Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/232 Wed, 24 Apr 2019 11:15:54 +0000 en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) As Early Childhood Educators Consider Strike, New York City Must Achieve Pay Parity http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8454-as-early-childhood-educators-consider-strike-new-york-city-must-achieve-pay-parity http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8454-as-early-childhood-educators-consider-strike-new-york-city-must-achieve-pay-parity mayor firstday

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


We know now, more than ever, just how malleable the mind of a young child is, and we understand that the earlier we begin engaging a child’s mind, the better off that child will be. Early childhood education can positively impact the academic, social, and emotional development of children, while providing much-needed financial relief for our city’s low-income families with children, for whom child care is a major expense.

Our city recognizes the significance early childhood education has, both for children and families. Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to investing in and expanding his Universal Pre-K and 3-K initiatives is proof of that, and we wholeheartedly support these programs because they help level the playing field for some of our city’s most vulnerable families.

Yet it is unconscionable that while the programs continue to grow, City Hall has failed to address a significant inequity that threatens the very success of the initiatives – the fair pay of teachers. Our children deserve the best opportunities we can give them, and in order for that to happen, we need to fairly compensate those who dedicate themselves to caring for our children and providing that critical, quality early education.

Most of the children who are currently enrolled in the Universal Pre-K program attend programs offered by community-based organizations (CBOs), where early childhood educators are rightfully fighting for wage parity that can help level the playing field for them and their families, as well. CBO-based pre-K teachers with bachelor’s degrees earn significantly less than their counterparts with the Department of Education (DOE) -- and often work more hours for a longer school year.

A CBO-based certified teacher with five years of experience makes approximately $42,000, while DOE counterparts with the same credentials earn closer to $60,000. The gap in salary widens over time — nearly doubling at 10 years of experience. A DOE pre-K teacher with a master’s degree and 20 years of experience can earn as much as $91,000 annually, while a CBO-based teacher with identical credentials can max out at approximately $50,000.

The same job responsibilities, the same experience, and the same qualifications for significantly less money. It’s not right, and it isn’t fair.

It’s no surprise that many CBO-based early childhood programs struggle to hold on to quality educators. Wage disparity demoralizes educators at CBOs -- many of whom are women of color -- and puts them in the unfair position of having to choose between the work they have passionately dedicated their lives to and caring for their own families. How can we expect our children to be properly educated and cared for if those tasked with that responsibility aren’t provided with the resources to do the same for their own?

Many of these educators are forced to look elsewhere for employment as a result, and that frequent turnover can have a destabilizing effect on the development of a young child’s mind. The longer we continue to drastically underpay non-DOE early childhood educators, the likelier it becomes that more and more of the early childhood programs that so many of our city’s families rely on will be forced to close their doors.

In the City Council, we pushed for funding for pay parity to be a part of the fiscal year 2019 budget, following a summer hearing on the Early Learn transition to DOE. At the hearing, we made it clear that pay parity needed to be addressed, but the de Blasio administration failed to see the same urgency, instead promising that the issue will be resolved during contract negotiations. That still has not happened and the mayor is out of time.

When the administration released a new round of contracts for early childhood services, it failed to include the increased funding that community providers were looking for, making clear that there is a lack of urgency or interest in addressing this problem. We need real solutions, not gestures.

The City Council just released its response to the mayor’s fiscal year 2020 preliminary budget proposal, and under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson, we are specifically calling on the mayor to include an $89 million investment that would close the wage gap. Securing this funding in the budget would create stability for these educators, as well as the program and the community-based organizations that provide many of these services. It's the right thing to do.

Teacher strikes have picked up momentum across the country for better pay and improved classroom conditions; and now, early childhood educators are deciding whether to strike here in New York City. We stand with teachers in calling for wage parity for early childhood educators and know that this decision does not come lightly. It is only after years of underpayment and efforts toward a resolution.

At a time when the mayor and his administration rightfully strive for the need for a school system that provides ‘equity and excellence for all,’ what sort of message are we sending by so drastically underpaying the teachers who primarily care for and educate children from low-income families? We’re not just shortchanging these educators; we’re shortchanging the students they teach, their families, and our city’s communities.

