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City Gives Columbia $15M for Applied Science Institute
July 30th, 2012

The city will support Columbia University’s new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering with up to $15 million in financial aid, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation projects that the new institute will generate $3.9 billion of nominal economic growth over the next three decades, with more than 4,000 permanent jobs created.

Columbia will spend more than $80 million of its own money on the project, and part of the city’s contribution comes from debt forgiveness, discounted energy transmission costs and lease flexibility.

It will create tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity, and it will encourage the growth of the tech sector in New York City and solidify our leadership in the innovation economy for decades to come, Mayor Bloomberg said in a press release.

This comes as part of the larger Applied Sciences NYC initiative, which aims to increase performance of fields like data science in the city, as well as bolster the city’s economy. Other efforts include the city’s collaboration with Cornell University to create a tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

“The discoveries produced by the Data Sciences Institute will establish a foundation for significant contributions to society and to the marketplace, Professor Kathy McKeown, director of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, said in the release.

By 2016, the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering is expected to add 44,000 square feet to Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, with construction starting almost immediately. The university also plans to add approximately 75 faculty jobs in the next 15 years.

However, advocacy groups do not have full confidence in this initiative’s economic promises, seeking full transparency throughout the project.

“More and more, these large universities are running like large corporations,” said Bettina Damiani, project director at Good Jobs NY. “They should be under the same due diligence and expectation to create good jobs.”

By on July 30, 2012, 12:21 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Public Finance,Tech | 2 Comments »

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High school entrepreneur wannabes sought for city tech program
July 11th, 2012

A new program aims to expose high school students to the city’s growing Internet technology sector by teaming them up with industry experts to create Android phone apps and business plans.

The New York Economic Development Corp. and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship are sponsoring the bootcamp for teenagers, which starts in August. Thirty high school students will be picked to participate in the program, called NYC Generation Tech. Applications are being accepted until July 20.

“This is another initiative to foster talent in [the technology] sector, which is going to be critical to our economy going forward,” said Patrick Muncie, a spokesman for the EDC.

To be eligible for NYC Generation Tech, students should be rising 10th or 11th graders who are either from a school where 50 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced price school lunches or who qualify for the food assistance programs themselves.

The primary $100,000 of funding for NYC Generation Tech came from the city.

Terry Bowman, executive director for NFTE New York Metro Area, said the organization is looking to raise more money to provide scholarships and ongoing support for students after they complete the program.

By on July 11, 2012, 2:18 pm
In category: Community Development,Education,Tech | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo's ed reform commission meets for first time
June 27th, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s newly created New York Education Reform Commission met for the first time in Manhattan yesterday to discuss its agenda, though little of substance emerged from the meeting.
Commission Chairman Richard Parsons and 21 of its 25 members attended. The formerly 20-member group was expanded earlier this month to include a parent advocate, a school board member and a superintendent after criticism of its makeup. Parsons was quick to stress the importance of the commission in shaping education policy in New York State.
“We don’t get this right, everything else is going wrong,” he said.
The commission is focusing on seven priority areas, all of which have been fulfilled successfully in many cases in New York, but not always.
“We’re doing a lot right in New York but it’s not system wide,” Parsons said. “How do you replicate excellence across the system? That’s really the challenge that we have.”
The seven priority areas were split up among working groups: New York’s public education system; teacher and principal quality and school district leadership; and student achievement and family engagement. The groups will report their findings to the chair and commission.
There was some confusion over the overlap among working groups. Commission members questioned where topics like special education and pre-K programs fall.
But Parsons said it would be too “challenging” not to break up all the work.
“A smaller group can really spend their time and then report back to the large group,” he explained.
Commission members also expressed confusion over the 10-stop “listening tour” they will undertake across the state starting in two weeks and running until October, with the New York City stop on July 26. They have yet to decide on a length and format for the public meetings, although the Governor’s staff said it was their responsibility to choose it.
“Two weeks from now we’re going to have to be ready to go,” said Elizabeth Dickey, president of the Bank Street College of Education and chair of one of the commission’s working groups. “I’m feeling uneasy that we don’t know how we’re going to structure them.”
A three-hour timeframe was suggested, with Senator John Flanagan proposing testimony be submitted ahead of time and not read aloud to streamline the process. However, some members dissented.
“People are yearning to have their voices heard,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said. “I just think there should be a way of hearing them.”
Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, suggested extending the length of the public meetings.
“I suspect in New York City, for instance, you’re not going to be able to accomadate the number of people who will want to speak in three hours, so I think we’ve got to be flexible,” Rebell said. “I hate to have this advertised, have people come out, and feel that they’re being shut out.”
“I want to make these hearings as understandable as possible for the public and for us,” he added.
Rebell’s inclusion on the commission, as a well-known critic of Cuomo’s policies, was applauded by advocacy groups.
“We need more of those really staunch supporters and advocates on the commission,” said Alliance for Quality Education organizer Zakiyah Ansari.
Besides Rebell, the recent addition of school board member Patricia Gallagher, superintendent Jessica Cohen and Parent Power Project Executive Director Carrie Remis to the commission was well-received.
“There’s more balance now than there was in the past, and we’re thankful for that,” said Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Rick Timbs. “We hope this, unlike previous commissions, will come up with something actually viable.”
–Reported by Nina Goldman

