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More Testing for Schools
August 31st, 2011

In the wake of the closing of a Bronx schools contaminated with a toxic chemical, two advocacy groups and eight members of the City Council have written to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott demanding immediate testing of city school on leased property and a public disclosure of he results.

Earlier this summer, the Department of Education shut Bronx New School, which had operated in a leased former industrial site in Bedford Park. Walcott has admitted the department knew of the contamination since January but did not tell parents until eight months later. The school had apparently never been tested before although students attended classes there for two decades.

While other cases may not be quite that egregious, as Melissa Checker reported in Gotham Gazette last month, Bronx New School, also known as PS51X, is hardly an isolated case. The city now leases more than 90 properties –many of them former industrial sites — for schools, and the regulations regarding leased properties, as opposed to those for sites the city owns, are lax, to say the last. Schools on leased sites, Checker wrote, do not have to undergo environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, and the city does not have to keep the public including parents, staff and students - informed about its plans for building or monitoring those schools or remediating any hazards at the site.

In the letter, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York Communities for Change and the council members seek to address some of these issues, focusing on 31 schools whose leases are up for renewal. The city does inspect school when their leases come up for renewal, although a schools spokesperson told Checker only that the inspections would take plan within eight weeks not necessarily before the school year begins.

More and the letter after the jump.
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By on August 31, 2011, 12:44 pm
In category: Education,Environment,Gotham City | 9 Comments »

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Cuomo Asks Obama to Expedite Major Disaster Declaration
August 30th, 2011

The city may have been spared by hurricane Irene but a good swath of upstate New York has been left underwater, without power and waiting for the minute they can turn their sump pumps on to drain their basements.

Dams are being monitored across upstate, bridges closed for inspection, roads destroyed and homes washed away.

Just across the river from Albany in Troy mudslides have destroyed homes and local BBQ joint Dinosaur Barbeque even had a yacht practically sitting on it thanks to the rain-water swelled tides of the Hudson River.

Cuomo has been out and about–taking reporters on tours of the damage–talking about federal disaster relief and being much more accessible than normal and now he is asking the Obama Administration to expedite its declaration of a major disaster so that communities will be reimbursed for the recovery from the hurricane. Here is the release from Cuomo’s office and the letter he sent to Pres. Barack Obama. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 30, 2011, 3:25 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Governing | 5 Comments »

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Fracking Report Due
August 29th, 2011

The Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to release its updated fracking report this week and environmental groups are upping the pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to weigh in against the controversial process by which gas is extracted from shale formations by pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground. After the report is released the public will have a 60 day comment period but environmentalists want the comment period extended to 180 days.

“Almost every day new science and new facts come to light about the dangers of fracking,” said Environmental Advocates of New York in a statement. “The U.S. Geological Survey’s reduced estimate for recoverable gas from the Marcellus Shale is just the latest example of science that Governor Cuomo must consider before opening New York State to high volume horizontal fracking. The state’s fracking review is expected to weigh in at more than 1,000 pages. New Yorkers from Buffalo to Brighton Beach are asking Governor Cuomo to give people time to dig into the science of fracking and understand how state leaders intend to safeguard our waters and communities from the adverse effects of gas exploration. Limiting the public’s sole opportunity to review this important and technical document to 60 days is irresponsible and inadequate. The gas will wait. Its not going anywhere.”

The Independent Oil and Gas Association opposes an extended comment period.

The natural gas industry has waited more than three years to move forward with development of the Marcellus Shale. The draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement when it was released was to have a 60 day public review period, which has not yet begun. This is more than enough time to allow residents and stakeholders opportunity to comment,” said IOGA executive director Brad Gill is a statement earlier this month.

