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September 28, 2009
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.
September 16, 2009
Speaking to UFT, Mulgrew calls for a new contract, and fast
The city's teachers union offered the first glimpse of its contract demands tonight, but remained silent on the possible pay raise many have predicted — and on whether the union plans to sweeten its chances at a good contract by endorsing Michael Bloomberg. The glimpse came at a meeting of the delegate assembly, the union's ruling body, where members were given a seven page list of demands that fell under categories such as compensation and health. Union president Michael Mulgrew addressed the crowd, which spilled out of the room and into the hallway of 52 Broadway, the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers. The event was closed to the press, and union members were told not to share the seven-page document with reporters. According to several in attendance, Mulgrew lectured on the grim state of the city's economy and the need to get the union's new contract finalized quickly. One teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said Mulgrew seemed to be pushing the union to reach a deal quickly, before the economy worsens. "They're presenting it like there's this brief window of time, because of the economy, in which to rush the contract through," he said.
September 16, 2009
Winners Liu, De Blasio and Dromm drop by UFT (updated)
Council Member John Liu said he credits the UFT with helping him enter a runoff in the comptroller race. Winners in yesterday's primary elections dropped in on a UFT Delegate Assembly this afternoon, where I am hanging out, waiting for the contract negotiation news. Council Members Bill de Blasio and John Liu, who are both heading into runoffs in their respective races, for public advocate and comptroller, dropped by, as did Daniel Dromm, the teacher who is running for City Council in Queens. Dromm defeated Helen Sears, a sitting Council member, in yesterday's primary. Liu told me that he owes the teachers union for his victory yesterday. "Teachers have a massive impact. They have delivered in ways I could never have expected," he said.
September 3, 2009
Teachers union endorses Bill de Blasio for public advocate
Making its second endorsement in a citywide race this week, the teachers union will endorse Bill de Blasio for public advocate at noon…
August 25, 2009
Public advocate hopeful de Blasio releases full education plan
Bill de Blasio. Photo by William Alatriste (via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/nyccouncil/3352047030/##Flickr##) To whet your appetite for our soon-to-come slew of candidate questionnaires, here's an education manifesto that public advocate contender Bill de Blasio is releasing today. According to de Blasio's press secretary, Gwen Rocco, the policy plan is based on the campaign's research about "what the public advocate can actually do." If elected, de Blasio will hold monthly education hearings in each borough, make even more school data available online, and convene a "Commission on the Future of Education." He also says he'll post graduation rates that note how many students used "credit recovery" programs to earn their diplomas. The 11-page plan is after the jump:
July 31, 2009
Public advocate candidates sound off on mayoral control
Earlier this week, the New York Civil Liberties Union held a debate among the candidates for public advocate, moderated by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News. Gonzalez quizzed the five candidates about mayoral control — the following are their responses (video courtesy of the NYCLU). Next Tuesday the organization is co-hosting a debate for the mayoral candidates. Bill de Blasio said the issue is "very personal" for him, citing his children, who attend public schools, and his service on a school board. "I think we need profound reform of mayoral control," he said, but did not go into specifics. "I'm offended at any effort to reduce the democratic participation of parents in our school system. I believe there's a way to do mayoral control right. I think there are virtues in the system if there is transparency, if there are clear checks and balances, if there is a forum for actual debate, if there is a role for communities and for local residents and for parents."
May 27, 2009
A week after criticism, city expands its parents bill of rights
When City Council Member Bill de Blasio criticized the Department of Education's bill of rights for parents as being too limited last week, it was the first many of us had ever heard of such a document. Now, just a week later, the document has expanded, ballooning to an eight-page list of 57 enumerated rights divided into four sections. That's up from five one-sentence rights published on a single Web page. A spokesman for de Blasio said school officials alerted his office to the new bill of rights yesterday, the same day the document appeared on the department's Web site. In a statement, de Blasio said he is encouraged by the expansion, but not satisfied. The new version outlines a litany of specific rights for parents, including the right to receive their children's full instructional schedule, the right to have meetings about their children's educational record, and the right to communicate with teachers. The original bill of rights, which is also still published online, in English and a slate of other languages, was more vague, affording parents the right to things like "a free public school education" for their children and to "be actively involved in the education of their children." The new version does not include one of de Blasio's recommendations, though: the right to attend a zoned school in their neighborhood. De Blasio called that omission "troubling." His full statement is below the jump. UPDATE: A spokeswoman for the department, Nicole Duignan, said school officials have actually been working on the expanded document for two years. She said the family engagement and advocacy office built it "based on input and experience from parents who wish to play an active role in their children's education." "We always welcome ideas and suggestions from elected officials to promote and improve parent involvement in our schools," Duignan said.