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s newly created New York Education Reform Commission met for the first time in Manhattan yesterday to discuss its agenda, though little of substance emerged from the meeting.

Commission Chairman Richard Parsons and 21 of its 25 members attended. The formerly 20-member group was expanded earlier this month to include a parent advocate, a school board member and a superintendent after criticism of its makeup.

Parsons was quick to stress the importance of the commission in shaping education policy in New York State.

“We don’t get this right, everything else is going wrong,” he said.

The commission is focusing on seven priority areas, all of which have been fulfilled successfully in many cases in New York, but not always.

“We’re doing a lot right in New York but it’s not system wide,” Parsons said. “How do you replicate excellence across the system? That’s really the challenge that we have.”

The seven priority areas were split up among working groups: New York’s public education system; teacher and principal quality and school district leadership; and student achievement and family engagement. The groups will report their findings to the chair and commission.

There was some confusion over the overlap among working groups. Commission members questioned where topics like special education and pre-K programs fall.

But Parsons said it would be too “challenging” not to break up all the work.

“A smaller group can really spend their time and then report back to the large group,” he explained.

Commission members also expressed confusion over the 10-stop “listening tour” they will undertake across the state starting in two weeks and running until October, with the New York City stop on July 26. They have yet to decide on a length and format for the public meetings, although the Governor’s staff said it was their responsibility to choose it.

“Two weeks from now we’re going to have to be ready to go,” said Elizabeth Dickey, president of the Bank Street College of Education and chair of one of the commission’s working groups. “I’m feeling uneasy that we don’t know how we’re going to structure them.”

A three-hour timeframe was suggested, with Senator John Flanagan proposing testimony be submitted ahead of time and not read aloud to streamline the process. However, some members dissented.

“People are yearning to have their voices heard,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said. “I just think there should be a way of hearing them.”

Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, suggested extending the length of the public meetings.

“I suspect in New York City, for instance, you’re not going to be able to accomadate the number of people who will want to speak in three hours, so I think we’ve got to be flexible,” Rebell said. “I hate to have this advertised, have people come out, and feel that they’re being shut out.”

“I want to make these hearings as understandable as possible for the public and for us,” he added.

Rebell’s inclusion on the commission, as a well-known critic of Cuomo’s policies, was applauded by advocacy groups.

“We need more of those really staunch supporters and advocates on the commission,” said Alliance for Quality Education organizer Zakiyah Ansari.

Besides Rebell, the recent addition of school board member Patricia Gallagher, superintendent Jessica Cohen and Parent Power Project Executive Director Carrie Remis to the commission was well-received.

“There’s more balance now than there was in the past, and we’re thankful for that,” said Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Rick Timbs. “We hope this, unlike previous commissions, will come up with something actually viable.”

–Reported by Nina Goldman

By on June 27, 2012, 10:53 am
In category: Albany,Education | 1 Comment »

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Mulgrew praises teacher evaluation bill
June 21st, 2012

United Federation of Teachers head Michael Mulgrew is praising the legislature for putting limits on the release of teacher evaluations. “I want to thank Governor Cuomo, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos for their leadership in working to strike an appropriate balance — ensuring that parents can have information about their childrens teachers, while helping to prevent the kind of vilification of teachers that resulted from Mayor Bloombergs insistence on releasing the misleading and inaccurate Teacher Data Reports last year.”

Needless to say, Mulgrew and Mayor Michael Bloomberg aren’t on the greatest of terms and the Legislature certainly handed Bloomberg a defeat today.

