Archives for category: New York City

At ex-Governor Cuomo’s urging several years ago, the Legislature passed a law requiring the New York City Department of Education to provide free space to charter schools, and if no space was available, to pay their rent in private space. This requirement gave rise to the dreadful practice of “co-location,” in which a new charter school was crammed into an existing public school. The public school typically lost space for class size reduction, performances, special education services, and everything else that was not designated as a classroom. Meanwhile, the charter school got fresh new furniture and the best of everything. There was no collaboration between the schools under the same roof.

A few days ago, charter advocates were stunned when the Department of Education rejected three requests for co-location by the rich and politically powerful Success Academy charter chain. The Wall Street Journal immediately published an editorial blasting Mayor Eric Adams (whose campaign was bankrolled by charter billionaires) and who put charter advocates on the city’s school board. The decision was made by Chancellor David Banks and never reached the pro-charter city board.

For Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy, this was a surprising rejection. She is accustomed to cowing politicians (she has her own PAC) and getting her way.

Charter fans and the pro-charter media blame “the unions,” their usual enemy, but this isn’t correct. Parents and educators in these communities contacted their legislators and won their support. And the legislators and local officials killed the deal.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman stepped up to oppose the co-location in a school that he knew. He wrote a thread on Twitter (@JamaalBowmanNY) that began:

The @NYCSchools proposal to open and co-locate a new @SuccessCharters school in Building X113 is absolutely outrageous. The Panel for Education Policy has to vote against this plan, and I urge my colleagues and neighbors to get loud in opposition. Here’s why: 🧵

As a former educator & principal of a middle school in the same district as X113, I’ve seen up close how the educators there have done a tremendous job serving their students & families. Our community is incredibly grateful for the love they pour into their work every day.

I’ve also seen how charter schools can harm students, educators, and traditional public schools in our communities. We can’t let that happen at X113.

Big charter networks have a history of draining students & funds from traditional public schools, and violating the rights of their students. Last year, Success Academy had to pay out $2.4 million in a federal court settlement for pushing out students with disabilities.

The plan will decrease available space for the existing schools at Building X113 – both district-run public schools – and prevent them from lowering class sizes adequately. Class size matters. We’ve got to demand schools get the resources & physical space to meet student needs.

As many charter school expansions do, this destructive plan will also disproportionately harm students with disabilities. The plan does not include sufficient analysis of what intervention rooms are necessary to provide students with IEPs with the services they need.

Another surprise: the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post got the story right. The story recognized that the pressure to block the co-locations came not from the union but from parents. The Post has been a vocal supporter of charters, and Murdoch himself has contributed to them.

Elected officials helped kill a plan to open three new charter schools in existing public schools or other city-owned buildings — after hearing fierce opposition from local parents.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson — who last week spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new DREAM Charter High School in Mott Haven — suggested Tuesday that her hand was forced against the planned Success Academy in Williamsbridge.

“Parents of School District 11 spoke to us loud & clear. The deep rooted history of disinvestment at the Richard R. Green Campus must be recognized. So much progress has been made,” she tweeted.

A City Hall insider also cited “a lot of pushback” from community members opposed to the new charter schools.

“They vote and they hold folks accountable,” the source said.

Schools Chancellor David Banks’ unexpected withdrawal of the proposal came even though Mayor Eric Adams packed the board in charge of the decision with pro-charter allies.

The City of New York wants to cut the cost of health benefits to retirees. The unions support the cuts. This is hard to understand. Many retirees worked for decades at low salaries, assuaged by the guaranteed benefits after retirement. The United Federation of Teachers has taken a leading role in pushing members, active and retired, to switch from Medicare to a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan. Some retirees have fought back, knowing that not all doctors are part of a MA network and that they will have to get pre-approval for major care.

This article was written by veteran New York City Arthur Goldstein and published in the New York Daily News and reposted on Fred Klonsky’s blog.

I have a personal stake in this issue. I am on Medicare. My secondary is my wife’s union healthcare plan. She worked for 35 years as a public school teacher, principal, and administrator in New York City. In 2021 I had open heart surgery. Neither my referring cardiologist nor my cardiac surgeon are part of the city’s MA plan. The total bill for the surgery and a month in the hospital was over $800,000. Medicare paid almost everything and probably negotiated a lower price. The secondary picked up whatever Medicare didn’t pay. The surgery and rehab and six weeks of at-home care cost me $300. Seniors like me who face serious health issues stand to lose a lot if the city sand the union force them off Medicare and into a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan.

