Dec 6th - 3:31 pm
Universal pre-K, which is widely accepted to be one of the best ways to improve student performance in the long term, has been in the news a lot these days, thanks to NYC Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s signature policy proposal to tax wealthy city residents to pay for the program for every student in the five boroughs.
Establishing full day pre-K was chief among the proposals released last December by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform commission. Cuomo subsequently included $75 million in the 2013-14 budget for education reform initiatives – including about $25 million for the expansion of pre-K - with the money to be awarded through a competitive process.
The allocation of this money has been slow in coming, in part because only a fraction of the districts eligible for the cash have applied.
Now education advocates are talking about building on the momentum of de Blasio’s victory and pushing the governor and Legislature to expand pre-K statewide. The Citizens Budget Commission has estimated it would cost $4 billion to achieve that goal, which is $2 billion more than the entire surplus Cuomo has said he expects the state will see at the end of the current fiscal year if spending controls continue. (And he wants to use at least some of that for tax cuts).
Advocates and elected officials have been trying to expand pre-K for decades. But despite all the talk, state spending on this important program has actually gone down instead of up.
That’s according to a report conducted by Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research, whcih found 28 percent of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded pre-school program in the 2011-2012 school year – about the same percentage as the year before. That stagnation was compunded by an unprecedented drop in funding of $500 million nationwide – the largest one-year drop in history.
The NIEE found that New York spent $5,306 per child enrolled in pre-K in 2002, but that figure plummeted to $3,707 in 2012.
There were 102,568 New York children enrolled in the 2011-2012 school year, representing approximately 44 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds - a decrease of approximately 1,000 students from the previous year. Approximately 75 percent of those kids attend half-day programs.
The good news for New York was that despite its drop in the number of students attending pre-K, it maintained its national ranking of 9th overall in terms of enrollment. And despite its flat funding, that state’s ranking improved from 24th in the nation to 21st in the nation in the per-child spending category, although in 2002, New York was 11th overall for resources per child.
The report did note the $25 million for pre-K included in the 2013-14 budget, which would allow for more full and half-day K slots across the state.
Oct 18th - 4:53 pm
Under fire for canceling four town hall-style forums on the new Common Core standards, the state Education Department announced this afternoon it now plans to hold 16 community forums around the state on the contentious issue.
King had announced he would “suspend” four of the meetings on the curriculum standards after several meetings that included angry parents and crowds in Utica and Poughkeepsie, arguing the events had been “co-opted by special interests” trying to hijack the discussion (the state United Teachers pushed back against this, calling it false).
But today, King said he wanted to a “respectful” conversation with parents that will be moderated by state lawmakers and attended by members of the Board of Regents.
“I want to have a respectful, direct, and constructive dialogue with parents,” King said in a statement. “More and smaller discussions will make sure there’s a real opportunity for parents to be heard. This is just the first round; we’ll continue to schedule forums for parents. We want these to be regular events. We want the conversation to rise above all the noise and make sure parents understand the Common Core, and, just as important, we want to understand parents’ concerns. We all share the same goal: to make sure our students have the skills and knowledge to be successful in a changing world.”
In addition to the 12 forums, four seperate events will be broadcast on public television as well.
The first forum will be held in Albany City School District on Oct. 24, while additional meetings will be held in Rochester, Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties as well as Schroon Lake, Binghamton, Amherst, Syracuse and Jamestown.
Oct 14th - 8:07 am
GOP NYC mayoral candidate Joe Lhota is out with a new TV ad that highlights his backing of charter schools and participation in a recent rally that drew hundreds of parents who support the publicly funded, privately run facilities.
The spot, which started airing citywide today on broadcast stations, highlights a stark policy difference between Lhota and the Democratic mayoral frontrunner, Bill de Blasio, who has said he would start charging charter schools rent if they’re co-located in public school buildings.
“Joe was proud to stand with the 20,000 parents and children who marched in support of charter schools and the hope they are providing for students,” said Lhota’s spokeswoman Jessica Proud.
“Mr. de Blasio is more concerned with protecting the status quo of the special interests than giving parents the school choice they deserve.”
Mayor Bloomberg has given about 60 percent of the city charters free space in existing school buildings in an unusual strategy to boost their growth, but critics believe the arrangement gives charters an unfair advantage.
In a last-ditch effort to push this issue before de Blasio is likely elected, the NYC Department of Education is giving the green light to open or expand 23 charter schools before Bloomberg leaves office and provide them with free space in city buildings.
Oct 4th - 5:23 pm
The results of the recent round of Common Core testing were not a bright spot for the state’s education system.
And while education, school district and labor union officials said it’s a matter of being able to implement the Common Core standards, two state lawmakers say they’re upset with the amount of time students are subjected to testing in the classroom.
Western New York Democrats Sen. Tim Kennedy and Assemblyman Sean Ryan were on Capital Tonight Thursday to discuss a meeting they hosted with school officials and parents frustrated by the testing time.
Both Kennedy and Ryan came away largely agreeing that while the higher standards for students and teachers is a good thing, the piling of tests is not.