Here is Mulgrew’s full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 21, 2012, 2:37 pm
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Cuomo's gamble on teacher evaluations pays off
June 21st, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation bill has passed the state Senate. Last Friday, with talks seemingly stalled on a bill limiting access to the state’s teacher evaluations, Cuomo rolled the dice. His administration issued a bill late at night that didn’t seem to go far enough for some legislators.

But late last night, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said his conference would discuss the bill this morning. Low and behold, the bill came to a vote and passed with little debate and only one dissenting vote from Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island.

Senate Republicans faced quite a bit of pressure from their financial benefactor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wanted Cuomo’s bill to fail so that all teacher evaluations would be public. Teachers’ unions supported Cuomo’s bill, but would have liked more limits on the disclosure.

Cuomo issued this statement of congratulations:

“I applaud the Senate and Assembly for taking up the teacher evaluation disclosure bill. I believe it strikes the right balance between protecting teacher privacy and a parents right to know. I also appreciate all those who participated in this important dialogue over the past few months. The teachers unions made important points and the bill respects their members legitimate right to privacy. I also appreciate the opinion of Mayor Bloomberg and I believe the final bill reflects much of his perspective. I know this was a difficult issue for the Legislature and I applaud their courage and leadership. This bill is the metaphorical cherry on the cake to the end of what I believe is one of the most successful and broad ranging legislative sessions in modern political history. From transformative economic reforms to historic social progress, this session was a magnificent accomplishment for the people of New York State.

By on June 21, 2012, 2:03 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo's final offer on teacher evaluations
June 19th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it clear at a 1 p.m. press conference today that he is done negotiating on teacher evaluations. The Cuomo administration introduced a bill late last night that would allow teacher evaluations to be made public but without the teacher’s names.

Thats the bill, the bill is not going to change. Theres not going to be a substitute bill. They act on it or they dont. But theres not going to be changes or discussions at this time,” Cuomo told reporters.

Cuomo issued this statement when his bill was introduced late last night, after negotiations broke down: I am introducing my bill, the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Disclosure Act, for consideration by the Senate and the Assembly. I believe the bill strikes the right balance between a teachers right to privacy and the parents and publics right to know. If the Senate or the Assembly do not agree with this position, we can continue discussions and negotiations, and consider legislation in a future session, as the teacher evaluation system does not become operational until next year. I am sending the bill because I wanted my thoughts and position to be clear and specific in order to further the ongoing public dialogue on this important issue.

The Assembly Majority indicated earlier in the day that they intend to vote on Cuomo’s bill before Thursday. Senate Republicans have indicated they have concerns and are not likely to vote on the bill as it stands.

By on June 19, 2012, 3:06 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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NYC Schools Propose Changes to Discipline Code
June 5th, 2012

The New York City Department of Education is proposing to eliminate suspensions for students who get caught breaking minor rules, such as cutting classes and cussing.

Suspensions for Level 1 and Level 2 infractions would be eliminated under the proposed changes to the schools’ discipline code. The DOE has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the proposed revisions of the code for 6 p.m. tonight at Stuyvesant High School.

“We believe a more progressive discipline is warranted with strongcounseling and youth development support,” said Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the DOE. “We want to be able to address improper behavior before it reaches a higher level, and to do that we are focused on providing strong student support services coupled with parent involvement.”

While advocates for students say they applaud some of the changes, they say more needs to be done.

“Changes made are minor and won’t provide systemic change,” said Sarah Landes, a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a collection of teachers, students and youth organizations working to reduce suspension and mandate alternative discipline methods.

Shoshi Chowdhury, coordinator for the Dignity in Schools Campaign, said the punishment of suspension should end for the first three levels of school misconduct, including insubordination, pushing and shoving. Suspension should be a last resort as it allows many students to fall behind in schools, she said. In cases of level 4 and 5 fighting in schools, positive alternatives should be offered.

Chowdhury cited one example, Lehman High School in the Bronx, which had faced a high suspension rate. She said increased funding for positive alternatives for the 2010-2011 school year has already led to a decrease in the rate of suspension.

Feinberg said “more serious infractions warrant suspensions as an option.”

Advocates have long argued that the discipline code disproportionally affects students of color and those who speak English as a Second Language.

The DOE is required under state law to review and revise the discipline code each year and make changes, if necessary. The proposed modifications are then presented to the public.