Arthur Goldstein wrote:

There was a joke in the movie “Sleeper” about how UFT President Albert Shanker started World War III. Our current union president, Michael Mulgrew, won’t be starting any wars. In fact, Mulgrew is now battling to have the city pay less toward our health care. What’s next? A strike for more work and less pay?

Union can be a powerful thing. It empowers working people. It raises pay for union workers, which tends to raise pay for non-union workers as well. Union enables weekends, child labor laws and workplace safety regulations. There are reasons why wealthy corporations fight us tooth and nail. Without union, they can hire Americans at minimum-wage with no benefits.

Mulgrew wants to move all city retirees backward from Medicare to a distinctly inferior Advantage plan. Far fewer doctors take Advantage plans. If Mulgrew gets his way, retirees will have a NY-based plan like we working teachers have. Retirees, unlike working teachers, often live elsewhere. If they do, they’d better not get sick.

As a working teacher, I’m good in New York, but outside this area I’ll find few to no doctors that take my plan. In fact, while trying to persuade me that Advantage would not be so bad, a union official told me he lived in Jersey and had a hard time finding doctors who accepted our plan.

Then there are the pre-approvals. When you’re over 65 and having a health crisis, you probably don’t want CVS/Aetna deciding between your health and their profit. Mulgrew says there will be a quick appeal process. But what if you lose? Is dying quickly now a benefit?

It’s tough being union when your leaders actively campaign for management. You’d think they’d campaign for improved health care at a lower cost to us. Instead, they’ve gotten the City Council to hold hearings on changing the law so the city could contribute less.

This all stems from a 2018 Municipal Labor Committee deal. Rather than insist the city pay us cost of living raises, the MLC geniuses agreed to fund them ourselves, via health care cuts. On Oct. 12, 2018, Mulgrew told the UFT Delegate Assembly his deal would result in no additional copays. Time has proven that untrue. He also promised no significant costs to union membership. Yet any couple wanting to keep traditional Medicare, under Mulgrew’s plan, will pay almost $5,000 a year.

How can we trust our leaders when they clearly don’t know what they’re doing? Are they simply incompetent, or outright lying?

Rank and file had no voice in the MLC deal that was done behind closed doors. It seems the backroom dealing continues. Weeks ago, the Council was “lukewarm” about revising 12-126, which sets a minimum the city must meet for our health care. Now, they’ve done a rather sudden and spectacular turnaround.

What has changed? I can’t help but suspect my union leadership, along with others, quietly reached out. Maybe those union contributions would slow for Council members who voted to uphold health care contributions. After all, it isn’t us, but rather leadership holding union purse strings. And will Council members get funding from Mayor Adams for their pet community projects if they don’t vote his way?

Mulgrew wrote us an email saying we would have to pay $1,200 a year if we didn’t change the law and screw our retired brothers and sisters. This is a classic zero-sum game. America has never achieved universal health care because that’s how it’s presented. If we give those people health care, it will damage yours. Frequently based on racism, Americans accept these ideas and thus reject proposals that would improve things for all of us.

A fundamental notion of union is that a rising tide raises all boats. Rather than embrace that notion, Mulgrew threatened us. If we didn’t support diminished health care for retirees, our own health care would be diminished. By pitting one union faction against another, Mulgrew and other union leaders took a fundamentally anti-union position.

Union ought not to be in the business of abbreviating health care for its members. Union ought to be in the business of not only expanding our care, but also ensuring the rest of our community enjoys the same benefits we have. That’s why it’s sorely disappointing that Mulgrew opposes the New York Health Act, which would provide health care for all New Yorkers. Rather than work out differences with its sponsors, UFT takes shortcuts. In doing so, we hurt the most vulnerable of my union brothers and sisters.

First they came for the retirees. And if you don’t think they’re coming for current employees next, I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

The Hasidic bloc of voters wields unusual political power in New York City and New York state, because the community tends to vote as a bloc. Rare is the elected official willing to challenge their large stream of public funding for their orthodox religious private schools. The New York Times has written previously about the significant flow of public money to their private schools (more than $1 billion over the past four years), and about the abysmal performance of students in those schools on the rare occasion when they take state tests. Many such schools do not teach in English and do not teach secular subjects, in blatant violation of state law.

The New York Times recently wrote in detail about the misuse of public money collected for special education services in Hasidic schools.

