waiting game

No charter cap deal today; teacher eval bill's fate also unclear

There won’t be a deal to allow more charter schools in New York today, either, our sources on the train back from Albany report.

That leaves tomorrow and Friday for lawmakers to figure out a way to boost the state’s chances in the Race to the Top competition — without throwing away their concerns with charter schools. The final deadline for submitting an application is June 1, next Tuesday. Lawmakers have Monday off for Memorial Day.

As the deadline nears, a standoff is developing between the state Senate and the Assembly. Each chamber has passed its own legislation tied to Race to the Top: The state Senate already passed a bill that would raise the cap on charter schools to 460 from 200. And yesterday the Assembly passed legislation to build a new teacher evaluation system.

The Senate could easily sign on to the teacher evaluation legislation and make it law. But we’re hearing that some senators might not sign off so easily. The idea is to prevent Assembly members from taking an easy way out by passing a teacher evaluation bill, but no new charter school laws. Then the Assembly could say something like, “Well, we did at least one thing to help our state’s schools win the contest!”

To prevent that, some senators, we hear, might threaten to treat the two bills as a package. They’ll either pass the charter cap and teacher evaluation along with the Assembly, or they’ll do nothing at all.

That would make the Assembly members look like the ones standing between New York children and the $700 million the state could win in the federal competition. Which is not what Assembly members want. This, at least, is the calculation charter school supporters are making.

“If it is the state Assembly that the finger is pointed at for failing to pass a bill, it would be a public relations disaster,” Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo, a staunch charter school supporter, told me today. “And you know at a time when we’re all facing tough elections, there’s already an anti-incumbent, anti-government mood … I think that all involved know that if it doesn’t get done and the Assembly is blamed, it’s not going to look good for our house or our conference.”

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.”