By on June 5, 2012, 5:15 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo Creates Education Reform Commission
April 30th, 2012

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is touting some unflattering figures about New York’s educational system today–“73 percent of New Yorks students graduate from high school and 37 percent are college ready.” The stat is contained in the official press release announcing the creation of the New York Education Reform Commission, a group that will meet across the state to gather input on education and then make recommendations to the governor by Dec. 1 2012, or, “such other date as the Governor shall advise the Commission.” So you know expect recommendations on their time. Here is the full release from Cuomo’s office:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 30, 2012, 12:58 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 8 Comments »

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Bronx "Close to Home" Forum Scheduled
February 29th, 2012

The fifth public hearing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Close to Home Program” has been scheduled for April 2 from 6-8 p.m. in the Bronx at the Bronx Museum 1040 Grand Concourse. The Administration for Children’s Services is holding the series of five forums to get public input on taking New York City’s juvenile delinquents out of the state system and providing services to them near their homes in the city. You can read more about the initiative that is part of Cuomo’s proposed budget here.

By on February 29, 2012, 4:06 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Education,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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ACS Schedules Forums on "Close to Home"
February 27th, 2012

The Administration for Children’s Services has scheduled four of five community hearings on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Close to Home Initiative” that would take New York City’s juvenile delinquents out of the state detention system and allow the city to provide them with the placements they think are best for them and near their homes. As I wrote today, the initiative is part of Cuomo’s budget and has been something Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been pressing for for years–as the state system is costly and known for violence and mismanagement.

ACS Commissioner Ronald Richter says that his agency and the State Office of Children and Family Services have been meeting almost weekly to set up the system that will see the state hand over control of the city’s juvenile delinquents. Under Cuomo’s initiative non-secure offenders will be transferred to the city in September and limited secure offenders would be transferred in April 2013.

“We have a number of reasons to be very encouraged by it,” Richter said of the “Close to Home Initiative,” “families haven’t had a chance to be involved in rehabilitation and it has long been a missing piece of the juvenile justice system. They don’t have a dont have parent their to help them figure out why they made these bad choices. It has been a real deficit in the juvenile justice system and they also haven’t had the opportunity for an accredited education. We are going to give them one and thats a big deal for us.”

Richter says he is excited to start the hearings so that he can hear from city residents about how to move forward.

“I’m hoping we will be attentive to appropriate cautionary notes. We will listen to the kids, parents and legislators to make sure we are reflective of their concerns. We cant just make a new juvenile justice system in September. Its wrong to suggest everything will be ideal on that day. We are always trying to improve.”

Here are the dates of the four scheduled hearings. Another hearing in the Bronx is expected to be set by the end of the week: Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 27, 2012, 4:57 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Education,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 6 Comments »

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Cuomo: Carrots and Sticks for Schools
January 17th, 2012

Two weeks after he signaled his intention to focus on education, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today filled in some of the details and inserted himself squarely in the dispute over teacher evaluation.

In his budget address Cuomo confirmed that, as announced previously, the state would up its aid to districts by 4.1 percent or $805 million next year for a total of about $20 billion.

Unlike last budget year — when the governor cut spending across the board regardless of a district’s needs — the increase would be weighted toward higher needs areas. These parts of the state will receive 76 percent of the hike and 69 percent of all school aid, according to Cuomo’s Budget Briefing Book.This means New York City stands to gets almost $6.4 billion next year, an increase of 2.6 percent over the approximately $6.2 billion it is getting this year.

Districts also would be able to compete for some $200 million in special state grants, under a New York version of the federal Race to the Top program.

The Road to the Money

But Cuomo put a big condition on all the additional money. To get it, districts will have to come up with a new evaluation system for teachers.

Details after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 17, 2012, 5:23 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Eye on Albany,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg and Quinn on Cuomo's Budget
January 17th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have major praise for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2012-2013 fiscal year budget. This is the strongest state budget that New York City has seen in a long time. With this new budget, Governor Cuomo is establishing a stronger financial basis for a more vibrant and healthy New York,” Quinn said in a statement.

Governor Cuomo put forward a budget that demonstrates a bold commitment to tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our great state. He has my strong support,” said Bloomberg in a statement.

Bloomberg hasn’t had the smoothest relationship with Cuomo so far but the Mayor is especially pleased with Cuomo’s plans for mandate relief and pension reform.