Less than a decade ago, New York City drastically changed the way it provided special education to thousands of children with disabilities.

State law requires cities to deliver those services to students in private schools, even if the government has to pay outside companies to do it. But for years, when parents asked, New York City officials resisted and called many of the requests unnecessary.

In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio changed course. Responding to complaints, especially from Orthodox Jewish organizations, he ordered the city to start fast-tracking approvals.

The policy has made it easier for some children with disabilities to get specialized instruction, therapy and counseling. But in Orthodox Jewish religious schools, particularly in parts of the Hasidic community, the shift has also led to a windfall of government money for services that are sometimes not needed, or even provided, an examination by The New York Times has found.

In 2014, New York made it easier for private school students to receive city-funded special education. More than half of legal requests for aid last school year (as of March 14) came from areas with large Hasidic and Orthodox populations.

Dozens of schools in the Orthodox community have pushed parents to get their children diagnosed with disabilities, records and interviews show. At least two schools have sent out mass emails urging families to apply for aid. A third school provided parents with a sample prescription to give their children’s doctors, saying a diagnosis would bring more resources for the school.

Today, at Hasidic and Orthodox schools, which are called yeshivas, higher percentages of students are classified as needing special education than at other public and private schools in New York City, a Times analysis of government data found.

In the fervently religious Hasidic community, where Yiddish is the dominant language, schools focus on teaching Jewish law and prayer, while often providing little secular education in English. The Times found that at 25 of the city’s approximately 160 Hasidic yeshivas, more than half of the students are classified as needing special education. Records show the classifications are routinely justified by citing the students’ struggles with English.

Across all city schools, one in five students is classified as having a disability. There is little research into whether disabilities occur more frequently in the Hasidic community than in others.

With money more easily available, entrepreneurs with few qualifications have made millions providing services in yeshivas. More than two dozen different companies have opened in the past eight years, records show. Some of them now bill more than $200 an hour per student — five times the government’s standard rate — for what is essentially tutoring.

Some companies have been allowed to collect more than $100,000 a year for providing part-time tutoring services to a single student with mild learning challenges, The Times found.

At least 17 companies have employed people with questionable credentials to provide services, often paying them a fraction of the hourly rate that the firms collect from the city. While some companies provide quality services, others rely on programs that quickly churn out graduates with master’s degrees, some of whom are as young as 18.

“There are a lot of kids in the ultra-Orthodox community who have disabilities. The problem is that the community is not serving the students,” said Elana Sigall, a former top city special education official, who now visits yeshivas as a consultant. “They’re accessing tremendous amounts of city resources, but they’re not actually providing special education.”

One of the firms that opened soon after Mr. de Blasio changed the rules, Yes I Can Services, founded by a husband and wife who had scant education experience, now collects tens of millions of dollars a year.

By law, families who want the government to pay a private company to provide services must make their case against the city in a legal proceeding overseen by an impartial hearing officer. But as requests have increased, officials say they have stopped policing them. Families filed nearly 18,000 requests last year — with more than half coming from neighborhoods with large Hasidic and Orthodox populations — but officials waved through most of them.

In all, more than $350 million a year now goes to private companies that provide services in Hasidic and Orthodox schools, The Times found…

“Cases involving nonpublic schools have ballooned so wildly that they have engulfed and hobbled the entire system,” said John Farago, a longtime hearing officer who has overseen thousands of requests. “It’s affected the access to justice of all, and swamped the cases of children who attend public schools.”

The New York City Department of Education wants students to do their own writing, not to submit essays written by a computer program.

Michael Elen-Rooney wrote in Chalkbeat:

New York City students and teachers can no longer access ChatGPT — the new artificial intelligence-powered chatbot that generates stunningly cogent and lifelike writing — on education department devices or internet networks, agency officials confirmed Tuesday.

The education department blocked access to the program, citing “negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content,” a spokesperson said. The move from the nation’s largest school system could have ripple effects as districts and schools across the country grapple with how to respond to the arrival of the dynamic new technology.

The chatbot’s ability to churn out pitch perfect essay responses to prompts spanning a wide range of subjects has sparked fears among some schools and educators that their writing assignments could soon become obsolete — and that the program could encourage cheating and plagiarism.

“Due to concerns about negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content, access to ChatGPT is restricted on New York City Public Schools’ networks and devices,” said education department spokesperson Jenna Lyle. “While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success….”

