Archives for category: Bill de Blasio

Cynthia Nixon, award-winning actress, is an activist for public schools. She ran against Andrew Cuomo for Governor in the Democratic primary in 2018. He had collected $35 million or so before the campaign started and outspent her 35-1. Her big issue was inevitable school
funding. (I endorsed her.)

She wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times contrasting the resources available to make her TV show set completely safe and the inadequate, spotty measures to make the schools safe for 1.1 million children.

Priorities! Kids don’t count!

Two phone calls exposed the differences in resources, planning, and care for health and safety:

On the call related to my show, I heard about the many tours the industrial hygienist had taken of the set and about the renovation of some of our work spaces to be coronavirus-safe. Out of an abundance of caution, even some spaces that looked fairly healthy had been eliminated.

I also heard about how the crew and production staff would be divided into strict pods; they would be tested before they started work and then tested one to three times a week. Actors, who need to remove their masks, would be tested every day. Anyone coming to New York from out of state would need to quarantine for two weeks before being allowed on set.

Air purifiers have been purchased, filtration systems have been upgraded, and an entire department has been created solely to deal with safety protocols and testing. And Covid-19-upgraded vans and shuttles, along with extra parking lots, were available to ensure that everyone had safe transportation to work.

The second call was a meeting of the parents association at my son’s public school. I heard that teachers and administrators could choose to be tested for the coronavirus before the school year began and that people entering the school could decide whether they wanted their temperature taken.

I heard about classroom pods limited to nine students, a restriction made irrelevant by the number of people moving freely from pod to pod — teachers, school staff members and even parents who are now being recruited as substitute teachers by overwhelmed school administrators. I heard about the several hundred school nurses who still needed to be hired in the system.

I heard that building inspections would begin just a few weeks before school was set to open, even though out of the 1,700 buildings to be examined, a thousand already have documented ventilation problems. And I could only shake my head as I later saw that the system for testing these ventilation systems involves using a yardstick with a piece of toilet paper attached to it by paper clip to gauge airflow.

Needless to say, the care and investment given to restarting television and film production in New York looks nothing like the uncertain, chaotic, shamefully underfunded and profoundly unsafe approach to reopening the public schools, which serve 1.1 million children, nearly three-quarters of them deeply underprivileged.

This pandemic has laid bare our society’s inequities, and nowhere more than in our public schools. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, lauded as a hero for his handling of the state’s pandemic response, has overseen a supposedly temporary 20 percent reduction of its payments to school districts since this summer.

In New York City, the decrease would amount to a $2.3 billion loss for the schools over the next year. The city schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, said that the cuts, if made permanent, would mean “game over” for in-person learning, and would lead to programming cuts and 9,000 layoffs in the Department of Education.

Yet the governor has resisted raising taxes on the state’s 118 billionaires (up from 112 last year), who have seen their collective wealth increase by $77 billion during the pandemic, a figure that dwarfs the state’s projected budget gap of $14.5 billion this year.

Even before the pandemic, New York State was second in the country when it comes to inequities in education funding — with rich districts getting $10,000 more per student on average than poor districts. (The state’s failure to equitably and fully fund New York’s low-income school districts motivated me to run for governor in 2018.)

The city has compounded the continuing disinvestment in our public schools. In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council pushed through nearly $1 billion in cuts and savings to the education budget. Coupled with the state reductions, the schools are now facing a staggering cut of $3.3 billion.

The mayor has been hamstrung by the governor and his own political miscalculations and leadership failures. As experts warned of a pandemic earlier this year, the mayor, echoing Mr. Cuomo’s confidence that the virus could be contained, resisted calls to close the schools.

By early May, at least 74 Department of Education employees had died in connection with Covid-19. (Researchers at Columbia found that had the city shut down even a week earlier than March 16, the date when schools were finally closed, some 18,500 Covid-19 deaths citywide could have been avoided.)

Over the summer, as schools in Los Angeles and Chicago decided to go fully remote this fall, giving them crucial weeks to prepare for remote learning and make accommodations for the neediest students, our mayor at first stubbornly refused the pleas of parents and teachers and pushed for reopening in person without delay.

