schools of thought

Public advocate candidates differ on Klein, class size, charters

In anticipation of tomorrow’s runoff election, which is likely to get a trickle of turnout, here’s a quick look at how the Democratic candidates for public advocate responded to GothamSchools’ education questionnaire.

Bill de Blasio, a Brooklyn city councilman, and Mark Green, who was the public advocate during the Giuliani administration, have surprisingly little that they agree on, except that the city’s school system needs improvement.

De Blasio did not say where he stands on the growth of charter schools. Instead, he notes that the siting process needs to be improved and that teachers in charter schools should be able to unionize. Asked if the current statewide cap for charter schools needs to be changed, he writes only that the number should be evaluated.

Green, who is typically more blunt, states that he does not support curbing charter schools’ growth and that he believes the cap, which is currently set at 200, is “hindering” New York’s access to federal education dollars.

“We should continue with the experiment of charter schools and continue to raise the cap modestly in order to maximize on the flow of federal funds to support New York City educational initiatives,” he writes.

Neither candidate is eager to see Chancellor Joel Klein return for round three. Green is quite clear: Klein should voluntarily step down and make way for a new chancellor. De Blasio writes that he disagrees with many of Klein’s reforms, but doesn’t say whether Klein should stay or go.

De Blasio writes that limited parental involvement is the single greatest problem facing the city’s schools. In a bullet-point list, he names the various ways he plans to make more data available to parents, as well as improve the Department of Education’s communication with parents.

Green says that the city’s first priority should be reducing class size.  He notes that suburban class sizes are significantly smaller and that the city’s goal should be to have no more than 20 students in each class.

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.”