“There are over 3,200 minutes dedicated to these standardized tests, these high pressure, high stakes testing that’s happening in our schools today,” Kennedy said. “That’s taking up over 30 percent of students’ testing… something needs to change. We’re not saying testing needs to be done away with all together. We’re saying testing needs to be done and it needs to be done right.”
Ryan agreed with Kennedy, though no legislative proposal has been made to possibly scale back the amount of examinations.
“No one’s objecting common core increasing. What we think it’s insane to do is to take a third grader and make that student sit for 270 minutes of testing. I can’t get a third grader to sit through a 90 minute Shrek movie,” Ryan said.
The full interview can be found here.
Aug 20th - 4:27 pm
Plan B might be an option for middle school students if there is ever a Quinn administration.
While Christine Quinn was accepting the endorsement of the Planned Parenthood of New York City Political Committee this afternoon, we decided to ask her about offering the morning after pill in high schools. She has expressed support for it in the past, but for the first time she says she is now open to the idea of offering it to even younger girls.
Quinn: This is a really important option we need to make accessible. I understand it can make some people uncomfortable. I understand that and parents have the ability to opt out if that’s their choice. We need to recognize the reality of what’s happening in children’s lives and give them what they need to make the right choices and protect themselves.
Reporter: So do you think it should be available in middle schools?
Quinn: I think that may become a reality. You would love it to be in a place where that wasn’t the reality of middle school, children’s lives. But we are going to have to look at this and if that is what the data shows us would be the most helpful that is what we will do.
According to a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in four high school freshmen reported that they had had sex — 19.3 percent of all females. In 2011, 7 percent of all high school students reported they had had sex before the age of 13.
During the endorsement, Quinn promised to make sure students recieved “age appropriate” sexual education as well.
It comes as no surprise that Quinn, the only female in the mayor’s race, has cornered the endorsements of the city’s major women’s groups. Planned Parenthood is just the latest. It follows Emily’s List, NARAL Pro Choice New York and the National Organization for Women.
We also asked Planned Parenthood if they would be spending their own cash on independent expenditures for Quinn.
They didn’t rule that out either.
Aug 7th - 11:10 am
Reaction this morning is pouring in on what was generally known 24 hours ago: Test scores under the new Common Core standards are uniformally way down over last year.
Comments from the teachers union, school boards officials and superintendents is hitting on a general theme: Don’t blame the students, blame the rollout of Common Core.
That, of course, could be extended to urging the public not to blame teachers or the leadership at schools across the state as a whole who were working under the new educational guidelines for the first time this year.
A district-by-district breakdown of the test results can be found here.
Meanwhile, there is also some criticism of the implementation for the new standards.
From the School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer:
It is important to recognize that student achievement did not go down; instead, standards went up. The state realigned exams to more closely mirror the knowledge and skills that students will need to succeed after high school. We can use this year’s results for comparisons in future years. School boards continue to support more rigorous learning standards. At the same time, we all must acknowledge that there were implementation issues surrounding New York’s adoption of the Common Core.
The state United Teachers union also hinted at problems over implementation, adding students and teachers faced “numerous setbacks” when it came to Common Core, said President Dick Ianuzzi:
As New York state moves forward toward an effective transition to the Common Core, parents and educators are counting on a solid, thoughtful implementation plan that provides the appropriate time, professional development and resources needed to achieve the high standards that all of us – parents, teachers and policymakers – want and are committed to achieving. This is how New York state can get it right.”
The Council of School Superintendents urged the public to look at the scores as a new baseline, and acknowledged the challenging implementation schedule as well.
“This implementation schedule created challenges. Some resources that would have been helpful to teachers a year ago have only recently been made available by the State Education Department. Also, while adapting daily instruction this year to match the Common Core, school leaders were also mandated to develop and implement complex and demanding procedures for teacher and principal evaluations.
Mar 28th - 4:31 pm
ICYMI: NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi told me during a CapTon interview last night that the reason more members of the education community have declined to sign onto his union’s lawsuit challenging the two percent property tax cap is because they’re afraid of “retribution.”
It was not explicitly stated, but it was fairly clear who would be meting out said retribution. After all, the tax cap was one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature policy achievements during his first year in office.
“We had a lot of people patting us on the back, and when we walked around with our press release they were really hard to find,” Iannuzzi said.
“But that didn’t matter. We’ve gone alone on important issues before, and we’ll go it alone if that’s what happens. I’m positive it’s fear of retribution…and it’s sad, frankly, it’s very sad.”
“Because you’re talking about education, talking about where you’re trying to instill in young people the importance of standing up for principles, and leading by example usually helps.”
I asked Iannuzzi if NYSUT has experienced any retaliation from Team Cuomo since filing its suit.
“Not at all,” he insisted, adding: “The governor knew how we felt about the property tax cap….there’s shared responsibility and I hope there will be shared responsibility in addressing it going forward.”
So, if you believe Iannuzzi – and who wouldn’t, since quite clearly retribution isn’t something that worries him – maybe this time the administration decided not to go the threat route.
