New York

Fact-Checking the Educational Equality Project Fact Sheet

In honor of the Educational Equality Project conference this week—you remember the Educational Equality Project, don't you?  The unholy alliance between Rev. Al Sharpton and Chancellor Joel Klein, funded by a $500,000 tax-deductible gift from former Chancellor Harold Levy's Connecticut-based hedge fund to Sharpton's National Action Network that was laundered through Education Reform Now, a non-profit linked to Education Reform Now Advocacy Inc. (a lobbying group), and Democrats for Education Reform (a political action committee)?  Throw in how the gift helped to offset Sharpton's personal and organizational IRS tax woes—a $1 million settlement last July—and Levy's lobbying City Hall on a range of horseracing initiatives worth hundreds of millions to his company and its partners, and you have the making of a John Grisham novel.  All that's missing is a few hookers.   The Educational Equality Project, which has garnered signatories from a large number of prominent politicians and education leaders, recently launched its website.  At the top of the page is a rotating list of "facts," backed by a list of "all the facts," with links to references that presumably document or support the facts.  skoolboy decided to fact-check some of the facts.  Are they fact or fiction? Barely half of African-American and Latino students graduate from high school, while nearly 80% of white students do. Toss-Up:  These figures are accurate if we limit consideration to on-time graduation rates.  Chris Swanson of Editorial Projects in Education reports a Cumulative Promotion Index, an estimate of the four-year graduation rate, of 58% for Hispanics and 55% for African-Americans in the class of 2005.  These rates would likely increase if we extended the possible time to completion to five or six years.
New York

Harlem parents say they want their local schools shut down

New York

Sharpton: Union has given him more support than anyone

At an event with Chancellor Joel Klein and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today, the Rev. Al Sharpton turned his attention instead to another education activist in the room. "Nobody's supported us more financially than Randi Weingarten," he declared, speaking at a convention of the education group he runs with Klein. Sharpton then eyed Weingarten, the union president who was sitting in the audience, and ushered her onto the stage he was sharing with Duncan, Klein, and the local radio personality James Mtume. Weingarten stepped away from her spot in the audience and joined the men on the panel. Weingarten has had a warm relationship with Duncan so far, but she has vocally opposed the Sharpton and Klein's Education Equality Project, signing onto a rival effort instead. UPDATE: Weingarten told the Times reports that the union has given about $10,000 a year to Sharpton over the last eight years. The remarks came one day after the Daily News reported that he accepted a $50,000 $500,000 donation before working with Klein on the project that won them the title of "odd couple." Sharpton had kicked off the day, the first in a two-day convention his and Klein's group is throwing, with a warning. "I want some substantive discussion," he said before introducing Duncan and Klein to the stage. "But if you think this is your night for Star Time at the Apollo, the Apollo is on 125th Street." The rest of the event contained only the barest allusion to the Daily News column, by Juan Gonzalez.
New York

Charter schools celebrating possible reversal of budget cut

New York

A second chance in HS admissions for charter school hopefuls

Steven Taveras holds up a card indicating that he was the first student selected for Believe Southside Charter High School. Last week, most eighth graders in the city found out which high school had accepted them. Tonight, hundreds of eighth graders in Brooklyn learned whether they would be lucky enough to have a charter high school choice for this fall as well. I joined hundreds of the hopeful eighth graders for an admission lottery trifecta held in Greenpoint tonight, the first time charter schools could legally conduct their lotteries. The students had all applied for one or more of the schools in the brand-new Believe High Schools Network. The first school in that network, Williamsburg Charter High School, opened in 2004, and two more, Believe Northside and Believe Southside, are set to open this fall. Before the lottery, WCS founding principal Eddie Calderon-Melendez told me that over 700 students had submitted applications for the 500 available spots, some applying to two or even all three of the schools. "I can feel how nervous you are," said City Council member Diana Reyna, who ceremonially drew the first names in the lottery, to a chorus of agreement. "My heart is racing as much as yours." The first two names drawn were for students who weren't present. But when Steven Taveras heard his name called to be the first student selected for Believe Southside, he leapt from his seat and bounded to the front of the auditorium, where he was immediately pulled into a round of handshakes and photographs. A few minutes later, the IS 318 student was still beaming, but he said he wasn't sure why he'd be giving up his seat at nearby Progress High School. "Mommy picked everything," his mother, Maria Taveras, interjected.
New York

