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As primary day nears, Thompson hones in on the city's schools

Comptroller Bill Thompson released his overcrowding report outside of P.S. 290, a school that is over capacity.

One day before the Democratic primary, mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson is making Mayor Bloomberg’s oversight of the city’s public schools his campaign’s defining issue.

Thompson, the city’s comptroller, issued a report yesterday rehashing arguments made by the mayor’s critics throughout his time in office. It criticized the mayor for not spending enough money on school construction, despite evidence that the city’s school-age population had swelled in certain districts.

The report, called “Unprepared for Overcrowding,” looks at the 2010-2014 capital plan the City Council approved this summer and singles out roughly two dozen school districts, the majority of them in the Bronx and Queens, where it predicts schools will remain overcrowded after 2014.

State Senator Liz Krueger, who was part of a gaggle of local elected officials who stood next to Thompson during the announcement, thanked the comptroller “for stating the obvious.”

During the press conference, which was held outside of the Manhattan New School (P.S. 290) on the Upper East Side, Thompson accused Bloomberg of making trailers permanent fixtures in low-income neighborhoods rather than fixing overcrowding.

“Of the 18,000 primary and middle school students being taught in temporary facilities, the vast majority are lower income and increasingly from immigrant neighborhoods,” he said, in what seemed a deliberate move to counter the mayor’s efforts to depict himself as a champion of eduction for minority students.

Workers from Bloomberg’s campaign staff attended the press release and distributed leaflets attacking Thompson’s record as president of the Board of Education.

Asked where he would find the money to increase school construction, Thompson cited $900 million that is slated to be spent on prison construction, and that he believes should be redirected to education.

Along with Krueger were Assemblyman Micah Kellner, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, and Councilman Robert Jackson, all of whom gave statements roundly condemning the city’s capital plan as inadequate.

“When you’re talking about any issue like this, overcrowding and planning of schools, you have to be looking at minimum 5-10 years out,” Krueger said. “And yet, in the eight years I’ve been in the Senate trying to represent this district, my frustration has been that it appears that DOE doesn’t even look in front of its own face,” she said.

Asked why the report hadn’t been released in time to influence the City Council’s  debate over the capital plan, Glenn von Nostitz, director of policy for the comptroller’s office of policy management, said it wasn’t completed in time.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”