The education department’s ban will only cut off access to the chatbot in some settings. Students can still get on the site on non-education department devices or internet networks.

Hmmm. So students could download essays from ChatGPT at home and copy it.

The single most notable achievement of Mayor Bill DeBlaio’s eight years as Mayor of New York City was the creation of a free, universal pre-k program.

Marina Toure of Politico reports that new Mayor Eric Adams is cancelling the expansion of the program to include all three-year-olds.

The immensely popular universal prekindergarten program was the brainchild of former Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. Three years later, he began expanding it to 3-year-olds. The pioneering education policy remains the single biggest achievement from de Blasio’s two terms in office. It was so successful that it became a national model for other major cities like Seattle and Washington.

Six years ago, New York City hosted leaders from a dozen cities across the U.S. to share lessons learned from its free early childhood education program for over 70,000 4-year-olds.

And yet, in a wildly expensive city where monthly child care costs top $3,500, a staggering 30 percent of free pre-K and “3K” seats were unfilled as of November.

Mayor Eric Adams, who took office in January, is canceling de Blasio’s plan for universal 3K, citing mismanagement of the program that led to the empty seats and budget cuts. Enrollment declines caused by the Covid-19 pandemic combined with a lack of education and outreach led to a striking imbalance where the lowest-income neighborhoods had the greatest number of empty seats and the wealthiest ones had long wait lists.

The result means children whose families are struggling the most will be deprived of a lifeline — a chance at the kind of free, quality education that’s been shown to improve performance in high school mathematics. It could also be a deterrent to other cities looking to replicate New York’s model after President Joe Biden repeatedly failed to get funding for early childhood education in spending bills.

Adams blames DeBlasio for the program’s shortcomings.

Leonie Haimson chimed in on the New York City parents’ blog to say that the program was “horribly implemented.” (Note: CBO=Community Based Organization.)

She wrote:

De Blasio’s preK program was horribly implemented and incredibly wasteful. Under Josh Wallach, the DOE insisted on putting as many kids as possible into elementary schools, including those that were already overcrowded and had waitlists for Kindergarten, contributing to worse overcrowding for about 236,000 students.

Meanwhile CBOs that had been in the preK program for years were starved for students, putting many of them at risk of closing down. There were MANY empty seats in CBOs, who directors begged for more students, to no avail. – despite the fact that their quality is rated more highly in many respects than the preKs in elementary school and provide services till 5 or 6 PM.

The Politico article mentions this [the botched implementation] in passing: “Finally, an application process controlled by the DOE — as opposed to parents being able to enroll their children directly with community providers — has led to access issues.” The CBOs had countless meetings with Wallach where he stubbornly refused to fix these problems

DOE also spent hundreds of millions of dollars in building stand-alone preK centers that stood half empty. The spending included renovating a leased space that previously housed a Dunkin Donuts shop in the basement of a parking garage in Brooklyn, costing six million dollars to create a preK classroom with a capacity of only 18 students, at a cost of $333,000 per student.

I wrote about this in our preK report ; press release here: https://classsizematters.org/the-impact-of-prek-on-school-overcrowding-in-nyc-lack-of-planning-lack-of-space/;

Our full report here. https://3zn338.a2cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/PreK-report-12.17.18-final-final.pdf

Here is an excerpt: “In recent testimony before the New York City Council, Lisa Caswell, a senior policy analyst with
the Day Care Council of New York, a federation of 91 non-profits which run child care programs,
addressed the fact that DOE had diverted students not only from DOE pre-K centers but also
from CBO centers to public schools. She testified that in previous years, the DOE had been
engaged in the “recruitment of children directly from our [CBO] settings to fill UPK seats,” which
added to public school pre-K enrollment while leaving seats empty in CBOs, causing these
centers loss of students.”

This is an example of the danger of mayoral control. The mayor makes decisions that promote his standing in the polls. A program run by professionals would have been better implemented.

David Brooks is a regular commentator on PBS Newshour every Friday night. He is typically banal but inoffensive. This past Friday, he was both banal and offensive.

Judy Woodruff asked him and his colleague Jonathan Capehart to choose people who deserve something nice or a piece of coal in their Christmas stocking. Brooks said he would give the President’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain a model train set for his stocking, but he would give ”the teachers’ unions” a piece of coal because they bear a large share of the blame for the “long, overly overly long” school closures that affected “student attainment” (he meant test scores, not attainment) and that have impaired the “lifelong prospects of a generation of young people,” widened inequality, and impaired social mobility (view here, at 10:51 minutes in or the last segment of the hour). He didn’t name any other villains, just the unions.

