election 2013

Maybe-candidate Weiner's education priorities are a throwback

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 7.14.56 PMThe city’s schools are different now from how they were in 2009, the last time Anthony Weiner considered a mayoral run. Two chancellors have left, and two have arrived; budgets are tighter after successive years of cuts; and students and teachers are being asked to meet higher standards.

But for Weiner, the disgraced politician who is weighing a comeback mayoral candidacy, not much has changed. In a policy brief he released early this week as part of a media campaign to test the electoral waters, he lists school discipline as the city’s top education priority — just as he did in a similar document in 2009.

Weiner has drawn criticism for re-releasing the document, called “Keys to the City,” without a thorough revision. But the education section of the new version is more detailed than the 2009 version. Weiner lists 11 educational priorities, starting with “streamline the process of removing troublesome kids from the classroom” and ending with a proposal to give New Yorkers who complete a year of service a free year’s tuition at the City University of New York.

Ensuring school safety was also Weiner’s top priority in his 2005 mayoral run. Other education promises he made then, such as increasing teacher salaries, adopting a new curriculum, and scaling back the city’s Leadership Academy to train new principals, have since happened during the Bloomberg administration.

The new policy list does include a few adjustments to reflect contemporary issues. He now wants schools to “put a Kindle in every backpack,” and he also sides against the Bloomberg administration on the issue of whether religious groups should be able to use school buildings in the evenings and on weekends.

Some of Weiner’s suggested policies are similar to proposals other mayoral candidates have put forth. Comptroller John Liu wants to give a CUNY tuition break to all top high school graduates. And City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in a major education policy address in January, said she wants to buy 1 million tablets for city students.

In general, Weiner did not make education a major issue during his campaigns for mayor and Congress, focusing instead on health care and other policies. (In 2005, he withdrew before a runoff primary after coming in second to the man who ultimately lost to Bloomberg. In 2008, he was elected to Congress but resigned in 2011 amid a sexting scandal.)

Instead, his strongest ties to the city’s schools seem to be personal. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and has promised to send his (at the time, hypothetical) children to public schools.

His mother was also a longtime teacher at Brooklyn’s Midwood High School — mayoral candidate Bill Thompson’s alma mater — who retired with concerns about the Bloomberg administration’s education policies, according to a 2005 New York Observer profile.

Weiner’s full list of education priorities is below:

  1. Streamline the process of removing troublesome kids from the classroom
  2. Pay master teachers more for taking tough assignments
  3. Create a Master Teacher Academy
  4. Eliminate paid parent coordinators
  5. Make Catholic school preservation a Tweed mission
  6. Help private schools access security grants
  7. Reinvent teacher contracts for the new workforce realities
  8. Put a Kindle in every backpack
  9. Use federal standards for New York’s kids
  10. Let empty schools bustle after hours — even for churches
  11. Expand civic service with Gotham Corps

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