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getting the facts
September 8, 2016
Public advocate calls for increased transparency on school bullying, sexual harassment
James revealed a three-point campaign, including a vow to introduce legislation that would require the Department of Education to publicize more information.
SESIS UNDER FIRE
February 1, 2016
James sues city for not properly tracking services for students with disabilities
Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the city alleging its special-education data system prevented students from receiving services and lost the city millions.
June 10, 2015
After judge says school leadership meetings are public, city tells principals they are not
The city told principals that leadership team meetings are not open to the public while it appeals a judge's April decision that they are subject to open meetings rules.
May 28, 2015
De Blasio defends parent input under city’s mayoral control structure
On a lobbying trip to Albany, Mayor de Blasio said he wanted mayoral control without any of the changes he advocated for prior to becoming mayor.
April 23, 2015
Rejecting city argument, judge rules that school leadership meetings are public
A Manhattan judge sided with advocates who filed a lawsuit arguing that leadership teams meetings should be public since they play an important role in schools.
February 27, 2015
Ahead of Albany debate, parents push for a bigger role in mayor-controlled school system
The forum included many members of the city’s 32 community education councils, who said their input on critical issues has been routinely ignored.
January 9, 2015
Faced with lawsuits, city argues school leadership meetings are not public
The city's public advocate and a parent group are joining a lawsuit brought by a retired teacher, who is suing the city to make school leadership team meetings open to the public.
rallying against tests
June 11, 2014
As Pearson's annual field testing ends, some want them never to start again
Public Advocate Letitia James hosted a rally at City Hall Wednesday asking state education officials to stop administering no-stakes field testing.
January 31, 2014
Lawsuit to halt charter school co-locations on hold pending city review
The plaintiffs in a lawsuit aimed at rolling back school space plans approved under the Bloomberg administration say they are putting their litigation on hold until Chancellor Carmen Fariña reviews the plans, as she has promised to do.
November 12, 2013
James: It's time for de Blasio to make education rhetoric reality
The city's next public advocate isn't afraid to raise her voice on education issues. Letitia James' aggressive oratory against charter schools and co-locations has earned her standing ovations in crowded school auditoriums, effusive praise from Diane Ravitch, and skepticism among charter school parents. And her increasingly vocal presence in education activism provides a clear glimpse into what mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's closest progressive allies want from him on education. "I think you can view me as a partner in ensuring that the mayor of the city of New York honors his commitment to reform the school system as we know it," James said in a recent interview. "Now it's time to put the rhetoric into action. And my role is to ensure that in fact the rhetoric is actualized." Currently a City Councilmember representing Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and much of Crown Heights, James will soon be the city's second highest-ranking official. Though the power of the public advocate has historically been limited, she may end up playing a larger role given her close relationship with de Blasio. But James, an outspoken critic of charter schools eager for large-scale shifts in the city's education policies, has been more condemnatory than de Blasio when speaking out about the city's public schools. "They have pretty much dismantled public education," she said of the Bloomberg administration. "I see it wherever I go, and I just see the inequities."
August 16, 2013
City watchdog hopefuls debate schools in a post-Bloomberg era
The next mayor's handling of the city's schools could have an extra target on its back next year. The Department of Education is the government agency that contenders for the city's next chief watchdog say they'd most like to scrutinize if elected public advocate. Participating in a televised debate last night, three of five candidates said education would be their top priority, offering up lofty goals as a way to improve the $25 billion, 1.1 million-student school system. Their goals for fixing the public schools varied and often seemed ambitious for the authority and capacity limitations that comes with the public advocate's office. The office can introduce city legislation and is sometimes represented on commissions, but its budget is less than $2.3 million and most of its influence comes from the bully pulpit. But the candidates' talking points on education during the debate suggested how they'd seek to use that bully pulpit.
