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Examining the push to get kids starting school strong.
Middle School Matters
January 9, 2014
De Blasio drops by Bronx dance class to highlight after-school plan
Much of de Blasio’s energy since taking office has gone into the politics of getting expanded prekindergarten funded. But his proposed tax hike on top earners — which requires state approval — would also finance more after-school programs for middle school students. Today, de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited M.S. 331 to see a model program in action.
December 20, 2013
Pre-K campaign kickoff continues with a new video
The official campaign for universal pre-kindergarten that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio launched on Thursday got its first lobbying video today, seen above. The video highlights support…
December 19, 2013
Bill de Blasio lobbies Albany for pre-K plan
Bill de Blasio is ratcheting up his lobbying campaign to get the support he needs in Albany to fund his ambitious pre-kindergarten expansion plan. The…
December 11, 2013
Kenley: Costs may scuttle most of Pence's 2014 education agenda
Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Luke Kenley Luke Kenley, the powerful chairman of the Indiana Senate's appropriations committee, said Wednesday he doubts potentially costly proposals from Gov. Mike Pence to offer preschool tuition vouchers to low income families, boost charter schools or aid teacher innovation can be enacted before 2015. "I don't see us doing anything in 2014 on these issues," Kenley, R-Indianapolis, said in an interview. "If you want to have a fair sense of fiscal discipline and evaluate any program, it has to be done in the context of the rest of the budget."
December 9, 2013
'Sometimes you're wrong:' Weingarten on de Blasio critique
UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, just days before the Nov. 5 mayoral election. Earlier today, we pointed out that some Democrats who supported one of Bill de Blasio's rivals during the mayoral primary were coming around to a campaign pledge they once panned. Another of those critics of Blasio's expanded pre-kindergarten access plan—which calls for an income tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers—was American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who endorsed Bill Thompson in the primary. In August, Weingarten held a conference call with reporters specifically to criticize the plan. “We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize,” Weingarten said then, calling Thompson “a doer” and describing de Blasio as more of an idealist. But when asked today if she remained pessimistic about the plan, which requires state approval, Weingarten said she had been mistaken. “Sometimes you’re wrong, as I was during the campaign, when I suggested that Bill de Blasio couldn’t gain support in Albany for his early childhood education initiatives," Weingarten said in a statement.
November 25, 2013
De Blasio speech repeats pre-K plan but offers few new details
Bill de Blasio reiterated his plan to fund new preschool and after-school programs with a tax hike on high-income earners. (Photo courtesy of Eileen Barroso, Columbia University) In his first major post-election speech, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio argued Monday that his wide electoral victory amounts to a mandate to curb inequality by expanding the city’s pre-Kindergarten and after-school programs through a tax hike on the wealthy. But beyond announcing the formation of an “early-education working group” to hash out the details of the expansion, which he said he wants to begin rolling out next school year, de Blasio offered few new details about his central campaign pledge. Instead, he repeated his plan and said that it is gaining support from lawmakers in Albany, who must approve it – even as former mayor David Dinkins suggested to de Blasio, his one-time aide, that he reconsider the income-tax hike. “I have offered a game-changing investment in early-childhood education and after-school,” de Blasio said in his keynote speech at a summit on children hosted by the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “Nothing less will do.”
November 19, 2013
At legislative kickoff, lawmakers ponder preschool, state board and Common Core
On Organization Day, Indiana legislative leaders annually gather for a mostly ceremonial start to the upcoming legislative session. Will 2014 be another big year for new education laws? That's hard to say. As lawmakers began to pitch ideas today for the 2014 legislative session, opinions diverged on how much could be accomplished on hot education issues like the Common Core, preschool funding and discord on the Indiana State Board of Education. Senate Education Committee chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, doesn't think education will be a big focus this time. "I don't have any priorities for education for session 2014," he said. "I think we passed some pretty significant bills the past three years and I think it's time to take a rest." But across the statehouse, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said improving early childhood education and addressing the “skills gap" that he said leaves high school graduates ill-prepared for work and college, were two of his four top priorities for 2014. He also hinted the legislature could wade into a dispute among state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana State Board of Education over who directs education policymaking. "Our state's constitution clearly gives that task to the elected legislative bodies in this chamber and the senate," Bosma said. The legislature officially began the new session Tuesday with its annual "organization day," a mostly ceremonial event. Lawmakers begin their work in earnest when they next meet in early January.
November 4, 2013
At lab school, Butler and IPS students both learn lessons
Butler junior Briana Ulba works with students at the Lab School as part of a college class that meets at IPS School 60. Aspiring teacher Bridget Spitale was watching a lesson about adjectives when she realized taking college classes in an elementary school worked. She was assisting in teacher Mary Ellen Estridge's classroom while she was talking with her kindergarten and first grade students about adjectives. Estridge moved to telling a story and the way the lesson unfolded was a breakthrough for Spitale's understanding of effective teaching. "It was an eye-opening moment," said Spitale, a Butler junior from Hammond. The lab school, also known as Indianapolis Public School 60, is a collaboration between the university and the school district and follows a unique curriculum inspired by an Italian educational strategy known as Reggio Emilia. Children are placed among a variety of physical materials that are used to help them experience and understand the concepts they learn.
