Early Childhood

Assembly Speaker Heastie: SUNY charter schools should abide by existing rules

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
Speaker Carl Heastie on the Assembly floor.

New York State Assembly leader Carl Heastie jumped into the fray over charter school rules, making it clear on Monday that he disagrees with State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s push to free charters from some city regulations.

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Heastie argued that last-minute legislation passed in June does not allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to circumvent local rules, such as the city’s pre-K contract. That point is important to Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who refused to sign the city’s pre-K contract, arguing that it is illegal and unfairly burdens charter schools.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had written to Cuomo, suggesting that SUNY, which oversees many of the city’s charter schools, could exempt the schools from “rules and regulations that were hampering innovative teaching and learning.” Flanagan’s letter doesn’t mention Success Academy by name but refers specifically to “high-performing charters” that opted out of the pre-k program “because the regulatory burden imposed by NYCDOE was too high.”

Heastie has a different spin on the law. “The Legislature did not intend to delegate to SUNY broad authority to regulate charter schools it oversees,” he wrote in his letter, which is co-signed by education committee chair Cathy Nolan. “Nor did it intend to empower SUNY to adopt regulations that are inconsistent with current laws governing charter schools including, but not limited to, laws related to teacher certification requirements, participation in pre-kindergarten programs, and co-location of charter schools within traditional public schools.”

SUNY is still sorting through what the law allows, said Joseph Belluck, who chairs the committee that governs SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute. But he hopes that in the end, the legislation will allow SUNY greater oversight.

“This is somebody saying to us, ‘You’re responsible for the car, but we’re going to give somebody else responsibility for the right tire on the car,’” Belluck said about authorizing charter schools while the city oversees their pre-K programs. “There’s a mixture of oversight here that is a concern to me.”

hot off the presses

A silver medal for Detroit pre-K. Now where are the kids?

PHOTO: Getty Images

Detroit has earned a silver rating, the second-highest possible, in a national ranking of urban preschool programs published Wednesday. But the report by the advocacy group CityHealth also says that too few eligible 4-year-olds are enrolled.

CityHealth, a foundation-funded organization that rates America’s largest urban centers based on their public policies, looked at how big cities stack up in offering preschool programs in a report published Wednesday.

Researchers at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University conducted the study and compiled the report.

Following standards set by the largest state-funded pre-K organization, the Great Start Readiness Program, Detroit requires teachers in state preschool to have at least a bachelor’s degree, limits class sizes, and requires health screenings of children.

Those are some of the hallmarks of a high-quality program, according to CityHealth.

Only eight of the 40 cities whose policies were reviewed earned a silver rating, and only five earned the top gold rating. A handful of cities — Indianapolis and Phoenix, Arizona, among them — were far behind, with low enrollment and few or none of CityHealth’s model policies in place.

Still, the gap in Detroit’s pre-K system is a big one. The city has far fewer pre-K seats than it reportedly needs. That’s the case in many of America’s largest cities, according to CityHealth. In nearly half of the cities studied, pre-K programs reached less than one-third of the cities’ pre-schoolers.

The lack of preschool slots is one reason advocates from Michigan’s largest cities are pushing lawmakers to put early childhood on the agenda in Lansing. And it’s part of why Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has gotten behind the idea of a expanded pre-K system for Detroit.

Read the full report here:

Making the grade

New York City gets a gold medal for pre-K quality and access, new report finds

PHOTO: Christina Veiga/Chalkbeat
Pre-K students play during center time at The Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, Queens. New York City earned high marks in a national review of pre-K programs.

New York City’s pre-K program earns high marks when it comes to quality and access, according to a new report that ranks early childhood education in major cities across the country.

That’s according to CityHealth, a policy advocacy group, and the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, an authority on pre-K research.

The city is one of only five that were awarded CityHealth’s highest ranking — a gold medal — for meeting at least eight of 10 benchmarks for effectiveness and having high student enrollment. The report evaluated pre-K programs in the country’s 40 largest cities.

“I think New York City should be very proud of their program, and it really is a model for other cities,” said Ellen Frede, senior co-director of the institute and co-author of the report.

New York fell short on two measures: teacher training and education requirements for classroom assistants.

The knock on teacher training is surprising, given that the city often touts its dedication to professional development as one of the major factors contributing to program quality

Also surprising: The report gives New York City credit for pay equity, which measures whether pre-K teachers are paid similarly to their K-12 colleagues. Only in city-run classrooms do early childhood educators earn the same as teachers who work with older students. But most pre-K students attend community-based programs, where teachers can earn as little as 60 percent of the salary paid to those who work for the city.

“It’s equity to some extent. There is work to be done there in New York City,” said Albert Wat, senior policy director for Alliance for Early Success, who peer-reviewed the report.

Still, New York City is far ahead of many other cities such as Indianapolis, where enrollment is low and programs show few of the marks of high quality. Education department spokeswoman Isabelle Boundy called the city’s early education efforts a “game-changer.” Since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, the city has made free pre-K available to all 4-year-olds and has begun to expand the program to 3-year-olds.

“As New York City continues to increase access to free, full-day, high-quality early education, our programs are on par with gold-standard programs across the nation,” she wrote in an email.

The rankings are awarded by CityHealth, a non-profit funded by the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, which notes the long-term health benefits afforded by pre-K. In New York City, a 2017 study showed improved health outcomes for low-income children after the launch of universal pre-K. Other studies, however, have shown mixed results.

You can read the full report here.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Ellen Frede was a co-author of the report.