Posts tagged "Albany"
August 15, 2011
When David Steiner announced his resignation as commissioner of the State Education Department, people close to him speculated that he was burnt out by trying to push his agenda through.
In an interview posted today with Rick Hess, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Steiner describes the thoughts that led to his decision.
“There is an enormous investment in the status quo, even from those you would think have an incentive for change,” Steiner told Hess. “… Sometimes, I would look out from the offices in Albany and ask where the allies were.”
Steiner’s complaint reflects divisions among state education officials documented by Michael Winerip in today’s New York Times. Some officials — such as Steiner’s successor, John King, and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch — favor speedy policy changes in line with federal priorities. Others are urging a more cautious pace.
Now returning to Hunter College’s School of Education, Steiner told Hess that his biggest accomplishment as commissioner was to change certification requirements for new teachers. And he also said he is not confident that plans to boost test quality will pay off. “It’s still an open question whether the next generation of assessments will really match our aspiration to encourage rigorous, deep thinking rather than the rote-like product from the testing regime,” Steiner said.
April 12, 2011
Under Albany’s new budget agreement, New York City’s school capital plan will regain roughly 12,000 seats — a boon to school officials who expected harsher cuts, but a number that does not meet earlier demand estimates.
In November of last year, city officials estimated that they would need to increase earlier seat construction projections in the face of overcrowding in schools. At the time, they planned for 50,074 new seats to be built by 2014, many of them in elementary and middle schools where demand had ballooned.
Then came a proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo to cap state spending on school construction aid. The plan would have significantly reduced the state’s contribution. To absorb the cut, city officials said they wouldn’t be able to build thousands of the seats they had planned on — a decision that would have affected schools in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Riverdale, Bronx, the most.
But now that Cuomo’s proposal has not been included in the budget agreement, the numbers have changed again. With $1.7 billion more to spend on school construction, the city can now afford to build about 26,500 seats, instead of the roughly 14,000 it had planned on.
City officials said that more information about which neighborhoods would benefit from the seat construction increase, and which would not feel any effect, would be released tomorrow. (more…)
Will New York win the second round of the Race to the Top? We don’t know yet, but add one more item to the list of ways the state’s application has gotten stronger: More teachers unions signed on to the plan this time around, and they added fewer caveats to their endorsements.
The percentage of unions signing on to the plan is now 70%, up from 61% in the last round. That includes New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, which, though it signed on last time, added caveats along with its “yes,” as Steven Brill reported in the New York Times Magazine. One major exception was a clause saying that unions could ignore any part of the plan that violated a union contract — even though, in the same memo, the unions promised to negotiate new contracts following the plan’s main ideas.
In the first round, some judges noted the caveats and the 61% figure as a reason they docked points from the state’s application. I couldn’t find any caveats in this round’s Memorandum of Understanding documents that unions and school districts had to turn in by Tuesday.
Still, among the dissenters are some pretty major unions, including the ones in Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers, and Albany. That’s three of the state’s “Big Five” school districts. A typical explanation why came from Buffalo’s union president earlier this month, in the Buffalo News:
A deal on legislation to make New York more competitive for Race to the Top dollars could finally come tonight.
Quick reminder: That would mean that the state’s cap on the number of charter schools allowed to open would rise to 460 from 200, and the teacher evaluation deal worked out by state officials and the union would become law. In return, New York might rake in $700 million in federal grants.
Then again, the deal might not come today at all. When asked what he meant by a note telling us that a deal could come “tonight,” Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo sent the following Blackberry reply:
Lol. It is conceivable that tonight could be midnight or 10 a.m. Tmrw.
Nobody’s talking about exact sticking points in negotiations, which are mainly between Mayor Bloomberg (who enjoys support in the state Senate) and the city teachers union (which enjoys support in the Assembly). But presumably they’re similar to the ones raised in the last week of back-door negotiations. For more background on what Race to the Top is, read this.
Liz Benjamin has more on the details of when the Assembly and the Senate will actually do this (late tonight and tomorrow, respectively)., at 6:30 pm
July 17, 2009
Listen to the segment in its entirety right here:
A fuming Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that state troopers should “drag” senators back to Albany — by force, if necessary – if they leave for the summer without voting on a bill to preserve his control of New York City’s schools.
During his weekly radio show, an incredulous Mr. Bloomberg – who seemed to question the intelligence of individual senators by name – said that those holding up the legislation “want to ruin the schools.”
“You wonder what goes through their heads,” he said, adding that the time for negotiations over mayoral control had passed. “It’s over. It’s stopped. You just can’t do that.”
Liz Benjamin has more:
“This is what he should do,” Bloomberg said of Paterson, noting that he has been “defending” the governor throughout the Senate stalemate. “Giving them the summer off is as we say in Gallic, ‘Meshugenah’”.
June 23, 2009
This is the memo Governor Paterson sent out listing the order of business for today’s special Senate session. He’s called the items “basically non-controversial.” Mayoral control is No. 3, and Paterson plans to introduce a copy of the bill the Assembly passed last week — the one that Mayor Bloomberg supports, without too many “tweaks.”