“Opponents have called for a comment period that would extend it to half a year. Clearly, this is a tactic to delay the issuance of drilling permits in New Yorks Southern Tier and is not intended to facilitate a meaningful discussion,” continued Gill. “The recent Quinnipiac poll showed that a majority of New Yorkers, in areas where the strongest impact will be made, favor increased natural gas development. Further delaying progress just means New York will continue to lose out on the economic benefits and job creation potential that will come with expanded natural gas development. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 29, 2011, 4:43 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Weprin Cancels Debate
August 29th, 2011

Democratic congressional candidate and State Assemblymember David Weprin has withdrawn from tonight’s scheduled debate with his GOP rival, Bob Turner. The two men are locked in a tough contest to succeed Anthony Weiner in the Ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens.

Robert Holden president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, cosponsor of the debate, said he checked in with Weprin’s campaign earlier today and was told “logistics” would make it impossible for Weprin to appear un idle Village tonight.

“The hurricane caused major logistical and scheduling problems for the campaign and thus David is not able to make the debate this evening,” Weprin campaign spokesperson, Liz Kerr said in an emailed statement.

Many of Weprin’s people had been unable to get to work today, and the candidate’s schedule was throw into disarray by cancellations due to the weekend’s storm. While there apparently is little to no lingering damage near Bel Mondo Restaurant in Middle Village, where the debate was to take place, there are reports of some flooding in other parts of the district.

Holden, though, was not accepting the hurricane as a reason for Weprin’s change in plans. “This stinks to high heaven,” Holden said.

He said the candidate’s people had been voicing concern about the debate for the past week, expressing fear it could get disorderly and pressing for a forum instead of an actual debate. Holden said he had promised that the debate would be well run no placards allowed and some police on hand but he added, “I can’t guarantee youre not going to get tough questions.”

The cancellation “is going to backfire for Weprin big time, “Holden said. “Anybody who would do this would not be a straight shooter in Congress.”

Last week, the two men engaged in a debate before a rowdy crowd in Kew Gardens. According to YourNabe.com, members of the crowd called Weprin a liar and a hypocrite, prompting the moderator to admonish the crowd and threaten to throw people out of the synagogue where the debate took place.

In an editorial this weekend, the Daily News cast doubt on both candidates’ ability to answer questions tough or otherwise. Asked the size of the national debt, the News said, Weprin was off by a mere $10 trillion. And Turner said the city should using its zoning power to block a mosque near Ground Zero even if such action violated the Constitution.

“Suspecting that neither candidate was well-versed in national or local matters, we asked each 10 questions about issues, places and people in the district,” the editorial said. “Weprin and Turner each got seven of 10 answers wrong. Giants they are not.”

The race has become increasingly contentious. With many viewing the Sept. 13 special election variously as a referendum on President Barack Obama, Congress and same-sex marriage, both parties have focused resources in the district. Even Jerry Springer has gotten into the act.

By on August 29, 2011, 1:17 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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DiNapoli vs. Murdoch
August 28th, 2011

You might have missed this as you were taping your windows yesterday: The Daily News reports that State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has rejected the state Department of Education contracts with Wireless Generation. The educational tech company is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. — and as a result under the purview of former Schools Chancellor, now Murdoch consigliare Joel Klein.

In rejecting the $27 million deal, DiNapoli cited the phone hacking scandal that has shaken Murdoch’s British newspaper empire — and Britain’s government as well. “In light of the significant ongoing investigations and continuing revelations with respect to News Corp., we are returning the contract with Wireless Generation unapproved,” DiNapoli’s office wrote to the Education Department.

The education department blasted DiNapoli’s move, with a spokesperson accusing the comptroller of having “allowed political pressure to get in the way of vital technology that would help our students/”

The state was prepared to use part of its federal Race to the Top money to pay Wireless Generation to develop software to track student test scores, achievement and so on, creating a system similar to the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS, that it developed for the city schools.

