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Education showdown

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New York

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."
New York

With focus on teacher data deal, other education bills moved too

New York

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.
New York

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."
New York

State budget framework takes shape as final deal nears

New York

In a surprise flip, Weingarten asks for more in Silver's control bill

New York

Silver introduces his mayoral control bill under the cover of night

After months of discussion, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver finally introduced a bill to extend mayoral control last night. The full text of the bill is below. The bill, which was discussed last Wednesday but was only printed last night, calls for minimal changes and has  already met with Mayor Bloomberg's approval. Amendments include having the schools chancellor become a non-voting, ex-officio member of citywide school board, mandating that two of the mayor's appointees be parents of children in the public school system, and authorizing the Panel for Educational Policy to approve no-bid contracts and any that exceed $1 million. While the bill proposes that the Independent Budget Office and Comptroller's office audit the DOE, it does not establish the department as a city agency, subject to all of the restrictions and oversight that other agencies are. According to the Times, assembly members expect to pass the bill by this Wednesday. (Explaining the importance of the discussions, the Times story cites our story from last week, reporting on the personal role U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is playing in the debate.) The bill's sponsors include Catherine Nolan, Herman Farrell, Jr., Darryl Towns, Vito Lopez, Audrey Pheffer, Michael Benedetto, Janele Hyer-Spencer, Jonathan Bing, Michael Benjamin, Ann Margaret Carrozza, Barbara Clark, Vivian Cook, Steven Cymbrowitz, Adriano Espaillat, Michael Giaranis, Micah Kellner, Rory Lancman, Margaret Markey, Nettie Mayersohn, Grace Meng, Felix Ortiz, Jose Peralta, Peter Rivera. The bill is after the jump.
New York

After Senate standstill, Assembly will start mayoral control talks

The state Senate ground to a standstill on the question of who should control the city's public schools this week, but a consensus among members of the Assembly looks like it will be easier to come by — and it could come soon. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told New York City members this week that he will hold the Assembly Democrats' first conference on the issue next week, according to a member who was there, Mark Weprin of Queens. The conference will kick off formal talks within the Democratic conference about whether to reauthorize, revise, or scrap the 2002 law that granted control of the city's public schools to the mayor. Several Assembly members are already putting together legislation on the subject, much of it influenced by the constellation of advocacy groups that are bombarding Albany this week. A slew of Assembly members are standing behind recommendations put out by the Campaign for Better Schools, while bills in line with the recommendations of Betsy Gotbaum's commission on school governance and the Parent Commission on School Governance are said to be on the way. Assemblyman Alan Maisel of Brooklyn today introduced a bill, backed by the city principals' union, that would beef up the power of superintendents. But the conference would be the first chance for Democrats to try to work out a consensus on the issue. The bills currently in circulation clash with each other on several points. More importantly, they also clash with the position of the powerful speaker, Silver, who supports giving the mayor a majority of appointees on the citywide school board.
New York

Hearings leave lawmakers more turned off to mayoral control

New York

Parent commission: Reduce mayor’s board appointees to three

After a long wait, a commission of parents led by outspoken critics of the Department of Education is unveiling its own proposal for how to change mayoral control. In testimony delivered to the Bronx Assembly hearing on mayoral control this morning, parents painted an ideal picture in which parent voices would gain power while the mayor would lose it. Their proposal is topped off by a radical answer to the question of how to change the Panel for Educational Policy — the effective citywide school board — that would both strengthen the powers of the board and reshape who sits on it. The board would include just three mayoral appointees compared to six parent representatives, plus a City Council appointee, an appointee of the public advocate,and four expert members selected jointly by the board. The commission is also proposing a stronger role for the CEC elected parent councils in each district. A key complaint about Mayor Bloomberg's leadership has been that parents are not included in decision-making about the schools. Some have criticized the DOE for not consulting those councils when choosing to open and close schools, as is required by law. Lisa Donlan, a commission member from Manhattan and the president of a CEC, testified that the state should create an "ombudsperson" role who would have the legal authority to advocate for parents when they aren't comfortable advocating for themselves. This role addresses the DOE's Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, which Freeman called "a way of distracting [parents], but not a way of helping them."
New York