We want a school system that gives every single student in our city the same opportunities to succeed – that simply cannot happen if the system itself is unstable. A teacher’s salary should not depend on the type of contract they have with the city, but too often, it does. It is time that we correct the inequities of our system and support professionals who work hard to ensure that every child is getting the proper head start on development they deserve.

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Mark Treyger is the chair of the City Council’s Committee on Education. Stephen Levin chairs the City Council’s Committee on General Welfare. On Twitter @MarkTreyger718 & @StephenLevin33.

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As Early Childhood Educators Consider Strike, New York City Must Achieve Pay Parity Tue, 16 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Students for School Safety: Solutions Not Suspensions, Counselors Not Cops http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8402-students-for-school-safety-solutions-not-suspensions-counselors-not-cops http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8402-students-for-school-safety-solutions-not-suspensions-counselors-not-cops mayordeblasio pay equity

(photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)


Recently, many news outlets have sensationalized the declining use of suspensions in New York City, framing young people negatively and attempting to discredit the progress that has been made. These stories discount the needs of students most impacted by punitive discipline, who have been very clear about the urgency around redefining what school safety really means.

And while suspensions are down across the city, too many schools still use ineffective tactics, choosing to exclude students rather than seeking to better understand them. Relying on tactics like suspensions, or even metal detectors, handcuffs, surveillance cameras, installing gates on windows, and hiring more school safety and police officers only fosters feelings of turmoil.

As two students currently enrolled in Brooklyn high schools, we understand the circumstances and we understand the impact of suspensions and policing on young people. We must end the school to prison pipeline for the sake of ensuring a better future for the next generation of children.

On March 20, we testified before the New York City Council to draw attention to both the financial and social cost of criminalizing young people in school. Last year the city adopted a budget that was going to spend $373 million on the School Safety Division of the NYPD. The mayor’s new preliminary budget shows a $30 million increase in that funding, now expected to reach $403 million. This would be the most that the city has ever spent on school policing. This isn’t a step in the right direction. This is a crisis.

The city needs to redirect funds toward positive and healing alternatives that work, such as more guidance counselors, clinical social workers, school psychologists, and access to restorative justice that all can boost the morale of students across campuses and increase the academic engagement of students to help them graduate.

The Department of Education recently released its 2019 data report on the number of guidance counselors and social workers in all New York City schools. According to that report, across 913 school sites covering grades 6 through 12, there are 449 schools listed that do not have a single social worker, and 40 school sites that do not have a single guidance counselor. Schools are too ready to push towards more desperate, punishing measures when it would be more positive and transformative in the long run to invest in what helps students feel whole.

Funneling public money towards ensuring students are policed in schools is not safety. Ensuring a future where people respond to problems with criminalization is not the answer.

We’ve both been to Albany to advocate for the Safe and Supportive Schools Bill that would encourage schools across all of New York State to shift away from punitive practices. We are both committed to helping build the schools people need to thrive. Supportive, respectful schools where students are treated with dignity is what will bring us safety.

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Gary Edwards is a high school senior and Khushayah Morris is a high school sophomore. Both students are education justice advocates with the Children’s Defense Fund - New York, and members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign of New York.

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Students for School Safety: Solutions Not Suspensions, Counselors Not Cops Mon, 08 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Lessons from ‘Renewal’ and Beyond: What It Takes to Turn Around Our Lowest-Achieving Schools http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8401-lessons-from-renewal-and-beyond-what-it-takes-to-turn-around-our-lowest-achieving-schools http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8401-lessons-from-renewal-and-beyond-what-it-takes-to-turn-around-our-lowest-achieving-schools maybdbchancellorencarra

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


For decades, school and district leaders across the country have struggled to answer a fundamental question: how to turn the tide for our nation’s lowest-achieving schools. Some have resorted to school closures, choosing to start anew and relocate those students to better-performing options. Others have tried to “turn around” underperforming schools, in the hopes that an influx of resources, a greater emphasis on data, and strong leadership could spur improvements in student achievement.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal program, in particular, highlighted the promise of that alternative to school districts across the country. Rather than shutter 94 poorly performing schools across New York City, he provided a slew of targeted supports that included additional teacher training, new curricula, extra mental health counseling, and resources from community-based organizations. These additional services came with the conditions that schools set clear goals and remain accountable for sustained improvement.