Even before the phone hacking scandal, the deal did not meet the smell test for many. The contract was a no-bid deal, even though many other companies reportedly expressed interest in it.
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By on August 28, 2011, 12:53 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany,Public Finance,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Citizen Action Rallies Around Schneiderman
August 24th, 2011

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was recently unceremoniously ousted from the panel of prosecutors working on a nationwide foreclosure settlement with U.S. banks because he is interested in prosecuting the banks himself and does not want to wave their liability. Schneiderman may be off the panel but progressive groups are rallying around him.

Citizen Action is circulating a pettition in support of Schneiderman and Karen Scharff of Citizen Action sent this message to supporters today:

XXXX-

Home foreclosures have devastated our economy and destroyed too many families. In fact, nearly 8 million homes have entered the foreclosure process since 2007.

Americas biggest lenders have allowed abuse and fraud to continue. Thats why a committee of state Attorneys General have been taking enforcement action against these mortgage servicers. Our Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, was serving on that committee as an outspoken advocate for consumers, until last night when he was forced off of it.

Attorney General Schneiderman has been a true advocate for New Yorkers and all those in America who have been touched by the mortgage crisis. According to a New York Times article today, Mr. Schneiderman has said that he opposes any deal that gives participating banks a release from other litigation surrounding their mortgage activities.1

Lets show Attorney General Schneiderman our support. Lets tell him that we stand behind him while hes fighting for us!

Click here to sign our petition in support of our Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.
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By on August 24, 2011, 4:34 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Housing | 4 Comments »

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Trying to Interview Espinal
August 24th, 2011

Having the support of Councilman Erik Dilan, Sen. Martin Dilan, Assemblyman Vito Lopez as well as the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines heading into a special election would make just about anyone confident. But it is not clear if it was confidence or concern that kept 54 Assembly District candidate Rafael Espinal from taking part in an interview with the Gotham Gazette for our story on the race.

Having the backing of those kind of power brokers might make it unnecessary to speak to the press if you assume the public will simply vote the Democratic line, whether they know your name or not.

I began conversations with Michael Olmeda, Espinal’s spokesman, early last week. After numerous back and forths it seemed that we were set to speak at 2:30 p.m. last Thursday, before the town hall meeting in Cypress Hills.

But on Wednesday Olmeda called to say the interview might not happen. I called Olmeda around 1 p.m. on Thursday to check in.

Olmeda told me the scheduled interview was off but said an interview was possible after the town hall–if I wasn’t going to ask questions, “that everyone else is asking.” I asked what questions those might be. Olmeda said Espinal was tired of answering questions about his Conservative Party endorsement and his beliefs. Espinal has come under fire for his opposition to same-sex marriage.

I told Olmeda that I did not intend to repeat other articles but wanted to talk about issues. Olmeda said that he and his candidate would walk out if I asked questions he didn’t like but said he would talk to the organizers of the town hall at the Cypress Hills Senior Center about getting us a space to use after the event had concluded.

I live Tweeted the event and after it concluded I approached Espinal–introduced myself and told him that we had an interview scheduled. He asked for a minute to speak to his family. I agreed and mingled with the crowd. Moments later I returned to where Espinal had been and he and his entourage were gone. I left the building to look for him and immediately called Olmeda. Olmeda, who sounded quite annoyed, told me, “I didn’t see you there.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 24, 2011, 3:30 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Food Stamps for Soda
August 19th, 2011

The federal Department of Agriculture has rejected the Bloomberg administration’s bid to bar New Yorkers from using food stamps to purchase soda sweetened with sugar.

The city made its request last fall, proposing a two-year test to see how effective a ban might be. The move part of the administration’s campaign against obesity — came after the state legislature rejected efforts to put a tax on the sugary beverage.

While soda lobbyists, of course, objected to the restriction on food stamp use, even many public health experts questioned it from the get-go, fearing that it unfairly singled out people who receive food stamp. The agriculture department always seemed unlikely to approve the ban, and some questioned whether it even had the authority to do so without congressional approval.

Rather than a ban, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reportedly said in a letter, the department prefers to promote ” incentive-based solutions that are better suited for the working families, elderly and other low-income individuals” who get food stamps.