June 4, 2013
Walcott refuses to speak under oath at council's budget hearing
Chancellor Dennis Walcott and education officials testify at a hearing on the 2013-2014. budget Chancellor Dennis Walcott's testy budget hearing with the City Council on Tuesday got confrontational before it even started. The hearing was delayed by nearly an hour as Walcott huddled with city lawyers to discuss whether he should agree to get sworn in under oath before answering questions about the city's $24.9 billion education spending plan for the 2013-2014 school year. The unprecedented request was made because council members believed he had not answered questions truthfully earlier this year. Under advisement from lawyers, Walcott refused. After the hearing, Walcott said he didn't want to complicate city lawsuits about issues that were likely to come up at the hearing. He also said that the department wasn't notified until Tuesday morning when he arrived at City Hall. "I would never hide from anything," Walcott said. "I'm always accessible. I always respond to everything. But I have a responsibility with pending litigation to make sure I know what the legal implications are."
February 8, 2013
At bus driver strike hearing, Walcott bats away council criticism
Chancellor Dennis Walcott takes questions from Robert Jackson during a City Council hearing on the school bus strike. Agitated City Council members spent more than two hours today grilling Chancellor Dennis Walcott about the city's refusal to restore job protections for school bus drivers or intervene in their nearly monthlong strike. The hearing took place more than three weeks into the strike on a day when many families' tenuous transportation plans were complicated by the start of a snowstorm. Attendance in schools for students with disabilities, which have been hardest-hit by the strike, fell from 76 percent on Thursday to just 50 percent today. Maria Uruchima, whose nightmarish commute includes 8 buses and 4 trains, said her son wasn't feeling well, "so I just kept him home because it's going to be crazy out anyways." Even before the inclement weather, at least 2,500 students who attend schools in District 75, which serve special education students with the highest needs, "were still home," Maggie Moroff, Special Education Policy Coordinator at Advocates for Children, said in her prepared remarks. For students that made it to school, Moroff said parents sacrificed hours of their work days to get them there and many students arrived late anyway.
February 2, 2012
To protest losing middle grades, P.S. 161 parents plan a boycott
Parents and children hold a press conference last month to oppose the closure of P.S. 161's middle school. A last-ditch effort to stop their school from losing its middle grades has some parents planning to keep their children home on Monday. Fresh off protesting at a public hearing about the city's plan last month, parent organizers at P.S. 161 in Crown Heights are calling for a one-day school boycott. For weeks, families have lashed out against the city's plans to close or shrink 25 schools at public hearings about the proposals. But the boycott marks a new form of resistance. It is scheduled for three days before the citywide school board, the Panel for Educational Policy, is set to vote on — and presumably, approve — the city's proposal to eliminate P.S. 161's middle school grades. Under the city's plan, P.S. 161's elementary school would remain intact. But Demetrius Lawrence, the outspoken president of the school's PTA, told me that parents in all grades are planning to join in the boycott. "We wanted to do one day of direct action in order for us to get a strong statement out," he said.
October 11, 2011
Council members say DOE gave them no chance to stop layoffs
Finance Committee Chair Domenic Recchia, Jr. was among Dennis Walcott's (left) vocal questioner today. On the first day back to work since 672 school aides were laid off, City Council members unloaded criticism on Chancellor Dennis Walcott for what they said was an intentional failure to notify them about the layoffs. In several tense exchanges with Walcott, Finance Committee Chair Domenic Recchia, Jr. repeatedly claimed that council members were kept in the dark about the layoffs. If they'd known the layoffs were possible, Recchia said the Council would have acted to stop them, just as it did for teachers this summer. At one point, Recchia ordered a staff member to hand deliver a budget document to Walcott, seated 30 feet away at the testimonial desk, and asked him to read it. "Nowhere in the executive budget did you say you were going to lay off school aides," Recchia said. "We would have done something about it and you didn't tell us." But in his testimony and in subsequent exchanges, Walcott pointed out that Recchia and his colleagues in the Council actually signed off on a budget agreement that "made clear" that an additional 1,000 non-uniform and non-pedagogical employees could lose their jobs. Echoing previous statements, the Chancellor said the layoffs did not show up specifically in the executive budget because they were cuts made by principals in July to reduce individual school budgets by an average of 2.4 percent.
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