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April 20, 2018
National head of DFER after Colorado Democrats’ platform vote: ‘We’re not going anywhere’
Education reform has become an increasingly divisive issue within the Democratic Party.
All in a Name
April 14, 2018
Colorado Democrats overwhelmingly reject Democrats for Education Reform at state assembly
After booing down the head of the education reform organization, delegates voted overwhelmingly to call for the organization to no longer use “Democrats” in its name.
Man with a plan
June 14, 2016
Tuesday’s mayoral control update: A three-year proposal from Flanagan meets quick rejection
State Senate Leader John Flanagan, who has been threatening to hold lawmakers to another short, one-year extension of mayoral control, put forward a new plan Tuesday.
out of albany
January 6, 2016
Speaker Heastie kicks off 2016 session with education wish list, heavy on funding hikes
The 2016 state legislative session kicked off Wednesday with Assembly speaker Carl Heastie outlining his legislative wish list.
February 9, 2015
Teachers kick off forums criticizing Cuomo’s agenda, though without Mulgrew
As Michael Mulgrew was reportedly meeting with Gov. Cuomo's aides on Friday, 200-plus educators were voicing opposition to the governor's agenda.
need to know
February 5, 2015
The Bronx factor: What Speaker Carl Heastie’s rise means for education
The northeast Bronx legislator, elected to the assembly’s top position by his peers this week, is entering the fray at a critical moment for public education.
January 28, 2013
State aid cuts would cost city 2,500 teachers, Bloomberg says
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mark Page, his budget director, testified in Albany today about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget, which would penalize the city again for not adopting new teacher evaluations. ALBANY — New York City would have to cut 2,500 teaching positions over the next two years under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plans, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told lawmakers this morning. Appearing at a hearing about Cuomo's budget proposal, Bloomberg focused on the school aid that would be withheld because the city and teachers union have not agreed on new teacher evaluations. The city already lost out on $240 million in state aid this year as a consequence of missing a Jan. 17 deadline that was written into law and could lose another $224 million next year if Cuomo goes through with his plan to tie school aid to evaluations again. The cost of that penalty would be severe, Bloomberg told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, forcing cuts to city schools' spending on personnel and programming. Bloomberg blamed the UFT, again, for the city's shortfall and also criticized the State Education Department, which is threatening to penalize the city further by withholding some resources for high-need students. But during a fierce exchange with Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, who chairs the education committee, the blame also landed briefly on Bloomberg himself. Nolan pointed out that Bloomberg had supported the law that paved the way for the union and the city to reach a deal on evaluations last February. She recited Bloomberg's comments at the time the law was passed (“This is a win-win-win for the kids and for the adults”). "Don't you feel some responsibility for this disaster?" she asked. "And it is a disaster."
June 22, 2012
With focus on teacher data deal, other education bills moved too
All eyes might have been on the teacher evaluation shield bill this week, but that wasn't the only education issue lawmakers tackled this spring. A host of other education bills traveled through both houses of the legislature in recent months, with varying success. Here's a brief rundown of those bills and how they fared: Senate, Assembly pave way for universal kindergarten in New York City In New York City, more than 3,000 children — or 4 percent — of all five-year-olds are not enrolled in kindergarten. Expanding that service has become a pet issue for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other council members, but it first required a change to state law that would allow the city to revise age regulations. Currently, the city requires only that six-year-olds attend school. The bill passed easily through the Assembly earlier this month, 141-1, and passed in the Senate Thursday just after 9 p.m. The passage doesn't automatically enact universal kindergarten, however. To do that, city officials will have to agree to new age regulations. Mayor Bloomberg initially raised questions about the expansion's cost — he estimated the additional enrollment could run $30 million a year — but the city Department of Education has since come out in support of the legislation. The bill still needs a final signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in order to become a law. "We are reviewing the legislation," said a Cuomo spokesman.
June 1, 2012
Bill would let charter schools pool funds for specialized services
The charter sector is ramping up its efforts to serve high-needs students with a state legislative proposal that would help charter schools pool their resources. One obstacle to serving students with disabilities and English language learners, charter operators have said, is that the schools are islands: Every school operates independently, so it is costly for any charter school to serve small populations of students with diverse needs. Critics have accused charter operators with using this explanation as an excuse for not serving more students with disabilities and ELLs. But in fact some charter school lobbyists have pushed for years to be able to work together to pool resources. In 2010, when legislators added special education enrollment targets to the state's charter school law, revised in order to qualify the state for the federal Race to the Top competition, charter advocates asked for a legal change. But it was one of several proposals that didn't cross the finish line in the frenzy to pass the law, according to officials from the New York State Charter Association, which is currying support for the bill. Now, legislators are trying again. The Charter School Students With Special Needs Act would allow charter schools across the state to create consortia to serve students with disabilities. State Sen. John Flanagan, chair of the education committee, proposed the bill last month and moved it through his committee yesterday. In the Assembly, Karim Camara, a city representative, has introduced an identical bill.
May 31, 2012
Bills on table take diverse approaches to teacher rating shield
With just weeks left in the legislative session, bills to shield teachers' ratings from public scrutiny are still on the table in Albany. But no consensus has yet formed about exactly what that shield would look like — if one is constructed at all. Albany lawmakers are hung up on one key issue that distinguishes at least three proposed versions of the legislation: Should parents be allowed access to teacher ratings? Republican Senator Greg Ball and Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, both of Westchester, have proposed bills that say they should not. "I just feel very strongly that this is a part of a teacher's personal and confidential record and that the grades should be handled appropriately," said Galef, whose bill has so far collected 24 co-sponsors. Twenty lawmakers, including Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, a Democrat, have signed onto a third bill in the Assembly that would give parents limited access to evaluations. The bill would require parents to make a special request for the evaluations.
