Waiting for the dough (Updated)

Parent training center put on hold as city waits for state funds

Months after the city and the State Senate made a deal to create a parent-training center, plans for the center have come to a standstill as both sides wait for someone to fund the project.

Won as part of a deal between a group of runaway senators and Mayor Bloomberg during last summer’s mayoral control debate, the center would be housed at CUNY and would cost the city and state a total of $1.6 million. Advocates for the center’s creation have said it would address concerns that the current mayoral control law keeps parents out of the political process. They said the center would train parents who normally wouldn’t get involved to serve on community education councils and school leadership teams.

Though they have agreed to split the cost, neither the Department of Education nor the State Senate has yet to commit any money to the project.

Selvena Brooks, a spokeswoman for Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, said the city and state are still “in talks” about how to fund the center. “Once we formalize a commitment, the funds will forthcoming,” she said.

A DOE official who insisted that he speak on background said the city will not pay its share of the funds until the Senate does the same.

Meanwhile, the man charged with overseeing the center’s development is waiting patiently. John Mogulescu, the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs and the Dean of the School of Professional Studies at CUNY, said he was waiting for both sides to allocate the funding before beginning work on the center.

According to the DOE official, the Senate could allocate the money in one of two ways. In one scenario, senators could dip into their discretionary funds, which can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to several million, in order to pay for the center. Another option is to wait until the State Legislature returns to Albany in January and have the center’s funding inserted into the new budget.

Neither choice is particularly attractive. By now, many senators have spent their discretionary funds on other causes, such as building playgrounds or senior centers. And a $3 billion gap in the state’s budget could make it difficult for senators to set aside money in next year’s budget.

Sources in the State Senate and Assembly questioned whether the city needed to wait for the Senate’s allocation. “The city is punting this to the legislature,” one source said. “There might be other ways. The city seems to be limiting their options.”

Update: DOE spokesman David Cantor writes that the department and the state legislature made a deal in August that the city would match the Senate’s funds. The agreement letter is below:

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news