Mar 11th - 3:31 pm
Here’s an interesting blast from the past: Former NY1 and WCBS-2 political reporter-turned book writer and gay nightclub/hotel impresario is returning to the public eye – this time on the other side of the pen and camera.
NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today he has tapped Kirtzman to servce as his senior advisor for Communications and Public Affairs. In this role, Kirtzman will oversee the media and public affairs offices and manage communications for the city’s Department of Education. His first day will be next Monday. (No word in the press release about his salary).
“Andrew has a long and distinguished career and will be critical member of my leadership team as we continue to raise standards and prepare students for college and careers,” said Walcott. “Andrew will lead a talented team and we look forward to working together to communicate with parents, students and our school communities.”
It’s an interesting time to take a job with the Bloomberg administration, since the mayor is on his way out the door, and the next mayor – presumably – will want to pick his or her own chancellor, who, in turn, would likely want to appoint his or her own top staffers.
The administration is also at a difficult place vis-a-vis education, which has long been a main focus for the mayor and is supposed to be a major part of his legacy. He managed to wrest control of the public school system in the city, thanks to the state Legislature, which means any positives or negatives in terms of performance rest almost entirely on his shoulders.
Kirtzman is no doubt savvy when it comes to both NYC media and politics, though he has been out of the limelight for a while. He worked in both TV and print.
From 2003 to 2008, he was a political reporter for WCBS-TV and hosted Kirtzman and Co., a weekly Sunday morning show. Prior to that, Kirtzman co-anchored NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” the sister show of YNN’s “Capital Tonight.”
Kirtzman also reported for the New York Daily News, Houston Post and Hudson Dispatch. He is the author of two books, one on Bernard Madoff and the other on former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with whom he weathered the earliest moments in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
A May 2011 New York Times story described Kirtzman as “the unofficial mayor of Fire Island Pines, as a club and hotel impresario, restaurateur, landlord and developer.” But the storied waterfront properties he owned with two business partners were gutted by a fire in November 2011. UPDATE: As per that NYT story, the Pavilion, the island’s legendary dance club and social hub, is being rebuilt and is set to re-open this season.
Mar 7th - 11:56 am
Last month, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo wrote to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli seeking guidance on behalf of several schools in her Southern Tier district that are teetering on the edge of fiscal insolvency and are unclear what options they might have if they do indeed run short of sufficient cash to pay their bills.
Today, DiNapoli’s office responded to the assemblywoman, and the answer is not terribly encouraging.
Basically, according to Deputy Comptroller Steven Hancox, schools facing a fiscal crisis have one of two options: An emergency infusion of state aid, or a state control board. (Unlike municipal governments, schools are not legally allowed to declare bankruptcy).
Lupardo says she’s focused on option A, which doesn’t come as a big surprise.
A variety of Assembly Democrats – including Speaker Sheldon Silver – have been calling for additional education funding in the 2013-14 budget, and it’s a safe bet the one-house bill we’re expecting to see from the conference Monday will include an increase to the 4.4 percent bump Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already proposed.
“Additional state aid would be ideal,” Lupardo said. “That’s something I’m working on in our budget negotiations, through a more equitable funding formula.”
“Fiscal control boards remove local control and would surely be a last resort. In the absence of more state aid, and tangible mandate relief, schools will have to continue making steep budget cuts or borrow funds to meet rising expenses. They could of course try to override the property tax cap, but that is highly unlikely in fiscally strapped communities like ours.”
Mar 5th - 1:03 pm
ICYMI: The Campaign for Fiscal Equity is representing several New York City public school parents in a lawsuit against Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the NYC Department of Education for what they maintain are ongoing and persistent violations of New York’s Contract for Excellence Law.
The law requires districts receiving state aid to spend the money on programs to improve student learning, such as smaller class sizes, full-day K and pre-K, and also develop a spending plan through a public process.
Districts are supposed to publish their proposed plans for comment and hold public hearings in each of the five boroughs.
The lawsuit maintains that the NYC Education Department has failed to hold any borough-wide hearings for years, and also posted its C4E plan five months late – in mid-February, well after much of the money in question was spent.
CFE is asking the court to compel the DOE to schedule borough-wide hearings and extend the deadline for public comment to give parents a genuine opportunity to participate in the C4E process.
“The DOE’s actions with regard to the Contract for Excellence make a mockery of the public process provision of this important law,” said CFE’s senior attorney, Wendy Lecker. “Parents and community members have no opportunity to provide meaningful input on how these vital education dollars are being spent and no ability to track where the money is going.”
This comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed against the state by one of the attorneys who brought the original CFE suit, Mike Rebell, for its decision to withhold some $260 million worth of education aid from the New York City schools after the Bloomberg administration and the UFT failed to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation deadline.
Rebell successfully sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from keeping that money from the city until the lawsuit is decided. The Cuomo administration has indicated it will appeal that decision.
In the meantime, the Assembly Democrats are pushing Cuomo to restore the $260 million and also end the financial penalty for districts that fail to negotiate on-time teacher evaluation plans with their respective unions.
Lawmakers and Rebell argue that keeping back cash from districts ultimately hurts students and deprives them of their constitutional right to a sound, basic education.