This is wrong on many counts.

The teachers’ unions didn’t cause the closures. The pandemic did.

Many teachers were fearful for their lives. Some were immunocompromised or lived with family members who were vulnerable. They reasonably wanted reassurance that schools would reopen safely, and that’s what the AFT demanded in a series of policy documents—starting in April 2020–calling for a safe reopening. By that, the union meant regular testing and sanitizing, masking, social distancing to the extent possible, and ventilation in classrooms. The Trump administration wanted the schools open with no money for safety measures.

Districts went online not because the unions told them to but because the CDC recommended it, and normal concern for the safety of staff and students prevailed.

No one knew at the time what the right course of action was, so school boards and superintendents erred on the side of caution, to protect the lives of staff and students. Was this unreasonable? As a grandmother, I don’t think so.

Stay open and take chances or close the school and shift to virtual learning? It was a tough decision, and it was not made by the teachers’ unions.

Success Academy in New York City is a high-profile charter chain. Its teachers are not unionized. Its CEO Eva Moskowitz decided to close the schools and go virtual in mid-March 2020. In January 2021, Moskowitz decided to close the schools for the year, go virtual, and shorten the calendar by a month. Other non-union charter schools followed SA’s lead.

During the shutdowns, teachers taught virtually, and some double-tasked by teaching some students online and some in their classes.

The demands and uncertainties of the pandemic, coupled with the absurd attacks on teachers for teaching honestly about U.S. history and the outlandish claims that teachers were”grooming” their students for sexual deviance, were profoundly demoralizing. Many teachers left the profession. The number of new entrants has shrunk. Not a word of sympathy or concern from David Brooks.

As for his assertion that the lives of an entire generation have been blighted because of school closings, that is simply hysterical speculation. Very few students liked virtual learning, nor did teachers. But it was necessary for a time. There is no reason to believe that students were irreparably harmed. They are resilient and will bounce back if their teachers get the resources they need and lower class sizes.

It would be far better to hear Brooks advocate on behalf of teachers on national television rather than trot out the tired rightwing cliche about “evil” teachers unions.

Teachers need support, not disrespect. They have had a much more difficult three years than David Brooks.

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For David Brooks’ benefit, here is the AFT reopening plan issued in April 2020.

https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/media/2020/covid19_reopen-america-schools.pdf

This post was also written for Judy Woodruff, so that she won’t be blindsided the next time David or any other guest spouts anti-union, anti-teacher propaganda.

Gary Rubinstein is a mathematics teacher but also a close observer of boasting about miracle schools. He watches the charter sector closely and has exposed many hoaxes. He was first to report that Tennessee’s highly praised Achievement School District never achieved any of its goals. Here, he reviews the attrition rate at Success Academy, which has attained high test scores by curating its students. Success Academy has received national acclaim for its “miraculous” scores. Rubenstein explains what is behind the curtain.

Rubenstein writes:

Success Academy is the largest charter network in New York City. With 40 schools and 20,000 students, Success Academy is known for its high 3-8 standardized test scores and their rigid rules. Success Academy also celebrates the annual 100% college acceptance rate among its graduates.

Success Academy is a K-12 program and, until recently, the only time that you could enter the school was either in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade. The size of the first graduating cohort in 2018 was 16 students. The answer to the natural question of how many students started that cohort originally was 73 which meant that approximately 25% of the students who started with Success Academy eventually graduated from there. I say ‘approximately’ because it isn’t fully accurate to just divide 16/73=22% and conclude that 78% of the cohort left the school for one reason or another. Not counted in the 16 is the students who were still in the school but had been left back one or more years. It seems that about 6 more of the students from that cohort graduated a year later so maybe the true number is 22/73=30% is more accurate. But there’s another factor that, until now, has been impossible to factor in. Some of those 22 students are students who transferred into the school after the first year so you would have to subtract those students from the 22 to get the actual attrition rate. The only way to get that kind of data is to do a FOIL request which is exactly what I did.

Success Academy had 315 Kindergarteners in 2008. The graduating class of 2021 had 110 students. Without this new data, it would seem that their persistence rate is about 35%. But this new data I received shows that only 69 of the graduating class had started with the school as kindergarteners. So a more accurate estimate is 69/315=22% which is a little lower than the 25% I had originally estimated.

