breaking

Teachers union will endorse Liu for city comptroller today

john-liu
Comptroller candidate John Liu (image via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2553290413/##Flickr##)

Choosing its first favorite for a citywide race, the United Federation of Teachers will endorse John Liu for comptroller today at noon.

A recent poll shows comptroller candidate Melinda Katz has a modest lead over Liu, her main rival, though the four-way race remains tight, making union endorsements particularly important.

In a phone interview this morning, UFT president Michael Mulgrew said that Liu had impressed the teachers union with his work on the City Council’s Education Committee.

“He went out of the way to make sure he did his homework. He really knew all of the subjects,” Mulgrew said. “His homework that he would do on the city contracts was quite impressive — that he would know all the internal pieces and got into them, and the questioning of the no bid contracts.”

Mulgrew added that Liu’s business background and his work as chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee — he has frequently criticized the Department of Education’s re-writing of the school bus routes in 2007 — had been an additional draw.

“John Liu has always proved to be very independent,” Mulgrew said. “I believe that John will be someone who makes sure that the laws are implemented the way they were designed to be — strongly.”

Under the new school governance law passed this summer, the DOE now has to register all of its contracts with the comptroller’s office. The comptroller will also have greater authority to audit the department. Previously, the DOE had taken advantage of a legal gray area concerning whether it is a state or city agency, allowing it to dodge much of the contract oversight other city agencies are subject to.

The most recent data released by the New York City Campaign Finance Board shows that the UFT has given Liu and Katz similar amounts of money, suggesting that it was deliberating between the two. Yesterday, Liu picked up an endorsement from the United Firefighters Association.

The UFT has yet to endorse a candidate for mayor. The union’s endorsements are listed here.

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.”