Posts tagged "state legislature"
May 15, 2013
It was already slim odds that education would get much action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature this session after they increased school aid, funded several education grants, and amended the teacher evaluation law during budget negotiations in March.
But in the aftermath of a federal corruption dragnet that has brought down several lawmakers, any glimmer of hope that education could get some attention seems to have vanished.
“With this legislative session, with all the corruption, I would be surprised if anything gets passed,” said Mona Davids, who runs the New York City Parents Union, a parent advocacy group. State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, of Brooklyn, sponsored a bill to end mayoral control that Davids lobbied for. The bill’s long odds grew even longer after Montgomery’s named surfaced last week as one of seven lawmakers recorded in the home of former Senator Shirley Huntley, who was cooperating with investigators to reduce a prison sentence. Huntley was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for embezzling funds from a charity she ran.
Davids said she believed Montgomery, who has not been charged, has done nothing wrong. Still, she said she doubted the bill could proceed before the session ends on June 30. “It’s May, but it’s over,” Davids said. (more…)
June 22, 2012
All eyes might have been on the teacher evaluation shield bill this week, but that wasn’t the only education issue lawmakers tackled this spring. A host of other education bills traveled through both houses of the legislature in recent months, with varying success. Here’s a brief rundown of those bills and how they fared:
Senate, Assembly pave way for universal kindergarten in New York City
In New York City, more than 3,000 children — or 4 percent — of all five-year-olds are not enrolled in kindergarten. Expanding that service has become a pet issue for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other council members, but it first required a change to state law that would allow the city to revise age regulations. Currently, the city requires only that six-year-olds attend school.
The bill passed easily through the Assembly earlier this month, 141-1, and passed in the Senate Thursday just after 9 p.m. The passage doesn’t automatically enact universal kindergarten, however. To do that, city officials will have to agree to new age regulations. Mayor Bloomberg initially raised questions about the expansion’s cost — he estimated the additional enrollment could run $30 million a year — but the city Department of Education has since come out in support of the legislation.
The bill still needs a final signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in order to become a law. “We are reviewing the legislation,” said a Cuomo spokesman. (more…)
May 14, 2009
Mayor Bloomberg’s school leadership has been characterized by secrecy, defiance of the law, and a heavy hand in school discipline, the New York Civil Liberties Union declared today in a report titled “The Price of Power.”
The report details NYCLU’s experiences with the Bloomberg-controlled Department of Education stalling on responding to Freedom of Information Law requests, refusing to comply with student safety-related laws passed by the City Council, and refusing to provide basic data about military recruitment that the organization said the U.S. Armed Forces provided freely.
The report deliberately avoids some of the major questions of the debate about mayoral control of the city’s schools, including whether the mayor should appoint the chancellor and whether the mayor should control the number of seats on the citywide school board. But it does offer recommendations on the law, which is set to sunset June 30 if it’s not renewed or revised.
The recommendations include making the public school system a city, rather than state, agency, which would bring it under a slate of good governance regulations about public notification of policy changes; opening the school system to audits by the city comptroller and public advocate; and requiring that schools contracts get publicly vetted.
Transforming the Department of Education into a city agency would also allow the City Council to make laws about the public schools that the DOE would be accountable for implementing. Like others recommending changes to mayoral control, NYCLU is saying that the city’s Independent Budget Office should get the right to receive and review DOE data, but the group adds the idea that the department needs an “inspector general” who would investigate systemic wrongdoing. (more…)
January 28, 2009
How much do lawmakers in Albany dislike Joel Klein? The chancellor fielded a flurry of criticisms today after his testimony before a joint session of the legislature. And only some of the criticisms had anything to do with the subject of the day, budget cuts. The rest politely slammed Klein on the one Albany fight where he’ll really need their help: mayoral control of the public schools.
Klein desperately wants to preserve control as it is, but many lawmakers said they aren’t happy with the law or with how he’s led as chancellor. The criticism was so persistent that, at one point, Klein plead with lawmakers to keep their opinion of him out of their thoughts on mayoral control. “Whatever you think about me personally,” he said, “you need the stability of that kind of leadership to transform education.”
Assemblyman Herman Farrell of Manhattan dedicated all of his questions for Klein to the mayoral control subject. “We’ve had what I call a silencing of the lambs,” he said. “I don’t know who speaks for the parents, who speaks on behalf of the parents.” Farrell then proposed a way to bring debate back to the running of the schools: He wants to create a second position called “sub-chancellor” or “uber-chancellor” — someone to take on the regular chancellor.
Assemblyman William Colton, who represents southern Brooklyn, made a similar complaint: “There seems to be a feeling among parents that they don’t have the input or the ability to be listened to,” he said.
Other lawmakers criticized Klein’s policies. (more…)
August 12, 2008
Last Friday, the New York State Senate approved a 4% annual cap on school property tax increases for local school districts, excluding the state’s largest cities. To override the cap would require the vote of 55 percent of voters in a district. The New York Times reports that the bill is unlikely to pass in the State Assembly, where it is opposed by Speaker Sheldon Silver. The tax cap, proposed by the governor, is intended to provide relief to homeowners.
I grew up in Massachusetts under Proposition 2 1/2, a tax cap similar to that proposed for New York. In Lenox, MA, my hometown, when a tax override was considered to build a new school for our town’s increasing enrollment, voter turnout to town meetings swelled, Planning Board, School Committee, and Board of Selectmen positions were fiercely contested, and rhetoric in the papers and at meetings often turned nasty. Dollars for schools were painted as dollars taken away from the elderly. Our neighbors across the street even constructed a sculpture in their front yard depicting the schools going into the garbage! In the end, we got the new school, but the time and energy lost to fighting can never be recovered.
But don’t just take my word for it. Directors of school board associations in Massachusetts and California penned warnings to the New York State Legislature. Glen Koocher of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, listed five ways the tax cap hurt schools, then concluded,
A bad public policy, once implemented, becomes entrenched and is difficult to rescind. If saving taxpayers money now is your priority, tax caps may be for you. But if maintaining a socially responsible, sound public education policy is important, New York policy makers would be well-advised to be extremely cautious as they consider a tax cap. A poorly crafted proposal will sacrifice the future for many in exchange for short-term benefits for some.
To see an example of Prop. 2 1/2 in action today, read about a proposed override in Newton, MA – and the costs to the schools when the override failed: in May, the town eliminated 79 positions, including all elementary school social workers.