It is also interesting that 41/110=37% of the graduating class were from the backfills even though the backfills were from a pool of about 100 students. So about 41% of the backfills graduated vs 22% of the original cohort. A reason for this discrepancy could be explained by the way that Success Academy manipulates their backfill students to guarantee that the backfilled students are ‘better’ than the students they replaced. As I reported previously, lower performing students applying to be backfill students are often told that they have to repeat the grade they just graduated from which surely discourages some of them from accepting their backfill offer while higher performing students are not required to repeat the grade.

Please open the link and read the post.

The effects of the pandemic show themselves in every survey of post-pandemic behavior, among students and adults. The pandemic isn’t over but the isolation and anxiety it produced had long-lasting effects.

Dorothy Siegel, Elise Cappella and Kristie Patten describe what they call “a better way” to help students with disabilities.

On December 1, 2022, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks announced a path forward for transforming and rebuilding trust in the city’s programs serving students with disabilities. This plan includes the sustaining and scaling of four successful and innovative programs serving students with disabilities across the city, the creation of a new paid internship program for high school students in Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapy for students with IEPs, as well as the empowerment of families and community through a new advisory council that will make bold recommendations on reimagining special education in the New York City Public Schools.

This announcement demonstrates the city’s commitment to address the systemic and historic marginalization of students with IEPs, a marginalization that has disproportionately impacted the city’s Black and Brown students with IEPs.

A recent Chalkbeat article, “Public schools are NYC’s main youth mental health system. Where kids land often depends on what their parents can pay,” exposed to public view the growing number of New York City students with serious mental healthissues and behavioral problems that get in the way of their education. Because New York State has inadequately funded mental health services, the onus falls on local school districts, which don’t have the option to turn students away. “The entire state of New York has shifted the burden of mental health to the school districts,” said a social worker quoted in the article.

Under federal law, school districts must provide all students with disabilities, including those with mental health and behavioral problems, a “free and appropriate public education.” And many such students in New York City do receive a high-quality education with therapeutic supports in the public schools.

But serious inequities abound. As Chalkbeat noted, in the New York City public schools,

Black boys get classified with emotional disabilities at a far higher rate than other kids. In the 2020-2021 school year . . . Black students made up less than a quarter of students overall, yet they accounted for nearly half of students classified as having an emotional disability. White students, who made up 15% of all students in New York City public schools, accounted for just 8% of emotional disability classifications.”

As we can see, Black students, especially boys, are overwhelmingly overrepresented in the emotional disability classification. This matters because students with this classification have much worse outcomes than other students. As per Chalkbeat, in 2020-21 only 12% of students classified with an emotional disability received a Regents diploma in four years, compared to 73% of all New York City students.

For decades, New York City students who are classified with an emotional disability have found themselves on a path to highly segregated classrooms and schools, and, ultimately, limited life options. Neighborhood schools are not able to meet the needs of such challenging students, especially in inclusive settings. A recent report by NYU Research Alliance for NYC Schoolsstated that in 2016-17 only 33% of students with an emotional disability were served in an inclusive setting, compared to 66% of students with all disabilities. These young people often drop out and may fall into the juvenile justice system.

In the past few years, an increasing number of students with mental health and behavioral problems, no doubt exacerbated by two years of Covid, are showing up at the schoolhouse door. Of these, some find their way to private schools whose tuitions arepaid by the public school system – close to $1 billion in the last school year alone for students with autism, learning disabilities or mental health/behavioral issues.

Predictably, the overwhelming majority of these private school students are White and hail from more advantaged backgrounds. According to the Chalkbeat analysis, most students who are able to attend private schools on the public dime “live in just four of the richest and whitest districts,” including the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side of Manhattan and Park Slope in Brooklyn. As noted above, racially disparate classification is onemajor inequity in the system. But another is family wealth.

Clearly, New York State can and must do more, especially the restoration and rebuilding of mental health services for children and adolescents with mental health and behavioral issues.

But there is much that the New York City public school system can do as well, in particular at the beginning of a child’s educational journey. Students at risk of being classified with an emotional disability can and should be diverted from that drop-out/juvenile justice path onto a much better life path, as early as possible.

There IS a better way: The Path Program.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE), in close collaboration with researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development (NYU), have developed a better way to educate these students: the Path program, which is based on the highly successful ASD Nest Program for autistic students. Path, like Nest, is a comprehensive, cohesive, collaborative, fully inclusive program that serves students at risk of an emotional disability (ED) classification. Path redirects these students onto a more hopeful path.