The mayor, whom I endorsed in 2013, has insisted correctly that schools are vital for the city’s most vulnerable families. His desire to reopen on time, however, has not been backed up with adequate safety measures.

It is noteworthy that a survey last month by the Education Trust-New York found that Black, Latino and low-income families — many of whom have already been disproportionately hit by the virus — were significantly more wary of reopening schools this fall. Only when threatened with a strike by teachers (who were largely demanding many basic safety measures) did the mayor finally agree to delay opening, albeit by less than two weeks. As a result, all city public school students are now without schooling, remote or in person, for most of this month.

Instead of asking our wealthiest citizens to pay more during a time of crisis, New York is imposing austerity on public schools — even though fewer dollars mean fewer safety measures, more cases and more deaths.

If city and state leaders cared half as much about our children as they do about television actors, we’d be raising revenue and giving our schools the funding needed to reopen safely. The attention being devoted to keeping the city’s movie sets safe shows that it’s possible. Don’t our students and teachers deserve the same level of care and investment?

Spokespersons for principals, teachers, and nurses have called on Mayor De Blasio to delay reopening and provide more time to prepare schools, reports Gotham Gazette, a publication of the Citizens Union Foundation.

The principals union, the teachers union, and the nurses union have come out against the ​city’s plan to reopen classrooms on September 10 with a mix of remote and in-person learning.

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators urged the officials to move the start of in-person school to the end of September to give schools more time to prepare, while offering fully remote learning as they do.

​”​Given the lack of information and guidance available at this time, CSA believes that NYCDOE’s decision to open for in-person learning on September 10th is in disregard of the well-being of our school communities​,” wrote CSA President Mark Cannizzaro.

The union is seeking more clarity on essential questions around sufficient staffing, hiring of nurses, PPE supplies, and support for students with special needs, among others. With individual school plans due to city officials Friday, if approved administrators and teachers will have fewer than 15 “working days” to implement them before students arrive, Cannizzaro wrote.

Leonie Haimson summarizes the pluses and minuses of reopening schools in New York City.

She points out:

Many public health experts and epidemiologists agree that NYC schools seem to be in the best position of any large district in the country to offer face-to-face learning, with an COVID positivity rate of only about one percent.

Our positivity rate is very low and the lowest we are likely to see until there is an effective vaccine, which could take a year or more to be developed and widely adopted. By borough, according to the state, the current positivity rates ranges from 1.3% in the Bronx, .9% in Staten Island and Brooklyn, .8% in Queens and .6% in Manhattan.

However, and this is a big however, schools should be reopened only if they can adopt rigorous safety and health protocols.

One of the biggest risks to safety right now is the poor ventilation in many NYC schools. Ventilation is a critical issue, as closed and stuffy rooms will intensify the risks of infection and virus spread. Many schools have lousy or broken ventilation systems, and/or classrooms with windows that don’t open or no windows at all, as I pointed out in this article. According to a principal survey we did ten years ago, 40% reported they had classrooms with no windows – and I doubt the situation has improved…

While many parents and teachers have been pushing for outdoor learning for safety reasons, the DOE has not provided them with any support to achieve this important goal. In fact, I have heard that some schools have said the DOE is discouraging them from providing outdoor recess or learning…

Another critical issue is the lack of testing with results fast enough to ensure that students and staff who are ill know to stay home and quarantine rather than infect others. Right now, many testing sites across the city take 5-15 days to deliver results, which is nearly useless. More and more, states are realizing that to safely reopen schools, they should adopt rapid antigen testing, which gives results within minutes and cost only $1-$2 each. Six governors from Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia have teamed up to buy large quantities of these quick testing kits, but not Governor Cuomo, for some reason.

Rather than join this consortium and help schools reopen safely, Gov. Cuomo has lambasted schools over the weekend for not having their own testing procedures in place, something they do not have the funds, the staffing or the expertise to do. Though he rightfully stepped in to help hospitals by purchasing PPE and helping to quickly expand testing sites when the COVID crisis first hit, he now acts that he has no responsibility to do the same to help and support schools in this difficult time.