In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed disappointment with the decision. “We think our innovative pilot would have done more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything being proposed anywhere else in this country and at little or no cost to taxpayers,” the statement said.

By on August 19, 2011, 5:49 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Health,Social Services | 4 Comments »

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Walcott Promises More Testing for Toxins
August 19th, 2011

By all accounts last night’s meeting in the Bronx between schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and parents is unlikely to settle the rising concern about the contaminated site of the Bronx New School - and the problem of polluted schools overall.

Three weeks ago, the Department of Education announced it would shut the Bedford Park building because high levels of trichloroethylene, or TCE, had been found on the site.

The department learned of the unsafe levels in January; it did not tell parents, the principal or the staff until this summer. And although the school has been on the former industrial site for about 20 years, no record exists of it ever having been tested before. And there may be other untested schools as well.

Walcott has said the city is checking another 31 schools whose leases are now up for renewal and plans to complete the tests by early next month. It has not released the names of those schools.

Melissa Checker wrote in Gotham Gazette this week that, while the city must conduct environmental reviews of any property it purchases for a school, it does not have to check out land or buildings it leases. As a result, Dawn Philip an attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest told Checker, “Parents, school staff and community members often have no idea that a leased school site sits on top of contaminated property and, more importantly, what the [Department of Education] has done to eliminate any health risks.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 19, 2011, 1:42 pm
In category: Education,Environment,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Quinn and ICE
August 17th, 2011

Council Speaker Christine Quinn introduced legislation today that would prohibit New York City’s department of corrections from subsidizing the work of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Make the Road New York issued this statement supporting the move:

“The announcement by Speaker Quinn and Council Members Mark-Viverito and Daniel Dromm that the New York City Council will prohibit New York City’s Department of Corrections from subsidizing and supporting the deportation of thousands of non-criminal New Yorkers each year is fantastic news.

Every day New York City benefits from the energy, initiative and hard-work of immigrants. In a city where forty percent of all New Yorkers are immigrants, and for the City to do its job, New York City government must not burn bridges to immigrant communities. Today, New York City is taking a clear stand that it refuses to be in the business of tearing apart of immigrant families and subsidizing the deportation of non-criminal New Yorkers.”

Quinn’s legislation follows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to pull out of the federal Secure Communities Program and the US government’s insistence that New York legally must take part in the program. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 17, 2011, 1:12 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Immigrants,Work and Labor | 5 Comments »

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Assembly Candidates to Debate
August 16th, 2011

With most people focused on elections 15 months away, Brooklyn residents will vote really vote, not just be straw polled in a hotly contested election just four weeks from now. Three candidates are vying to replace Darryl Towns as the Assembly member from Brooklyn’s 54th district.

In a rarity for special elections where voters usually act only as a rubber stamp to party bosses the three contenders have waged campaign. And at 6:30 p.m. Thursday they will go head-to-head-to-head in a forum at the Cypress Hills Senior Center, 3208 Fulton Street.

The three candidates are Town’s sister, Deidra Towns; Erik Martin Dilan chief of staff for Councilmember, Rafael Espinal, and long-time organizer from Make the Road New York, Jesus Gonzalez.
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By on August 16, 2011, 1:39 pm
In category: Gotham City | 19 Comments »

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Cuomo Signs Ethics Reform
August 15th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 into law today. The bill was passed by the legislature over two months ago but was not delivered to Cuomo’s desk until today–reportedly to allow for time to put the new ethics watch dog in place since the new law does away with the Commission on Public Integrity.

Cuomo’s signing of the law comes as it has been revealed that he dipped his finger into an ethical grey area by using state planes for personal travel.

Here is the statement from Cuomo’s office including a description of the legislation.

GOVERNOR CUOMO SIGNS ETHICS REFORM LEGISLATION

New law addresses major inadequacies in current ethics system to restore public trust in government

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law the “Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011,” establishing unprecedented transparency, strict disclosure requirements, and a strong independent monitor with broad oversight of New York State government.

