who should rule the schools (updated x2)

Diaz, Monserrate walk out of control talks, but "it's a done deal"

Sens. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Hiram Monserrate walked out of Senate talks about school governance this afternoon, but they signaled that their disagreement with the Democratic leadership wouldn’t kill a mayoral control deal reached with the Bloomberg administration yesterday, Anna Phillips reports from outside the Lower Manhattan building where the talks are happening.

“It’s a done deal, but we’re not all in agreement,” Diaz said in Spanish to a group of reporters. “The four amigos are divided today.”

Diaz added that he expects a final deal to be released today or tomorrow. No agreement has yet been put to paper.

The Senate’s leading Democrats, John Sampson and Malcolm Smith, are holding the meeting to try to persuade Democrats critical of mayoral control to come on board an agreement struck with the Bloomberg administration yesterday. The agreement would add extra checks to a mayoral control bill passed by the Assembly, including a citywide parent training center based out of CUNY and a new citywide arts panel.

Twelve other senators are still in the meeting, and others are participating by telephone, Anna reports.

Bloomberg administration officials are paying close attention to the talks, which they hope will put a final end to a debate that has been going on for seven months now. The debate hit a serious road bump when mayoral control expired June 30 without any new law passed to replace it, reverting the city back to the pre-2002 school governance law and forcing a hasty meeting of a reconvened Board of Education.

Even if no law is passed, administration officials are planning to move forward with enacting the plan’s major parts, including a citywide parent training center, a source said today. The idea is to send a strong signal to senators that the administration takes the agreement seriously.

UPDATE: Anna reports that Perkins just came out of the meeting looking more staid than usual. He said there will be a deal, and Senate Democratic leaders are about to make a group statement.

Asked if discussions were heated — which we heard from at least one senator who’s not in the room but was calling in for the latest — Perkins said they were “thorough.”

UPDATE 2: Sens. Espada and Sampson just walked out. “We have reached an agreement with respect to school governance,” Espada said, Anna reports. He said the “language has not been finalized,” but that he intends to return to Albany “before our children go to school in September.”

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”