The session starts at 3 p.m., but of course, in order to vote, the senators have to know who’s in charge. And they still don’t.
(Postscript: Here’s why people don’t like the Wicks Law.)
The full agenda: (more…)
April 21, 2009
A retired education administrator, Carole F. Huxley, will take the helm of the state’s schools while officials search for a permanent leader, state school officials announced today.
The current commissioner, Richard Mills, retires at the end of June, leaving Huxley to steer some big projects, including allocating $2.5 billion in stimulus dollars sent by the federal government and manning an ongoing restructuring of the state’s Education Department. Huxley is coming out of a two-year retirement to take on the post. She served as the state’s deputy commissioner of cultural education for 24 years.
Merryl Tisch, who became education chancellor just last month, said that Huxley will be a “bridge” between Mills and the new commissioner. “Having Carole in place will ensure a seamless transition in leadership as the Board continues a wide and exhaustive search for the next Education Commissioner,” Tisch said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the State Education Department said they are accepting applications but have no time frame for when a permanent commissioner will be chosen. “I am eager to continue the work underway and to guide the progress ahead until new leadership is ready to take on the task,” Huxley said in a statement.
March 26, 2009
President Obama might have spoken too soon when he said the federal stimulus could prevent teacher layoffs in New York City. Depending on how state legislators choose to disburse the stimulus funds, the city could still be looking at a loss of 2,000 teachers, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told members of the City Council’s education committee this morning.
The city Department of Education believes it is entitled to 41 percent of the state’s $2.4 billion in education stimulus funds because it receives 41 percent of state funds overall, Klein said today at the council’s hearing on the DOE’s preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. This formula would give the DOE more than $500 million in stabilization funds, allowing it to avoid teacher layoffs.
But he said some lawmakers “are taking a different view,” instead suggesting that the city should receive a third of the state’s stimulus money for schools because it serves a third of the state’s public school students. Under this scenario, the DOE would receive just $360 million in stabilization funds, and about 2,000 teachers would have to be laid off. Klein, who was in Albany yesterday to lobby for the city schools, declined to identify the lawmakers to reporters after his testimony, saying that the negotiations are internal and ongoing.
Either way, cuts to schools’ non-teaching staff would be severe, Klein said, with a minimum of about 2,500 positions being lost in the first scenario and as many as 25 percent of school-based non-teaching staff positions being eliminated in the second. These positions include school aides, family workers, and other school personnel. (more…)
February 25, 2009
After suffering a beating from legislators who accused him of being rudely unresponsive to their concerns since taking office in 2003, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is taking the hint and reaching out.
In the last few weeks, Klein has walked Mark Weprin, a Queens lawmaker who is one of his sharpest critics on the Assembly’s education committee, through his Tweed Courthouse headquarters; sat down with a handful of other lawmakers; and made appointments with more, including the committee’s chairwoman, Catherine Nolan. He has also begun, through his staff, to send out prompt replies to lawmakers’ requests.
“We’re getting letters answered, we’re getting information that we’ve asked for,” a spokeswoman for Nolan, Kathleen Whynot, said. “We have a really good working relationship right now with some of the DOE staff, which has been a nice addition.”
Assembly members said the outreach began after they launched a series of five hearings on the subject of mayoral control — the governance structure that Klein strongly supports, but which several lawmakers have criticized as authoritarian. The state legislature handed the mayor control in 2002, but the law they wrote sunsets this year, and so many in Albany are rolling up their sleeves and hoping to revise it.
The hearings were a chance for citizens to give their thoughts on how they’d like the law changed (or not). They also became opportunities for the lawmakers to air their concerns. Several of the complaints had to do specifically with Klein and his staff, who lawmakers said frequently failed to respond even to basic questions and concerns. The complaints accelerated at a hearing held in Manhattan where Klein himself testified, sitting before a row of lawmakers who took turns rebuking him. (more…)
January 30, 2009
If 15,000 educators are fired this year, it will be the state’s fault, Mayor Bloomberg said today at a press conference where he unveiled a preliminary version of next year’s budget.
The city is staring down a $4 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, Bloomberg said, larger than what he anticipated just a few months ago. To close the budget gap, he’s proposed a plan that would require city agencies to eliminate nearly 20,000 positions. Most agencies would be able to cut positions simply by not hiring anyone new to replace workers who leave or retire. But the Department of Education would have to fire nearly 14,000 educators whose salaries are paid with state funds.
Those jobs could be protected if the state fills in the holes in its budget with federal stimulus money. The stimulus bill has not yet been finalized but it appears sure to include significant bailout funding for strapped school districts.
“Here’s a chance for Albany to pay for their fair share of education with somebody else’s money,” Bloomberg said.
But he said repeatedly that New Yorkers can’t simply assume that the state would direct enough of the stimulus money to the city. “If there’s ever a chance for us to put pressure on them, it’s now,” Bloomberg said. (more…)