“Today’s signing is a major step forward in restoring the people’s trust in government and changing the way Albany does business,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new ethics reform law brings an aggressive new approach to returning integrity to the halls of our Capitol. It provides for much-needed disclosure of outside income by lawmakers, creates an independent monitor to investigate corruption, and issues strong new rules for lobbyists. I thank the Legislature for working to pass this important legislation.”

Once a national model, New York State government’s reputation has been widely discredited through corruption, a lack of independent ethical oversight, and a failure to require more robust disclosure of outside income sources. The Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 includes:

Greater Financial Disclosure: Financial disclosure statements filed with the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics from elected officials will now be posted on the internet and the practice of redacting the monetary values and amounts reported by the filer will be ended. The Act also includes greater and more precise disclosure of financial information by expanding the categories of value used by reporting individuals to disclose the dollar amounts in their financial disclosure statements. The Act requires disclosure of the reporting individual’s and his or her firm’s certain outside clients and customers doing business with, receiving grants or contracts from, seeking legislation or resolutions from, or involved in cases or proceedings before the State as well as certain of such clients that were brought to the firm by the public official.

Increased Access to Who is Appearing Before the State and Why: The Act establishes a new database of any individual or firm that appears in a representative capacity before any state governmental entity.

Additional Disclosures for Registered Lobbyists: The bill expands lobbying disclosure requirements, including the disclosure by lobbyists of any “reportable business relationships” of more than $1,000 with public officials. It also expands the definition of lobbying to include advocacy to affect the “introduction” of legislation or resolutions, a change that will help to ensure that all relevant lobbying activities are regulated by the new Joint Commission.

Forfeiture of Pensions for Public Officials Convicted of a Felony: Certain public officials who commit crimes related to their public offices may have their pensions reduced or forfeited in a new civil forfeiture proceeding brought by the Attorney General or the prosecutor who handled the conviction of the official.

A New Joint Commission on Public Ethics: The Joint Commission on Public Ethics will replace the existing Commission on Public Integrity with jurisdiction over all elected state officials and their employees, both executive and legislative, as well as lobbyists.
Clarifying Independent Expenditures For Elections: The Act requires the state board of elections to issue new regulations clarifying disclosure of Independent Expenditures.

Increased Penalties for Violations: The Act substantially increases penalties for violations of the filing requirements and contribution limits in the Election Law, and provides for a special enforcement proceeding in the Supreme Court. The bill also increases penalties for violations of certain provisions of the state’s code of Ethics that prohibits conflicts of interest.

By on August 15, 2011, 4:46 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 8 Comments »

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Recommendations on Lobbying
August 10th, 2011

The city Lobbying Commission, chaired by former City Councilmember Herbert Berman has issued its preliminary report, available here. The recommendations essentially reflect the likely changes Jane Timm reported on for Gotham Gazette last week.

In particular, the commission recommends expanding the definition of lobbying to include efforts to influence legislation before a bill is introduced the law now covers only proposed legislation or to keep a bill from being introduced. It also would extend to efforts to shape or stop executive orders by the mayor.

The commission also seeks to have the city raise the threshold at which one must register as a lobbyist from $2,000 to $5,000. The increase, the commission anticipates, would reduce the number of lobbyists in the city by about 40 but would still cover around 99 percent of the money spent on lobbying here.

The report notes that some groups had hoped to raise the threshold still further. The commission said it will consider recommending a rise to $10,000 on its final report but only for organizations that spend that money lobbying only on their own behalf.

In the report, the commission also describes some suggestions it heard and rejected, such as moving regulation of lobbying from the city clerk’s office to another agency.

The report still needs to become final. When that happens, it will go to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council who, if they agree with the recommendation, can propose bills incorporating the suggestions for passage by the council.

