Schnur is the gray-haired man on the right (via Flickr) Jason Horowitz has a story in the Observer this week wondering which New Yorkers could be going to Washington if Barack Obama wins the presidency, as it looks like he might. Here's a name I didn't see on Horowitz's list: Jon Schnur, the cofounder and CEO of the Manhattan-based nonprofit New Leaders for New Schools. Schnur has been taking time off lately to campaign for Obama, work that has included guest-blogging, debating, and meeting with like-minded, education-inclined fundraisers in fancy Manhattan apartments. (I don't have a link for that last one but can testify it did happen at least once; I was there.) Schnur is one of the main players in the quiet battle among Obama's education advisers which I am told is still raging even this close to the election. Schnur is the leader of the mostly younger "entrepreneurial" set who sympathize with the efforts of Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein — and who likely were not too pleased when the leader of the other group, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, criticized Teach For America at a recent Teachers College debate where she was speaking on behalf of Obama.
Comptroller William Thompson Jr. with Randi Weingarten (via Flickr) Could we be seeing the start of a campaign theme? William Thompson Jr., the city's comptroller and a likely mayoral candidate, today attacked the Department of Education for transportation policies that he said are marred by "confusion and mismanagement." In a letter to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, he called on the department to launch an immediate review of its transportation policies. The attack was a response to a Daily News report that a 3-year-old autistic boy had been left alone on a school bus for more than six hours. But it might foreshadow a longer argument to come establishing Thompson's education credentials against Mayor Bloomberg. Thompson is certainly not the first person to criticize the Department of Education for "confusion and mismanagement," and one of the groups that often sounds that theme, the teachers union, is close to Thompson. The comptroller himself has privately directed similar complaints on the "mismanagement" theme toward non-transportation-related DOE policies. In transcripts of his private testimony to a commission on school governance that I obtained, Thompson complained that he has difficulty tracking the education department's spending. "If you look at the lack of financial and fiscal transparency at the Department of Education, it is astonishing," Mr. Thompson said. In short, if Thompson is looking for an education argument against another likely mayoral candidate, Mayor Bloomberg, he might have found one. The press release summarizing Thompson's complaints about the busing problem is after the jump.
Kathryn Wylde at a different NYU event (via Flickr) At today's coming-out party for the Research Alliance for the New York City Schools (party take two, as City Room points out), the person who seemed most attuned to the significance of the event was Kathryn Wylde, the president of the business community's lobbying group, the Partnership for New York City, and a board member of the alliance. In a short speech, Wylde referred to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as "the person who really had to give something up in all of this." "Control of all the data is a lot of control," she explained. Indeed, the ambitiousness of the pledges being made — that the alliance will have free and open access to study the city's public schools, and that it will be a totally independent body, despite the presence of several political heavy-hitters on its board (Klein is one, and so is union president Randi Weingarten) — was so remarkable that it was the subject of quiet conversation in the audience. And despite the exciting promises, there was still some unfinished business. The data-sharing agreement that will be the core of the alliance has not yet been formalized, and so it is not yet clear precisely who will have access to the data and under what conditions.
In the opening salvo of what's sure to be a pitched battle over the next capital plan, activists today released a report (pdf) concluding that the city added fewer school seats during the first six years of the Bloomberg administration than it did during the six years immediately before. They estimate that the system needs 167,000 extra seats and dramatically accelerated school construction in order to ease crowding and reduce class sizes. The capital plan is a budget outlining all public school construction plans for the next five years. The current plan covered five years and will end in 2009. The School Construction Authority is due to present a first draft of the next capital plan, covering the years 2010 to 2014, in just a few weeks. In the report, released by the Campaign for a Better Capital Plan and written primarily by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, backers of the campaign call for "a transparent, thorough, and open system of planning" that reflects the system's real space needs.
A bike courier (via Flickr) Chancellor Joel Klein is defending the estimated $5 million that the Department of Education will spend this year on couriers who hand-deliver documents between school locations. Juan Gonzalez at the Daily News reported on the expenses this morning. A large portion of the expenses, $2 million, are being incurred by the Office of Accountability, which uses couriers to deliver a new set of tests to a computer center in Queens, so that they can be processed, Gonzalez reported. The interim assessments are given out in English and math and are meant to give teachers an idea of which skills and information their students are absorbing and which they aren't before the annual standardized test. Speaking to reporters covering the launch of the new Research Alliance for the city schools this morning, Chancellor Joel Klein defended the accountability office's use of couriers. He said teachers deserve up-to-the-minute information on how their students are doing. Klein added that ARIS, the new data warehouse that will be re-launched next month, could ease the expenses of transporting paper score reports. Some schools already use online tests, which have a faster turnaround time for scoring and require no courier expense.