Understandably, many parents are confused and ambivalent. Despite the Mayor’s spin that more than 700,000 students chose to engage in some form of in-person learning in the fall, it appears that fewer than half NYC parents registered any preference on the online survey, with 264,000 parents opting into remote learning and 131,000 blended learning. Many families seem to be waiting to see what the plan is for their schools, after which they can choose full-time remote learning at any time.

Mayor De Blasio—or someone in his Department of Education—invited the foul-mouthed, misogynistic rapper Pitbull to join luminaries who will speak to the graduating class of 2020.

Here is the city’s announcement:

Dear Students and Families,

To celebrate the end of a school year like none before, please join us for a graduation celebration like none before the evening of Tuesday, June 30! We will be honoring the resilient, inspiring Class of 2020 with festivities that will be livestreamed across social media and broadcast on PIX 11 beginning at 7:00 p.m.

The event will feature the accomplishments of our graduating seniors, family messages, and congratulations from celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kenan Thompson, Nick Kroll, Nia Long, Pitbull, Angela Yee, and more. Mayor de Blasio and the First Lady, Chancellor Carranza, and other public officials and educators will also convey their words of appreciation to the largest graduating class in the nation who will be the changemakers in our nation’s future.

We hope you all will join us for a joyful occasion to conclude a difficult year on June 30. Please save the date and learn more at https://www.nycclassof2020.com.

Pitbull founded a mediocre charter school in Miami called Slam Academy. It operates as part of a for-profit chain. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined him there to show her delight that the rapper joined her crusade for school choice.

Jersey Jazzman wrote about the origins of Pitbull’s charter school in 2013.

Darcie Cimarusti wrote about a signal event when Pitbull was honored by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools in 2013, which was thrilled to have a celebrity on its dais.

An expose in the New York Post revealed leaked emails in which the de Blasio administration promised to stall release of an investigation of substandard Yeshivas in exchange for Orthodox Jewish support of mayoral control of the New York City public schools in the state legislature. The substandard Yeshivas allegedly don’t teach English, science, or other secular subjects. The city was supposed to conduct an investigation but withheld the results until the legislature renewed mayoral control. YAFFED is an organization created by graduates of Yeshivas who believe they were cheated of a secular education.

Naftuli Moster Executive Director
naftuli@yaffed.org http://www.yaffed.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, May 11, 2020
Contact: Press@yaffed.org

Leaked emails reveal backroom deal to go slow on Yeshiva investigations; Mayor and top aides should be held accountable for denying children a basic education

Yaffed Calls on City and State to Enforce Education Laws After Bombshell Report of Stonewalling by New York City

New York, NY – A shocking new report confirms how New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio abused his power by interfering with a Department of Education investigation into allegations that tens of thousands of New York City children were being denied a basic education in Yeshivas. According to the leaked emails contained in the article, Mayor de Blasio was himself involved in offers to Ultra-Orthodox leaders to delay any DOE report on the investigation’s findings and to go “gentle” with the final report, in exchange for the extension of mayoral control in 2017, which was being held hostage by State Senators taking directions from leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox community. The deal to delay the report was apparently made so that Senator Simcha Felder had time to ram through the “Felder Amendment,” which was an attempt to soften the legal requirement that these schools provide a “substantially equivalent” education and to derail the State Education Department’s ability to ensure the right of Yeshiva students to receive one.

As Naftuli Moster, executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (Yaffed ) said, “These internal emails confirm how Mayor de Blasio and his top officials abused their power by making a deal with Ultra-Orthodox leaders to interfere and delay the release of the findings of an investigation into the denial of the rights of tens of thousands of New York City children to receive a basic education. With these alarming facts now fully public, we are demanding immediate actions be taken to reverse the corrupt results of these unconscionable acts.
Today, we call on the City of New York and New York State to enforce the law without further delay, and for the Attorney General’s office to launch a probe into the corruption that these emails reveal.”

The organization Yaffed called for the following actions to occur:

1. The Board of Regents should immediately approve the long-delayed “substantial equivalency” regulations, first proposed almost two years ago on July 3, 2019; otherwise, they will be further rewarding and abetting the stonewalling efforts by Ultra-Orthodox leaders and the city.