May 21, 2009
A pitch to expand the city's parents' bill of rights (which exists)
While lawmakers in Albany battle over how much to limit the mayor's control of the public schools, a City Council member from Brooklyn is zeroing in on another part of the city school system he wants revised: the parents' "bill of rights" — which apparently exists! Bill De Blasio, who is running for public advocate this year, is using the bill of rights to illustrate his argument for a "bottom-up" rather than "top-down" approach to improving public schools. The current version of the list, created by the Department of Education and published on the department's Web site, includes five rights that parents have (the right to file a complaint, the right to "be actively involved") plus seven responsibilities (they must send their children to school "ready to learn," they must keep track of their children's performance, they must treat educators with respect). The version drafted this week by Bill de Blasio, a City Council member from Brooklyn, outlines 10 rights that would give parents much wider latitude to participate in policy-making (plus the crowd-pleaser right to a "reasonable approach to cellular phones.") De Blasio has been telling supporters that he would improve the city schools by using the public advocate's office as a kind of organizing arm of government that would empower parents to get more involved in improving their schools — and to supply them with the information required to do that. De Blasio explained his position at a recent fundraiser in Harlem tied to education issues that I attended, where supporters brought toys to donate along with cash for the campaign and De Blasio's two children, both public school students, made an appearance. Here's the full bill of rights, below the jump:
April 22, 2009
On Earth Day, schools criticized for lagging on recycling
Councilman Bill de Blasio at PS 154, which stopped using Styrofoam trays this spring. Photo from Gowanus Lounge A year after the Department of…
March 26, 2009
Public advocate hopeful takes aim at DOE's spending on testing
A figure from Bill De Blasio's report showing how many teachers' salaries could be supported by each assessment expenditure. The Department of Education could foot the salaries of more than a thousand teachers with the money it spends measuring and promoting student performance, according to a report released today by City Council member Bill De Blasio. By reducing spending on developing, administering, and grading tests, and by cutting the department's media relations office, the DOE could save more than $57 million a year, De Blasio's office found. That would be enough to support the salaries of 1,038 teachers who earn an average of $50,000 a year. At today's City Council hearing about the DOE's budget, De Blasio, who is running for public advocate, told Schools Chancellor Joel Klein that he is "perplexed by the notion that assessment is somehow more valuable than front-line" school staff. The department's preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes potential teacher layoffs, but it does not call for substantial cuts to the DOE's accountability office. Klein defended spending on assessment even when budgets are tight, saying that teachers cannot do their jobs without good student performance data.
February 4, 2009
Weiner and De Blasio: the perfect foils on mayoral control
Yesterday I wrote about two politicians who showed up at the Queens mayoral control panel I moderated Tuesday. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is running for mayor, declared with a swagger his desire to keep most of mayoral control preserved for himself, when he becomes mayor. (He is taking on Mayor Bloomberg and Comptroller Bill Thompson in the 2009 race.) City Councilman Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, waited patiently in a question line and then declared his support for making school governance more democratic. De Blasio is running for public advocate. Here's video displaying each official's testimony. First de Blasio, with the shushing of Weiner's posse at about minute 3:30: Then Weiner, who was surprised to be asked whether he had a question for the panel, rather than the reverse:
February 3, 2009
Weiner doesn't have a question; de Blasio on mayoral autocracy
Two unexpected guests popped in at the Queens Civic Congress's mayoral control panel last night: Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat who is running for mayor, and City Council Member Bill de Blasio, a Brooklyn Democrat who is running for public advocate. The men displayed different styles and positions on school governance. Weiner, who finds himself in the tricky position of sharing Mayor Bloomberg's support for mayoral control, while opposing Mayor Bloomberg, came last and spent his time mingling and chowing down cake in the back of the room as the panel took questions. A crowd of residents and aides surrounding Weiner made so much noise that at one point two women in the audience turned around, glared at the congressman's pack, and said, "Shh!!" Later, the vice president of the congress, Edwin Westley, offered Weiner an opportunity to ask the panel members a question. Did he have one? "Not really," Weiner said. "For me?" Westley said no and asked again if the congressman had a question for the panel. "Not really," Weiner said, laughing. "I just came for the cake." Then he strode to the front of the room, where he declared his support for keeping control of the schools firmly in the hands of the mayor. "I believe that it is not the governance system that is to blame, it's the people doing the governing," he said.
December 8, 2008
Principals join backlash against cuts to day care centers
Ernest Logan, principals union president The principals' union is joining the groups raising concerns about the city's plan to make cuts to 21 day care centers for struggling families run by the city's Administration for Children's Services. ACS officials have said that no children currently being served by the city-financed day care will lose their spots. But the plan would phase out some day care services next year, by forcing children who are eligible for Department of Education kindergarten programs (because they are at least 5 years old) to attend that kindergarten, rather than ACS preschool. The union argues that forcing families to switch the place where their children are cared for would have bad consequences, especially for parents with more than one child who find it easier to have all of their children at one location. Among possible consequences, the union named "the likelihood that [families] would move onto the unemployment and public assistance rolls." Rather than closing the ACS-run centers to these children, the union suggests a plan that would preserve them but would force the Department of Education to share some of its costs. In other pre-K news: Councilman Bill de Blasio is also protesting the proposed cuts tomorrow at City Hall, and Sara Mead has an excellent round-up of how early childhood programs across the country are faring in the bad economy, and why the fact that they are struggling is bad news.
December 4, 2008
Three pushes to green the schools. But will the DOE join?
Councilman Bill deBlasio at PS 154, which stopped using Styrofoam trays this spring. Photo from ##http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2008/03/pm-update-windsor-terrace-school-tosses.html##Gowanus Lounge## First Councilman Bill deBlasio waged war…
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