September 25, 2008
“I’m trying to encourage more of our rank-and-file committee members to … show up at these hearings. We have 31 people on the committee and 3 members [are here],” State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said Tuesday at the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education’s Roundtable on the Educational Needs of English Language Learners (ELLs).
Nolan chairs the education committee and moderated the roundtable; she was joined by Assembly Members Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx and Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan.
Although overall graduation rates have increased statewide, they have declined among English Language Learners; the city’s four year graduation rate for ELLs was 23.5% in 2007. And 76% of New York State’s ELLs live in the city. Yet among those education committee members who did not attend the roundtable were Barbara Clark of Queens; Ruben Diaz, Jr., Aurelia Greene, and Michael Benedetto of the Bronx; and James Brennan, Karim Camara, and Alan Maisel of Brooklyn.
Assemblyman Camara’s office said he was not notified of the roundtable until the last minute. A spokesperson for Assemblyman Benedetto said that he had “other commitments” but could not be more specific, and Assemblyman Maisel also cited scheduling conflicts.
Maisel told me, “I spent 30 years of my life in the public schools as a teacher and a principal and this has been a problem for a long time…. Obviously there’s a lot more that needs to be done to improve [ELL graduation] rates.”
Other Assembly members have not gotten back to me since I contacted them yesterday.
Is low attendance at such events a pattern? It’s hard to tell, according to ReformNY, the blog of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law:
Committee attendance for meetings or hearings is virtually unknown because, even if recorded, it’s not readily accessible to the public. This is part of a larger problem of a general lack of transparency and accountability in the state legislature. As the process exists today, constituents are left in the dark about the working habits—or lack thereof—of their representatives. Like you and I were subject to in school, attendance should be taken and should be published on the web immediately.
More on the substance of the roundtable to come.