2. The New York State Attorney General Letitia James should direct the Public Integrity Bureau of her office to launch an investigation into the actions of the Mayor and his top aides, to determine whether the various favors made and promised to the Ultra-Orthodox leaders in return for renewing mayoral control were legal.

3. The New York City Department of Education (DOE) should release publicly all their findings on the education provided by individual Yeshivas and together with the State, develop a plan to enforce “substantial equivalency” as soon as possible, so it can be quickly and efficiently implemented when schools are back in session.

4. The DOE and SED should ensure that during the coronavirus crisis, all Yeshiva students are receiving adequate secular instruction via remote learning.

5. Deputy Chancellor Karin Goldmark, who appears to have been responsible for orchestrating this deal to sacrifice the education of tens of thousands of Yeshiva students, should be asked to immediately resign.

6. The leaders of the State Legislature, Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the respective Chairs of the Education Committees in the State Legislature, Assemblymember Michael Benedetto and Senator Shelley Mayer, should make it a priority to repeal the Felder Amendment, which was passed as a result of this disgraceful deal between the Mayor and Ultra-Orthodox leaders to delay the investigation into the Yeshivas.
###

Susan Edelman, investigative reporter on education issues, reports on emails showing that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a deal with Orthodox Jewish leaders—a powerful voting bloc in the city and state politics—to stall an investigation of shoddy yeshivas in exchange for their support in the state legislature renewing mayoral control of the New York City public schools.

Edelman writes:

Mayor Bill de Blasio was personally involved in a deal with Orthodox Jewish leaders to delay a long-awaited report on shoddy yeshivas in exchange for an extension of mayoral control of city schools, emails obtained by The Post show.

Internal emails among de Blasio and his top aides at City Hall and the Department of Education reveal that the mayor made key phone calls to the powerful religious leaders to clinch the support of two state lawmakers voting on his power to run the nation’s largest school system.

“These internal communications reveal what we suspected all along: Mayor de Blasio abused his power by interfering with the yeshiva investigation,” said Nafuli Moster, founder and executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED). The group filed complaints against 39 Brooklyn yeshivas in July 2015 for allegedly shortchanging children on secular subjects such as math, English, science and history.

The DOE launched an investigation of the yeshivas, but as it dragged on, critics charged City Hall was delaying the probe to curry favor with the Orthodox Jewish voting bloc.

Even an investigation of the mayor’s suspected interference was stalled, whistle-blowers told The Post. In response to that complaint, the Department of Investigation and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools finally issued a report last December confirming “political horsetrading” on the mayoral control issue.

YAFFED—an organization of former yeshiva students—has lodged complaints against many yeshivas for failing to prepare students to live in modern society while collecting millions of dollars in city and state funding.

Parents in New York City are pleading with Mayor DeBlasio NOT to cut the budget of the public schools. Please add your name to their petition to Corey Johnson, Speaker of the City Council.

All –

Please help NYC public school students by signing and circulating this petition directed to Corey Johnson, Speaker of City Council, to stop Mayor DeBlasio’s proposed 827 million dollar budget cut to NYC public schools. The idea that when our kids – and kids across NYC – return to school they will have even fewer resources than they had pre-COVID, at a time when so many need more, is simply wrong. After months of compromised learning and, for many students tremendous loss in their families and communities, children will need additional academic and socio-emotional support – but the proposed budget cuts will guarantee they get less.

There are many competing needs in our city right now. As public school parents and educators who have worked in and with high schools for over 25 years, we can confidently say that if school funding is not prioritized in the upcoming budget, it will be an unmitigated disaster – not only for the next school year, but for the long term. Please read this petition, sign it and circulate it far and wide. For this to make a difference, it needs to reach thousands of people.

Thank you!

xox,
Lori and Ben

Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced this morning that the city’s public schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year, but lessons online would continue.

Governor Andrew Cuomo promptly contradicted the mayor and asserted the decision was his, not the mayor’s.