The Governors push for mandate relief and pension reform could save the City billions in the long term,” Bloomberg’s statement continues. “New York City spends more than $8 billion annually more than 12 percent of our budget on pension costs, more than we spend on the operating budgets for the Police, Fire and Sanitation Departments combined. Without a new pension tier, which will not diminish the retirement benefits of a single current employee, taxpayers will continue to spend more and more on pension costs, leaving less and less for public education, public safety, job creation, affordable housing and other critical services.

Here are Quinn’s and Bloomberg’s full statements: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 17, 2012, 3:40 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Eye on Albany,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Alliance For Quality Education Commends Cuomo
January 17th, 2012

The Alliance for Quality Education issued this statement on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget:

School Aid and Competitive Grants
“We commend Governor Cuomo for restoring $805 million in school aid; these funds will help students throughout the state. The exact distribution of these funds and how much is prioritized to high need and average need school districts will take a few days to evaluate. We are greatly concerned that almost one-third of these funds could be distributed based on competition between school districts which has the potential to create a system of educational winners and losers among our students. It is important to note that last year the state moved backwards on its commitment to quality education by enacting huge classroom cuts that resulted in larger class sizes and narrowing of the curriculum. Students need the budget to focus on restoring these classroom cuts for all, not only for those whose schools win at a competition.

Cost Savings through Centralizing School Bus Purchasing
Governor Cuomo has proposed a new cost savings initiative that would centralize the purchasing of school buses through a single statewide contract. This is the type of cost saving initiative from the state we need to see more of and we commend Governor Cuomo for providing the leadership to advance this type of common sense cost savings solution.

By on January 17, 2012, 2:19 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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UFT Wants Mediation With City
January 13th, 2012

The United Federation of Teachers is holding a press conference at 3:15 p.m today to announce that it asking the state labor board to mediate talks with the city because of the breakdown over teacher evaluation talks and the Mayor’s insistence in his State of the State speech that he will unilaterally move forward with a teacher evaluation system in low performing schools. Here is the full press release:

Teachers Union Asks State to

Order Mediation in Evaluation Talks

UFT seeks order from state labor board that would

force city to take part in mandatory mediation

on new teacher evaluation system

UFT President Michael Mulgrew holds news conference to announce that in the wake of the citys walking out of negotiations on a new teacher evaluation system, the union has filed an impasse petition with the states Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). If PERB finds that an impasse exists, it will appoint a mediator and force the city to participate in attempts to resolve the issue.

WHEN: Friday, January 13, 2012 3: 15 p.m.

WHERE: 52 Broadway, 2nd floor

By on January 13, 2012, 2:51 pm
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Cuomo Weighs in on Race to the Top
January 10th, 2012

“Secretary Duncans report saying New York is on the watch-list for failure is yet another warning that the inability of school districts across the state and their unions to come together has jeopardized the quality of our kids’ education. New York States students are now in danger of losing hundreds of millions of dollars because of the failure to devise a teacher evaluation system that works,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo just said in a statement released in response to a warning from the federal Education Department that the state has failed to meet certain obligations in the Race to the Top program that doles out millions of dollars in federal grants. Here is the full statement from his office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 10, 2012, 2:49 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Alliance for Quality Education Reacts
December 6th, 2011

Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education said that the deal reached by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders today is a step in the right direction. He does not blast the deal but seems to reserve judgement.

AQE applauds the Assembly Majority and Senate Minority for consistently advocating tax fairness and adequate revenues. We appreciate the fact that the Governor and the Senate Majority are responding to the demands of the 99% of New Yorkers for tax fairness. However, we are concerned that $2 billion in revenues does not fully address the $5 billion hole created by the elimination of the existing millionaires tax,” said Easton in a statement.

Easton goes on to say that the plan will be judged on whether it allows the state to restore cuts made to schools.

By on December 6, 2011, 3:59 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Education,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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The Union on School Cuts
November 1st, 2011

With the city facing a multibillion dollar shortfall and the Bloomberg administration demanding further cuts, the United Federation of Teachers went on the offense today, with a study it says shows that fiscal constraints already have taken a toll on the city’s more than 1.1 million students.

A survey of union chapter leaders (perhaps not the most objective of sources) found, the UFT reports, that 74 percent of elementary schools have seen class size increase this year. The number of students in a class rose at 61 percent of the middle schools reporting and 59 percent of the high schools.