ASD Nest Program

The ASD Nest Program has developed over the past twenty years as a collaboration between the DoE and NYU. Launched in 2003, the DoE’s ASD Nest Program works with autisticstudents who are capable of doing grade-level academic work. The goal is to help these students develop competence in their academic, social and behavioral functioning, in order to realize their full, unique potential as independent and fulfilled adults.

In the 2022-23 school year, 69 New York City public schools are educating approximately 1,700 ASD students in 350+ integrated co-taught K-12 classrooms. The vast majority of Nest students stay in the program through twelfth grade, where 95% of Nest high schoolers graduate with a Regents diploma.

Path Program:

The Path program promotes the inclusion of students with emotional disabilities within community schools and strives to disrupt the historical segregation of Black and brown children in restrictive special education settings. The program employs many of the same evidence-based principles, practices, and structures developed for the Nest program, with the addition ofevidence-based trauma-informed and social-emotional learning strategies known to work well for students with this classification. Path classes are small co-taught integrated classes, with no more than four students classified with ED in each class, alongside twelve to twenty typically developing peers. Teachers provide the general education curriculum, using specialized supports and a variety of co-teaching models. With related services integrated into the day, Path classrooms incorporate supports typically provided by outside therapists to foster a safe environment in which Path students can comfortably interact with peers. Whole-class social, sensory, behavioral and academic strategies form a foundational level of support, consistent across all settings.

All school staff – teachers, therapists and administrators — receive high-quality pre- and in-service training and on-site support. Path staff meet weekly as a team to create comprehensive support plans for each student, which involve classroom and individual supports and family partnership.

The DoE piloted the model in one District 9 school in 2021-22 with a grant through the Fund for Public Schools. In 2022-23, the DoE opened four Path classrooms in three District 9 neighborhood schools: three kindergartens and one first grade class. Three more kindergarten classes will open this year in three other districts in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, with the goal to eventually have Path programs in most NYC neighborhoods.

Path and Nest are two examples of the DoE’s “specialized programs,” differentiated program models for different disability categories. So far, the DoE has created specialized programs for students with autism (Nest and Horizon), emotional disabilities (Path), and intellectual disabilities (ACES). Importantly, all specialized programs – and their students — are fully integrated into their neighborhood school communities.

Over time, the ASD Nest Program has proven to be the program of choice for many, if not most, parents of autistic students, even those with the means to go to private school. The main admission requirement for Nest is an autism classification.

Similarly, Path is intended to level the playing field for Black and Brown students at risk of an emotional disability who don’t come from advantaged backgrounds. It is commendable that the DOE has chosen to invest in this research-based model – in some of the poorest community school districts in the city – to create inclusive pathways to school and life success.

With the chancellor’s commitment to the expansion of the ASD Nest and Path programs, the future looks much brighter for New York City’s students with significant disabilities.

Dorothy Siegel, Co-founder, ASD Nest Program

Elise Cappella, Professor of Applied Psychology, PI of NYU Path Program, NYU Steinhardt School

Kristie Patten, Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy,PI of NYU ASD Nest Support Project, Co-Investigator of NYU Path Program, NYU Steinhardt School

The race for governor in New York State should not be close but it is. Governor Kathy Hochul has been a responsible governor who tries to improve the lives of New Yorkers.

Her opponent Lee Zeldin is a lackey for Trump. He has supported everything Trump advocated. hHecsupports charters and vouchers. He opposes gun control.

The NYC Kids PAC outlined the differences between them:

Dear all:

An important election is happening right now for Governor and other statewide and local races. Early voting is being held today and Sunday, and then election day is Tuesday. You can check out your ballot and your voting sites here.

NYC Kids PAC strongly urges you to vote for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has fully funded the CFE decision that is sending another $1.3 billion to NYC public schools, signed the class size bill that will lead to smaller class size caps phased in starting next fall, and supports strong gun control measures, including banning guns from schools.

In contrast, her opponent, Lee Zeldin, is an extremist who is a proponent of school privatization, announced his education platform outside of a Success charter school, and supports voucher-like “tax credits” to pay for tuition to private schools. He even opposes “red flag” laws to remove weapons from individuals deemed to be a threat and is against the ban against carrying guns in schools — all of which would make our children less safe.

So please vote for Kathy Hochul, if you haven’t already; the choice between her and Zeldin is crystal clear.