Parents were outraged by the childish food fight.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Natasha Capers, 347.610.2754, ncapers@nyccej.org

PRESS STATEMENT:
Parent Groups Respond to School Closure Decisions:
During a Health Crisis, Leaders Demonstrate a Lack of Leadership

New York City, NY (April 11th, 2020)- Early today, Mayor Bill DeBlasio under the advice of public health experts, announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year due to the raging coronavirus pandemic. At the epicenter of the decision is the crippling impact the virus has had on our city and people. Later today, Governor Cuomo announced that there was no decision to close schools yet and that as governor it was legally his sole decision to make.

This squabbling between the mayor and the governor is embarrassing and causing tremendous stress for families, students, and educators. Their inability to come together, and make decisions informed by the well being of students and families, is immoral and will continue to have disastrous consequences for our communities, especially those so deeply impacted by the inequity in healthcare and testing. Parents need clarity in this moment, but Governor Cuomo’s constant need to have control once again takes precedence over him making the right decision for families.

Delayed decision making has led New York City and the surrounding suburbs to become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, with far more cases than many countries have. It is time for Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to end their narcissistic feud and start working together for the benefit of all of New York’s students and families.

We need leaders to put aside egos during this crisis and prioritize the well-being of students and their families. We need them to show leadership and to be on one accord for the health and safety of New York State and City. The consequence is unnecessary confusion and additional stress in a time when school communities are already traumatized.

Chalkbeat reports that the number of African American and Hispanic students offered admission to New York City’s elite high schools continued to be very low.

Admissions offers are based on the results of one test given on one day. No other factors are taken into account.

The statistics for next year’s freshman class show sharp disparities:

Only 4.5% of offers went to black students and 6.6% went to Hispanic students, virtually unchanged from last year. Citywide, black and Hispanic students make up almost 70% of enrollment.

Once again, a majority of offers went to white students (25.1%) and Asian students (54%).

The figures were a stark reminder that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to integrate the schools — which he’s dialed back this year — have failed to win support. In pushing for admission changes, the mayor unsuccessfully lobbied state lawmakers, who must approve any admissions changes to the city’s three largest specialized high schools, Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and Bronx Science.

At Stuyvesant, the most competitive of the specialized high schools, only 10 offers went to black students and 20 went to Latino students — out of 766 total offers. At Staten Island Technical, only one black student was offered admission, the same number as last year. The number of Hispanic students offered a seat at Stuy dropped to 20 from 33, and at Staten Island Tech, only eight Hispanic students received offers, from 11 the year before.

Mayor

It was a curious fact that when billionaire Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York City for 12 years, he had complete control of the public schools yet did not have any fresh ideas about how to improve them.

This should not be surprising, because he was never an educator. He hired another non-educator–Joel Klein–to be his chancellor. The two of them relied heavily on McKinsey and other consultants to guide them. They hired lots of MBAs to staff top  positions. They hoped to adopt a corporate style of organization, which made sense because they had low regard for actual educators.

He adopted every aspect of No Child Left Behind: high-stakes testing, closing schools, firing teachers and principals. He loved opening small schools, and when they failed, he reopened them with a new name so they could start over.

New York City was a faithful replication of NCLB, with punishments and rewards leading the way.

His main idea was to hand schools over to private charter operators, assuming that they would have better ideas about how to run schools than he did.

Some of the charter operators made a point of excluding low-performing students, which artificially boosted their test scores.

Some closed their enrollments in the fourth grade, so they would not have to take in new students after that point.

Some kicked out kids who were in need of special services.

Bloomberg’s favorite charter chain was Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy, which used all of these tricks to get astonishingly high test scores.

Bloomberg was obsessed with data and test scores. He even adopted Jeb Bush’s policy of letter grades for schools (which his successor Bill DeBlasio abolished).

The New York City charter industry practiced all the tricks of raising test scores by manipulating the student population.

In addition, the charter sector mastered the ability to organize mass rallies, flooding legislative halls with students and parents, pleading for more funding for new charters (which they could not attend since they were already enrolled in charters).

So pleased was Bloomberg with his charter policy that it is now the centerpiece of his national education agenda.

He doesn’t care about the nearly 90% of kids who are enrolled in public schools.

He believes in privatization.

If elected, he could retain Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education and maintain continuity with Trump’s education agenda.