Comptroller: Taxpayer dollars "squandered" on DOE contracts

The worst examples of overspending on DOE contracts, according to Comptroller William Thompson. Department of Education contracts routinely cost the city far more than initially estimated, according to an analysis that City Comptroller William Thompson issued just before today's City Council hearing. The under-estimations could be costing taxpayers a fortune in the price of things like Xerox machines and cafeteria equipment, whose prices could be negotiated at much lower rates if the city could accurately predict just how much schools would end up using them. One out of every five DOE contracts that ended in the last two years went over its estimated cost by at least 25 percent, according to Thompson's analysis. In the most egregious overrun, a contract with Xerox Corporation to lease copy machines to schools ended up costing the taxpayers more than $67 million. It had been estimated at a cost of $1 million. In a crossly worded letter sent to Chancellor Joel Klein today, Thompson, a mayoral candidate who has been highlighting public school issues as part of his criticism of Mayor Bloomberg, called the overruns part of a "troubling pattern of mismanagement" at the department. Department of Education officials strongly disputed Thompson's accusations and his figures in an interview and in testimony to the City Council today. The contracts at issue, called "requirements" contracts, can stretch above their estimated costs because they never actually set a total amount of services to be provided. Instead, they set a certain price for the service — say, renting a copy machine, or of placing a classified ad — and let the number of times the department will buy the service stay open-ended.
New York

Panel: College readiness

New York

Seeking advice for eighth graders shut out in HS admissions

New York

Teacher layoffs still a possibility, Klein tells City Council

President Obama might have spoken too soon when he said the federal stimulus could prevent teacher layoffs in New York City. Depending on how state legislators choose to disburse the stimulus funds, the city could still be looking at a loss of 2,000 teachers, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told members of the City Council's education committee this morning. The city Department of Education believes it is entitled to 41 percent of the state's $2.4 billion in education stimulus funds because it receives 41 percent of state funds overall, Klein said today at the council's hearing on the DOE's preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. This formula would give the DOE more than $500 million in stabilization funds, allowing it to avoid teacher layoffs. But he said some lawmakers "are taking a different view," instead suggesting that the city should receive a third of the state's stimulus money for schools because it serves a third of the state's public school students. Under this scenario, the DOE would receive just $360 million in stabilization funds, and about 2,000 teachers would have to be laid off. Klein, who was in Albany yesterday to lobby for the city schools, declined to identify the lawmakers to reporters after his testimony, saying that the negotiations are internal and ongoing. Either way, cuts to schools' non-teaching staff would be severe, Klein said, with a minimum of about 2,500 positions being lost in the first scenario and as many as 25 percent of school-based non-teaching staff positions being eliminated in the second. These positions include school aides, family workers, and other school personnel.
New York

KIPP asks for a secret-ballot election of teachers in Brooklyn

The logo of the Brooklyn KIPP school where teachers have asked to join the union. From the school's ##http://www.kippamp.org/home/##web site##. In their first-ever appearance together since they became locked in an organizing dispute in January, the KIPP charter school network and the city teachers union remained at odds earlier this week over a petition by Brooklyn KIPP teachers to join the union. In a conference before the state labor board, the union implored a judge to make the teachers' petition official. KIPP officials asked instead that the state conduct a secret-ballot election of teachers before deciding whether to grant them a union. A wide majority of teachers at KIPP AMP have already turned in cards confirming that they want to unionize. New York state law only requires that card-check majority in order for public employees to form a union. "We think an election is a fair way to accurately decide, in a democratic process. We believe in an election," David Levin, the superintendent of KIPP New York told me in an interview yesterday. Leo Casey, a vice president of the union, called the move a stalling tactic. "The bottom line is that they’re trying to drag it out, and they still refuse to accept that their teachers want to have a union at this point," Casey told me in an interview yesterday.  "But the law is the law." The Public Employee Relations Board is expected to make a decision in the next 30 days. The skirmish is part of a larger battle between charter school supporters who believe the schools' selling point is the fact that their teachers are not represented by unions — and teachers unions, which across the country are fighting to recruit charter school teachers into their fold.