More than half of elementary schools responding have scaled back services to help academically struggling students, and almost two thirds cited reductions in supplies. In general, the chapter leaders at high schools cited fewer effects from cuts than those in elementary schools. And despite Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s pledge to focus on improving middle schools, 63 percent saw their afterschool programs curtailed and 59 percent lost extracurricular activities.

While the administration enthusiastically supports charters schools, which often offer after school and or weekend programs, it has ramped back efforts to expand instructional time for students in its conventional public schools, according to the report. About 60 percent of schools at all levels reported cuts in afterschool programs, and about 40 said weekend programs had been reduced.

In a statement on his union’s report UFT president Michael Mulgrew said, “Based on our survey, an estimated 91 percent of our school population — nearly 1 million children — are in schools where budget cuts are having a direct and immediate effect on their education.”

By on November 1, 2011, 2:09 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Sleep Over on Wall Street
October 20th, 2011

Thought Occupy Wall Street had jumped the shark when MTV started trying to cast protesters for the Real World? Well think again, because OWS just got even more main stream in a way that will almost certainly send Fox News anchors into stuttering tirades.

Break out your sleeping bags kids! Parents for Occupy Wall Street is holding a “Family Sleep Over” on Friday at 4 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. A similar event was planned last week but canceled do to the (cancelled) eviction and clean up.

“Occupy Wall Street is a place for everyone, including families. At the Family Sleepover, families and children will find arts and crafts, a childrens music sing along, a pizza party, and a bed time story,” reads a statement released by organizers.

The group has already made the New York Police Department aware of the event and parents will wear shirts to identify themselves as being affiliated with the sleep over.

By on October 20, 2011, 3:13 pm
In category: Economy,Education,Parks | 7 Comments »

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Education Councils: Weak by Design
October 3rd, 2011

Whatever else it has and has not done, the system of mayoral control of schools as practiced in New York City must have set some kind of record for the creation of toothless bodies.

The chief one of course is the Panel for Educational Policy, which as Patrick Sullivan, a member, wrote on New York Public School Parents, routinely rubber stamps Department of Education contracts even ones dripping with corruption such as the agreement with Future Technology Associates.

The impotence of the PEP is hardly surprising Bloomberg always vowed the body would not do anything. But committed parents across the five borough hoped the Community Education Councils, heirs to the former Community School Board might function a bit better. They were, alas, wrong.

A report released by four of the five borough presidents (all but Staten Island James Molinaro), Pubic Advocate Bill de Blasio and parent leaders, tells some of the sad history of the councils under this administration, focusing to a large extent on the repeatedly botched election for members in 2011.

To remedy this and other ills, the report calls for major changes in the current two-tier voting system, where parents first cast an advisory vote and then leaders of parent organizations in the respective area make the final choice. The borough presidents et al would replace that with an actual election among parents. They would also improve training for council members, call for the councils to do more outreach and revise the council’s responsibilities. (Now the most meaningful thing they do is approve school zones within the district, influencing which neighborhood sends its children to what school.)

Perhaps most notably, the report’s writers would take the responsibility for the councils away from the Department of Education and give it to an independent nonprofit or government body.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 3, 2011, 3:20 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Electoral Politics | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg's Technology Pit
September 29th, 2011

Another day, another disturbing revelation about the city’s handling of its technology contracts.

This time it’s the latest chapter in the scandal involving computers at the Department of Education. The company the department paid $75 million to do technical work on its purchasing, payroll and finance systems Future Technology Associatesbilked the city out of at least $6.5 million, according to a report by Richard Condon, the city’s special commissioner of investigation.

Among other things, Future Tech set up shell companies and then vastly inflated its claims of how much those companies charged. So the Department of Education was being charged between $55 and $110 an hour for work that actually cost Future Tec $10 to $14 an hour.

Concerns about Future Technology have been circulating for some time.

According to a letter-report from the city comptroller’s Bureau of Audit, given to Gotham Gazette today (posted here), in 2005 the department submitted a request that Future Tech get a no-bid contract. (No-bid contracts at the Department of Education have raised concerns in the past.) “This request appears to have contained inaccurate and misleading statements from FTA, which, if DOE had known, should have precluded FTA from being awarded this contract,” says the report from the comptroller’s office, which went to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Condon’s office.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 29, 2011, 4:24 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City,Governing,Tech | 12 Comments »

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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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