By on August 10, 2011, 5:27 pm
In category: City Hall,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Challenging the Census
August 10th, 2011

As expected the city has filed a formal challenge of the Census Bureau’s 2010 count of New York City residents. In its filing, the Bloomberg administration contends the census incorrectly counted as vacant a number of homes in Astoria, Jackson Heights, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, which it says “are among the most vibrant areas in New York City.”

In his letter to Census Bureau director Robert Groves, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “It is our expectation that the city’s population could increase by tens of thousands of New Yorkers if the errors … were corrected.” The city does not anticipate a correction would have a major effect on redistricting or save on of the state’s two lost congressional seats but it does think a recount could increase the amount of money the city would receive from various aid programs.

Various New York officials issued statements in support of the administration’s effort. Sen. Charles Schumer, for one, called the federal government’s numbers “dead wrong.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand noted that the census found only very modest population growth in Brooklyn and Queens and expressed concern “that this inaccuracy may be the result of the difficulty in ascertaining accurate counts in immigrants communities such as Jackson Heights, Astoria and Sunset Park.”

As Andrew Beveridge wrote in Gotham Gazette this spring, the census found some 246,0000 fewer city residents than the administration had anticipated, and grew by 2.1 percent, not 5.2 percent. The numbers cast cold water on the mayor’s prediction that 9 million people would call New York City home by 2030. In his column Beveridge wrote that, while the mayor’s disappointment is understandable, evidence exists to support the Census Bureau’s count.

By on August 10, 2011, 3:42 pm
In category: City Hall,Demographics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Test Scores: Better than Buffalo
August 8th, 2011

The yearly releasing and parsing of students test scores took place Monday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg finding lots of good news among the reams of data.

To sum up, the scores show a very modest increase but an increase in the percentage of New York City third through eight graders that the state deems to be proficient in reading and math. Overall 57.3 percent of students rated a proficient in math, up from 54 percent last year, and 43.9 percent in English language arts, a 1.5 percentage point rise from last year.

In many respects, though, the data present a sobering picture. The increases in the city were modest. While up from last year, the scores represent a steep drop from 2009 when the state decided that the tests and its scoring had gotten too easy and so recalibrated the scores and began revamping the test itself. And after 10 years of so-called school reforms and massive infusions of money, less than half the students in city public schools are considered proficient readers.

(For detailed breakdown of the city scores, including results for individual schools, go here. For more information on statewide results go to the New York State Department of Education.)

State officials underscored this in their prepared statement. “Students outcomes have been stubbornly flat over time,” state Education Commissioner John King said. And state Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch found that the results “underscore the urgent need” for the state to move forward with reforms.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers struck a similarly subdued tone. While praising the “incremental gains,” in a prepared statement, Mulgrew said, “We still have a long way to go. As a former classroom teacher, I know that real progress in student learning comes gradually, not in leaps and bounds. The [Department of Education] needs to come up soon with an instructional strategy that can keep this progress going, despite the problems we are facing next year like a dramatic rise in class size and the loss of hundreds of valuable programs.

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg largely rejected such sobriety. Although he repeatedly said improvement was needed, he enthusiastically hailed the results.

“No matter where the state sets the bar, New York City kids continue to improve over time” he said at a press briefing. “The news really is very good,” he added.

(The spin – and our analysis of the scores after the jump)
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By on August 8, 2011, 10:10 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg: S&P Got It Right
August 8th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Standard& Poor’s got it “righto the nose” when it condemned dysfunction in Washington and downgraded the U.S. credit rating. “Don’t blame the messenger,” the mayor said at a press conference this afternoon, saying the ratings agency had delivered “a demining indictment of how bad things have gotten in Washington.”

“We’ve gotten a two-month civics lesson in how to talk the economy down,” he said

As he has done in the past, the mayor excoriated Washington for not doing more to put the nation’s fiscal house in order and for coming so close to default earlier this month, but did not volunteer whether he blames everyone in Washington equally or, like the American people, holds some more responsible than others.