May 29, 2012
Bill would give city the right to fire teachers in sex abuse cases
State senator Stephen Saland (right) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg look on as Chancellor Dennis Walcott describes the reasoning behind a bill that would give the city decision-making power when teachers are accused of sexual misconduct. A legal change that Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced he wanted in March now has a legislator standing behind it. State Sen. Stephen Saland is sponsoring a bill that would give school district chiefs the right to fire teachers who have been found to have engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with a student. Under the current disciplinary process, once the city files charges against a teacher accused of misconduct, an independent arbitrators determines whether teachers have behaved inappropriately, and determine the punishment, no matter the offense. This bill would create a new disciplinary process for the small number of teachers accused of sexual misconduct. The special process would send the arbitrator's ruling back to school district officials, who could overrule it. The district would have the power to fire any teacher found to have engaged in sexual misconduct. Termination would be the default consequence, although the district could opt for a lesser punishment. Walcott and Mayor Bloomberg announced the proposed legislation today at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence on the Upper East Side. Flanked by Saland, the superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools and several other representatives of state district superintendents, Walcott and Bloomberg said those who might oppose the legislation would be choosing to protect teachers over students. "If city government can't take care of them, I don't know who is going to," Bloomberg said about city students. "We are calling on the United Federation of Teachers to join us."
March 26, 2012
State budget framework takes shape as final deal nears
With a final deal on the 2012-2013 state budget imminent, legislators were racing to hash out the last of several education rifts in a series of closed door negotiations on Monday. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos announced today that he would not stand in the way of releasing teacher data ratings, rebuffing earlier reports that senate lawmakers were considering aligning with the Assembly on the issue. The state teachers union had heavily lobbied senators to back a law that would have either banned or restricted the release of any teacher performance data tied to their evaluations. “There were discussions in terms of seeing if there was a way you could balance the parents’ right to know and some sort of [teacher] privacy rights, but there’s no resolution of that, so it will stay as it is,” Skelos said outside the Senate chamber this afternoon, according to the Daily News. Other budgetary loose ends related to education also began to firm up as the day went along. Cuomo struck a deal on how much of the increased state aid should be tied to competitive grants, the Times Union reported. In his preliminary budget, Gov. Cuomo proposed $250 million in competitive grants as part of a proposed $800 million state aid increase. That was met with opposition from lawmakers in both houses and the deal reached Monday reduced Cuomo's grant total to $50 million, which State Education Commissioner John King advocated for in January.
March 8, 2011
Albany votes in new Regents amid complaints over selection
Albany lawmakers voted in three new members of the Board of Regents today and re-elected two others amid complaints from some legislators who called for more local power over state education policy. In a joint session of the State Senate and Assembly, legislators voted to approve three new Regents: Kathleen Cashin, James Cottrell, and James Jackson. Cashin, whose nomination to the Brooklyn seat I wrote about last week, is a prominent former Department of Education official and a quiet critic of some of Mayor Bloomberg's education policies. Cottrell, an at-large member of the Regents, is an anesthesiologist and a professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Jackson, who will represent Albany and other towns in the third judicial district, is a former high school principal. The legislature also voted to re-elected Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Anthony Bottar, both of whom have been on the board since 1996. Most lawmakers signed off on the new and returning Regents members, but some criticized the selection process through which a committee of legislators vet applicants before the entire body votes.
December 2, 2010
Where is Cathie Black today? Not in school, but on the phone
Soon-to-be Chancellor Cathie Black is not visiting schools today — not even privately — but she is making phone calls to elected officials. Black put in a call to Assemblywoman Joan Millman, a former New York City teacher who urged State Education Commissioner David Steiner to deny Black the waiver she needed to become the next schools chancellor. "Cathie introduced herself and the assemblywoman said, "It's not personal, no offense, but as a former educator I'd like for there to have been a public search and I think the chancellor should have an education background,'" said Millman's Chief of Staff Paul Nelson. "It was a very brief conversation, less than five minutes," he said. Millman's staff is in the process of drafting a bill that would prevent someone like Black, who has years of experience in the publishing business, but none in the education world, from becoming chancellor. It would take away the commissioner's ability to give a candidates a waiver if they don't have the education credentials required in state law.
May 28, 2010
Close to a deal: Charter cap to rise, RFPs, space-sharing rules
After negotiating late into the night, the Assembly, Senate, Mayor Bloomberg, and city teachers union are closer than ever to a deal on how to make New York more competitive for Race to the Top. But even the seemingly final bill introduced today may not be the last version. An Albany source said there are already plans to amend the bill. The full text of the bill in the most updated form we know of is here. Background on Race to the Top is here. This bill would raise the cap on charter schools to 460 from 200, but change the way schools are opened. Prospective charter school operators would have to respond to Request for Proposal documents, like contractors, rather than applying on their own. Exactly how this process would work is unclear, but one effect could be slowing the pace of charter school growth. The bill puts a cap on the number of newly approved charter schools that could open by September 2011 — 32. The deal also aims to ease the tensions (and sometimes all-out wars) that have happened when charter schools are placed inside traditional public school buildings. Now, before schools are placed together, the city's Department of Education would have to write up a new document called a "building usage plan" outlining exactly which rooms would be used by which schools, and proposing how the schools can share common spaces like cafeterias, libraries, playgrounds, and auditoriums.
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