After criticism, Klein embarks on a sit-down spree with lawmakers

Chancellor Joel Klein conducted at least one of his meetings with lawmakers in his office at Tweed Courthouse. After suffering a beating from legislators who accused him of being rudely unresponsive to their concerns since taking office in 2003, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is taking the hint and reaching out. In the last few weeks, Klein has walked  Mark Weprin, a Queens lawmaker who is one of his sharpest critics on the Assembly's education committee, through his Tweed Courthouse headquarters; sat down with a handful of other lawmakers; and made appointments with more, including the committee's chairwoman, Catherine Nolan. He has also begun, through his staff, to send out prompt replies to lawmakers' requests. "We’re getting letters answered, we’re getting information that we’ve asked for," a spokeswoman for Nolan, Kathleen Whynot, said. "We have a really good working relationship right now with some of the DOE staff, which has been a nice addition." Assembly members said the outreach began after they launched a series of five hearings on the subject of mayoral control — the governance structure that Klein strongly supports, but which several lawmakers have criticized as authoritarian. The state legislature handed the mayor control in 2002, but the law they wrote sunsets this year, and so many in Albany are rolling up their sleeves and hoping to revise it. The hearings were a chance for citizens to give their thoughts on how they'd like the law changed (or not). They also became opportunities for the lawmakers to air their concerns. Several of the complaints had to do specifically with Klein and his staff, who lawmakers said frequently failed to respond even to basic questions and concerns. The complaints accelerated at a hearing held in Manhattan where Klein himself testified, sitting before a row of lawmakers who took turns rebuking him.
New York

Dukes asks Assembly to bite the mayor like that groundhog did

Hazel Dukes, president of the New York NAACP, urged Assembly members to make changes to mayoral control By now you know a bunch of the highlights from the big mayoral control hearing Friday. Diane Ravitch argued for taking power away from the mayor, the administration argued for keeping it, and some students summed the whole thing up pretty nicely. But there were other highlights, too, that I didn't go over Friday. Here's a rundown: New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes charged the Bloomberg administration with over-stating its civil rights accomplishments. "Despite repeated claims, the achievement gap has not diminished in any grades or subjects since this administration came to office," she said. Dukes also advised Assembly members to carve into the mayor's control of the schools by adding checks and balances to the power of the mayor and chancellor. "You got to put the teeth in now, and when they don't do it, just like that groundhog did the other day, you're going to have to bite," she said. "We need to make sure that no man, not any man in this city or woman can just have all the power about our children." Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, whose sister is the famous TV personality Rosie O'Donnell, criticized the Bloomberg administration for having too few educators control education policy. He described a meeting with a senior education policy aide to the mayor. When O'Donnell asked about her background, the adviser said she went to school, became a lawyer, and has siblings who are educators. "My sister used to have a very famous talk show, but that doesn't make me qualified to be an executive at NBC," O'Donnell said.
New York

Lawmakers seize on Klein-time to complain about his control

Only one of these four state lawmakers had praise for Joel Klein today during his testimony on budget cuts: The woman on the bottom right, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark of Queens. How much do lawmakers in Albany dislike Joel Klein? The chancellor fielded a flurry of criticisms today after his testimony before a joint session of the legislature. And only some of the criticisms had anything to do with the subject of the day, budget cuts. The rest politely slammed Klein on the one Albany fight where he'll really need their help: mayoral control of the public schools. Klein desperately wants to preserve control as it is, but many lawmakers said they aren't happy with the law or with how he's led as chancellor. The criticism was so persistent that, at one point, Klein plead with lawmakers to keep their opinion of him out of their thoughts on mayoral control. "Whatever you think about me personally," he said, "you need the stability of that kind of leadership to transform education." Assemblyman Herman Farrell of Manhattan dedicated all of his questions for Klein to the mayoral control subject. "We've had what I call a silencing of the lambs," he said. "I don't know who speaks for the parents, who speaks on behalf of the parents." Farrell then proposed a way to bring debate back to the running of the schools: He wants to create a second position called "sub-chancellor" or "uber-chancellor" — someone to take on the regular chancellor. Assemblyman William Colton, who represents southern Brooklyn, made a similar complaint: “There seems to be a feeling among parents that they don’t have the input or the ability to be listened to," he said. Other lawmakers criticized Klein's policies.