By on August 8, 2011, 3:56 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy | 1 Comment »

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Slight Rise in Test Scores
August 8th, 2011

In 2011, the second year of more rigorous scoring of state standardized tests, achievement dipped slightly across the state, according to figures just released by the state education department.

After taking a battering last year, when the state recalibrated the scoring, the city saw a slight increase this year. Some 43.9 percent of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded the state standards in English — up from 42.4 percent last year. In math, 57.3 percent met or exceeded the math standard, an increase from 54 percent in 2010. This is still far less than the number meeting standards under the old allegedly dumbed down system.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is set to provide more details and undoubtedly some healthy spin later today. We’ll bring you ore then.

By on August 8, 2011, 12:01 pm
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Murdoch in the Schools
August 5th, 2011

The city and state teachers union are stepping up their opposition to the awarding of a state education contract to a company owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The unions have not been big fans of the beleaguered press mogul or of former Chancellor Joel Klein, who now heads education technology (and damaged control?) for him. And the deal has been raising eyebrows since June when the Daily News’ Rachael Monahan reported that the state Department of Education was about to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to develop a system for the state similar to the city’s Achievement Reporting and Innovation System or ARIS.

Klein had been a big promoter of Wireless Generation during his days as chancellor. Two weeks after he left the city to take a mega-lucrative deal with News Corp., the Murdoch company bought Wireless Generation. Admittedly Klein himself worked for the city, not the state. But the ties are there - and the former chancellor certainly stands to benefit from a deal that, in the view of a Forbes blogger, “smack of cronyism.”

The phone hacking scandal has raised further doubts. In their letter to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, and state Education Commissioner John King Jr., state United Teachers president Richard Ianuzzi and Michael Mulgrew, head of the city teachers union, stressed those concerns. Parents and educators, they wrote, question “the wisdom of allowing a News Corp.-owned company to have access the the personal data of students from all across New York.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 5, 2011, 1:08 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Governing,Public Finance,Tech | Comments Off on Murdoch in the Schools

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Goldsmith Goes
August 4th, 2011

Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis who by many accounts has had a rough ride as deputy mayor for operations in the Big Apple, has resigned after 14 months to pursue private-sector opportunities in infrastructure finance.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has named Cas Holloway, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, to replace him.

In a prepared statement, Bloomberg said, “As New Yorkers, we were extraordinarily lucky to have Steve Goldsmith make our City government more innovative and efficient.;

Not everyone might agree. Fairly or not, Goldsmith bore much of criticism for the administration’s botched response to last December’s blizzard. The fact that he was in D.C. during and after the storm did not help. Having to sort out some of the administration’s technology projects including the scandal plagued CityTime, undoubtedly further complicated his tenure at City Hall.

Holloway, a lawyer, was at the parks department before heading up environmental protection.

By on August 4, 2011, 4:06 pm
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Bloomberg and the Achievement Gap
August 4th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement earlier today of a major initiative to help young black and Latino men today, includes a big focus on education. Few would debate the wisdom of that.

Bloomberg has long patted himself on the back for narrowing the gap in academic achievement between the city’s white and Asian students on one hand and blacks and Latinos on the other. Today Chancellor Dennis Walcott sounded the theme. Weve come a long way in improving achievement for black and Latino young men, helping to narrow the racial gaps in state exams and graduation rates,” he said.

But as Bloomberg basks in praise (and some almost fawning press coverage) for tackling a truly tough issue, his record on ending education disparities is — to put it charitably mixed.

The mayor noted the city had narrowed the gap in high school graduation rates between the races. And the evidence backs that up. But in myriad other areas — test scores, admission to elite high schools, admission to gifted and talented elementary programs, suspensions — the gap has remained essentially the same or widened under the Bloomberg regime.

Let’s looks at the numbers after the jump.
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By on August 4, 2011, 3:34 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Demographics,Education | 3 Comments »

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Gotham Gazette the Place for Politics and Policy

Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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