October 21, 2013
New reading law takes off
The rubber hits the road this year for the READ Act, a state law intended to ensure students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Schools are currently in the midst of implementing the law's provisions for the first round of K-3 students.
August 30, 2013
De Blasio and Quinn line up lawmakers in pre-K squabble
The mayoral campaigns of Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn have each sent out press releases today touting legislative support for their positions on de…
August 26, 2013
As candidates squabble over universal pre-K funds, a fact check
Chancellor Dennis Walcott read to a group of 4-year-olds at the Bank Street Head Start center in November 2011. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten fueled mayoral candidate Bill Thompson's attacks on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's plan to fund universal pre-kindergarten, calling Thompson a "doer" and de Blasio an idealist. "We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize," Weingarten said during a call with reporters that the Thompson campaign arranged. Since last week, Thompson and his allies have been criticizing de Blasio's plan, which would raise taxes on New Yorkers earning over $500,000 a year to fund universal pre-K. They say de Blasio's plan relies too much on approval from Albany and does not consider that the state doesn't even use all of the state pre-K funding that it gets. Their first point is a fair one. De Blasio's plan would require legislative approval, a step he says would come readily but which could be a heavy lift. The New York Times cited this shortcoming to explain why it did not endorse de Blasio. But on the second point, about the unused state funding, Thompson's campaign's math does not add up. Calculating the true cost of expanding pre-K to all city 4-year-olds is a challenging task, pre-K advocates say, but no matter how the numbers are crunched, they suggest that the city would need more funding.
August 19, 2013
State senator finds holes in de Blasio's plan for universal pre-K
From the office of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio State Sen. Diane Savino accused mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today of not understanding the legal issues behind providing universal pre-kindergarten to New York City students. De Blasio has proposed taxing households that make more than $500,000 to fund full-day pre-K for all New York City children. The senator, who spoke on a conference call set up by Bill Thompson's campaign team, said creating universal pre-K in the city is not a matter of getting more money, but rather changing laws in Albany. "Either Bill [de Blasio] doesn't know how we fund universal pre-K or he’s just pandering. Because the fact is we don’t need to spend more money on this program," she said.
August 14, 2013
About that “major education announcement” de Blasio promised
DE BLASIO TO RENEW CALL FOR TAX ON WEALTHY TO FUND UNIVERSAL PRE-K, CONTRAST WITH SPEAKER QUINN’S PLAN TO SADDLE MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES WITH…
February 6, 2013
With mixed messages, charter school backers lobby lawmakers
Harriet Tubman Charter School students were among several groups to visit Bronx Assemblyman Erik Stevenson's office on Tuesday. When elected officials visit schools in their district, they generally follow a scripted routine. They cut ribbons, make speeches, and smile for pictures. When the roles are reversed — as they were on Tuesday, when hundreds of charter school parents, students, and teachers convened in Albany to lobby lawmakers — the conversations aren't always so predictable. Some of the charter school advocates stuck to talking points determined in advance by the lobby day's organizers. The New York City Charter Center and the New York Charter School Association want the legislature to give charter schools the right to operate pre-kindergarten programs, something state law currently precludes. The agenda is a response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to give $25 million to district schools that offer more full-day pre-K seats. But in interviews and individual meetings with lawmakers, students and parents spoke about education issues that affected them personally. Almost all said they love the schools they attend, but they expressed concerns about their schools' safety, space, and resources. One parent from an upstate charter school said her child's special needs were not being adequately addressed.
February 5, 2013
Eyeing Cuomo's grants, charter sector sees a pre-K opportunity
Charter schools want to piggyback on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to expand pre-kindergarten across the state. But in order to benefit from Cuomo's $25 million in pre-K grants, the schools first must win the right to offer pre-K classes. Pushing for that right is at the top of charter school supporters' agenda today as they convene in Albany as part of the charter sector's annual advocacy day. The parents will meet in the Albany Convention Center with more than a dozen legislators, then spend the rest of the day visiting their district representatives. They're not the only ones lobbying lawmakers over pre-K this week. On Monday, police chiefs, principals, and education groups from around the state declared their support for Cuomo's pre-K grants, which represent a fraction of the $385 million that the state spends annually on pre-kindergarten. The charter sector's lobbying efforts are not so straightforward, because the state's 1998 law authorizing the schools grants them the right to serve students in kindergarten to 12th grade only. Legislators would have to change to the law — last revised in 2010 amid heavy controversy — to allow pre-kindergarten in charter schools. "It's our job to talk to lawmakers and say to them, 'Hey, does it really makes sense to a have a program where some really good schools don't have the ability to do full-day pre-K?'" said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter Center.
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