The scoop

Theoretical Board of Ed that may exist tomorrow gets 1st member

Courtesy of the Bronx borough president's office
<em>Courtesy of the Bronx borough president's office</em>

No one can accuse Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. of being unprepared for the possibility that mayoral control will expire tonight. Diaz just named his potential appointee to the theoretical Board of Education.

That person is Dr. Dolores Fernandez, a professor of urban education at CUNY’s Graduate Center who retired as president of Hostos Community College in 2008.

Fernandez’s appointment will become effective at midnight tonight if the 2002 mayoral control law expires and the Senate does not pass a law to replace it.

Diaz said in a statement today that he is “a supporter of some form of mayoral control.” Asked if Diaz would recommend that his appointee to the board vote to retain Joel Klein as chancellor, John DeSio, a spokesman for the borough president, would not comment yesterday. “He has mixed opinions on the chancellor,” DeSio said.

Fernandez could not immediately be reached for comment. In a release put out by Diaz’s office, she said:

“For me, it is an honor to be thought of by Borough President Diaz to represent The Bronx on the Board of Education. I look forward to serving our borough, and its children, in an admirable and professional way.”

Between 1988 and 1990, Fernandez was deputy chancellor for instruction and development for the Board of Education. She served under chancellor Richard Green, the system’s first black chancellor, who died suddenly a year into his tenure of an asthma attack, leaving the school system in disarray. Fernandez has a Master’s in Education and a professional diploma in Educational Administration.

The full press release follows.

BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT RUBEN DIAZ, JR ANNOUNCES HIS APPOINTMENT FOR THE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Dolores Fernandez will be the Bronx representative on the newly reconstituted Board of Education, effective following the sunset of mayoral control on July 1.

Today, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., announced the appointment of Dr. Dolores Fernandez as the Bronx representative on the newly reconstituted Board of Education, effective following the sunset of mayoral control on July 1.

A resident of City Island, Dr. Fernandez had served as the president of Hostos Community College from 1998 until her retirement this year. She currently serves as a professor of urban education at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center in Manhattan.

“Though I am a supporter of some form of mayoral control, and I am disappointed that the current law was allowed to expire, the business of our children is too important to wait for Albany to act. Dr. Fernandez is a highly qualified, well respected educator with a long resume of accomplishments, and she will be a strong voice for the over one million public school children of the City. I am proud to appoint Dr. Fernandez to the Board of Education, and I look forward to working closely with her to craft an ambitious education agenda for the students of The Bronx and all five boroughs,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

“For me, it is an honor to be thought of by Borough President Diaz to represent The Bronx on the Board of Education. I look forward to serving our borough, and its children, in an admirable and professional way,” said Dr. Fernandez.

In addition to her work at Hostos Community College, Dr. Fernandez served as deputy chancellor for instruction and development for the Board of Education under Chancellor Richard R. Green from 1988-1990. Dr. Fernandez also served as director of education and deputy commissioner for program services for the New York State Division for Youth under Governor Mario Cuomo. An educator since 1978, Dr. Fernandez has also served as a teacher in Queens District 29, as well as the Long Island communities of Long Beach and Hempstead, during her career.

Dr. Fernandez graduated cum laude from Nassau Community College, earned a B.S. in Education from The State University of New York (SUNY) at Old Westbury, and received a Master’s in Education, as well as a professional Diploma in Educational Administration, from Long Island University (LIU) – C.W. Post College. She then earned her Professional Diploma in Reading and her Ph.D., in Language and Cognition from Hofstra University.

money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”