reports from Albany that she only persuaded one senator to talk to her about mayoral control today — and his response was to say, "It can’t stay the way it is," and walk away laughing.
June 16, 2009
Silver's bill likely to pass despite city lawmakers' concerns
ALBANY, NY — Legislators in the Assembly have roughly 24 hours to amend Silver's mayoral control bill before it's voted on, but at this stage, change is practically impossible. Assemblyman Alan Maisel, one of five education committee members to vote against the bill, said those who oppose Silver's plan were making no efforts to convert its supporters. "I'm not recruiting anybody," Maisel said, adding that the bill would surely pass the Assembly tomorrow. Half of the 10 lawmakers from New York City who sit on the Assembly education committee voted against Silver's bill. Joan Millman, who sponsored a bill that would enact the Commission on School Governance's recommendations, said she voted voted no for three reasons. "The sunset is too long. I would have liked it to be a shorter period of time, so if we need to fix it, it's easier to correct," she said, adding that she "would have wanted the chancellor to be an educator," and the Panel for Educational Policy members to have fixed terms.
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