See you at the polls,

NYC Kids PAC

As a secular Jew, I find it hard to write about the Hasidic community at a time of rising anti-Semitism. But the way they have organized their political power in New York to protect their religious schools is a cautionary tale. They have amassed political power by voting as a bloc. They have used that political clout to gain huge amounts of public money to fund schools that don’t teach English and don’t teach most secular subjects, even though state law requires them to offer an education that is equivalent to a secular school. They ignore the law because they have friends in high places.

The New York Times told the story on Sunday. The Hasidic community is about 200,000, or 1% of the state’s population. Their first priority is to protect their schools. State law says that religious schools, which receive public funding for required services, like transportation and special education, must offer education equivalent to public schools. Recently a state court fined one of thr state’s largest yeshivas $8 million for misusing public funds. The Times previously reported that the 100 of the state’s yeshivas have received more than $1 billion in public funds in the past four years. Most don’t take the state tests but when some did recently, not one student passed the tests. Why? Because they are taught in Yiddish or Hebrew, and many never study history, science or other secular subjects.

The secret of their power was the relationships they cultivated with politicians. Andrew Yang sought their support when he ran for NYC mayor but it was too late: they had already pledged their loyalty to Eric Adams, who won. To win their support means hands off their schools but keep the money flowing. On election night, a Hasidic leader was on the dais with Eric Adams. They previously forged close relationships with Rudy Guiliani and other mayors and governors.

As the Times reported:

During last year’s mayoral primary in New York City, Andrew Yang, then a leading Democratic candidate, made a calculated investment: If he could make meaningful inroads into the Hasidic Jewish community, its bloc of votes could help carry him to victory.

He hired a Hasidic Democratic leader in Brooklyn as his Jewish outreach director. He publicly pledged not to interfere with Hasidic Jewish religious schools, which were being investigated over whether they were providing a basic education. Still, some were not persuaded.

“I told him he might be a very nice person, but I don’t know him,” said Rabbi Moishe Indig, a leader of the Satmar Hasidic group in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I said we have a good history with someone who is here for years; we know that he cares for the community. It’s not nice to take an old friend and throw him under the bus.”

That old friend was Eric Adams, then the Brooklyn borough president, who won the primary and became mayor in January. Mr. Adams, like Mr. Yang, has been supportive of the Jewish schools’ independence, saying on the eve of his inauguration that they generally served as the basis for a “well-rounded quality education.”

Particularly disgusting is the Orthodox takeover of school boards in communities in Rockkand County and in New Jersey where their own children do not attend the public schools. The school boards use their power to cut school budgets and to direct public funds to their yeshivas. The children in public schools in these districts suffer the cuts and lack of voice.

Politicians offer services beyond protection of the religious schools.

As mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg once drew more than 10,000 members of the Hasidic community to a rally where they filled six blocks of bleachers. In 2004, he helped bring water from the New York City drinking supply to Kiryas Joel, a village 50 miles outside the city — a project still ongoing.

Mr. de Blasio worked with Orthodox leaders to ease regulations of a circumcision ritual, metzitzah b’peh, that led to numerous babies becoming infected with herpes.

Mr. de Blasio also faced scrutiny in 2019 for acting too slowly to declare a public health emergency in Orthodox communities in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, over a measles outbreak and for not requiring vaccination sooner. The community also resisted vaccination requirements during the coronavirus pandemic, and cases were often higher in their neighborhoods.

In this year’s governor’s race, Mr. Zeldin is enthusiastically courting Hasidic leaders,many of whom are concerned over new state rules requiring private schools to prove they are teaching English and math. Mr. Zeldin, who is Jewish, has defended the schools in his visits to Hasidic areas in Brooklyn and Rockland County, and frequently mentions that his mother once taught at a yeshiva, although it is unclear if it was a Hasidic school.

Many Democratic leaders are also hesitant to criticize yeshivas, or call for greater oversight of them, including Governor Hochul, who said in response to The Times’s investigation that regulating the schools was not her responsibilit

Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent Times article did not mention one of the leading critics of the yeshivas, Naftuli Moster, who organized a group of yeshiva graduates to call attention to the failure of the yeshivas to provide a secular education. Moster was born to a Hasidic family of 17 children. He attended college and then earned a degree in social work. He was keenly aware of the limitations of his yeshiva education. He founded Young Advocates for Fair Education(Yaffed), an advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that students at Hasidic yeshivas in New York City be given a secular education.