Over the course of four years, Renewal reflected a clear commitment to supports over school closures and a systems-wide approach; important ingredients of a successful turnaround effort. However, the initiative failed to incorporate input from practitioners and community members, creating a disconnect between policies and ideals—and the actual work of teaching and learning within their classrooms.

Earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio had no choice but to end his $773 million school turnaround experiment, facing scrutiny over not only a lack of local engagement, but the nearly 75 percent of Renewal schools that failed to exhibit significant improvement over four years.

In the wake of this latest setback, district leaders and policymakers across the country are still searching for the answer to this fundamental question. Atlanta Public Schools has shifted to a broader, system-wide effort to elevate all 89 schools in the district. Rhode Island continues to grapple with the ongoing struggles of its turnaround schools, even amid promising practices like common planning time for teachers, culturally responsive curricula, and concerted family engagement efforts. And Tennessee is experimenting with approaches that range from state-run school districts to innovation zones that offer extra resources and charter-like autonomy.

School turnaround remains one of the greatest challenges in education today. Yet, in response to this challenge, we are not using tools and strategies that have actually proven to increase student achievement. Research that my colleague and I conducted last fall shows that only 11 percent of service providers supporting the work of school turnaround have demonstrated evidence of impact.

While some providers may not have been evaluated yet, and others offer consultations or services that are more difficult to measure, the key take-away here is that states and districts are prioritizing partnerships with providers that have never demonstrated evidence their turnaround tools work.

For an issue as intractable as school turnaround, shouldn’t we put our best strategies forward?

First and foremost, we need to recognize that school turnaround begs a system-wide approach, a tenet that Renewal did take to heart. New York City Department of Education officials strove to leverage an ecosystem of partners to support students’ academic, psychological, social-emotional, and basic needs. Renewal’s successor, the Comprehensive School Support initiative, will offer a similar, system-wide approach, leveraging a data-driven system to surface the resources and supports that all students need.

What is still missing from this picture is deep engagement of stakeholders across the school building and broader community. In a system-wide approach, district officials must work side-by-side with principals, educators, school support staff, health providers, out-of-school time providers, and community leaders to establish an overarching change vision for each school.

They must investigate the traditional causes of decline and failure, ranging from significant teacher and leader turnover to chronic budget cuts and a lack of community engagement. And they must take on the role of offering the evidence-based, capacity-building tools and resources that this ecosystem of partners needs to successfully off-set those root causes.   

Most importantly, they must accept that effective school turnaround is a long-term effort, not to be achieved in just three years.

Over time, we have worked with Gallup-McKinley County Schools in New Mexico, one of the largest and poorest districts in the state, which has recorded substantial, enduring increases in student proficiency. And in Ohio, a network of 20 turnaround schools demonstrated significant gains in student achievement.

Undoubtedly, school turnaround will remain one of education’s most difficult challenges. However, we now know it can be done with an attention to system-wide stakeholder engagement, evidence-based tools, and the right supports from our school districts.

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza should take note as they make their next attempt at turning around New York City’s struggling schools.

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Coby Meyers is associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development and Chief of Research for the UVA Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education, an initiative that has supported effective school turnaround efforts in New Mexico, Ohio, and districts across the country.

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Lessons from ‘Renewal’ and Beyond: What It Takes to Turn Around Our Lowest-Achieving Schools Mon, 01 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Mayoral Control of City Schools Helps Students Succeed in a Global Economy - It Must Be Extended http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8398-mayoral-control-of-city-schools-helps-students-succeed-in-a-global-economy-it-must-be-extended http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8398-mayoral-control-of-city-schools-helps-students-succeed-in-a-global-economy-it-must-be-extended mayorofficefirstdayfive

(photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)


In 2007, I was honored to chair the Commission on School Governance, a body appointed by then Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum to make recommendations on the future of New York City’s mayoral control law, which was about to come up for renewal.

I brought a unique perspective to the deliberations. I had served two terms as president of the New York City Board of Education during the 1970s, and had fought hard to preserve the board’s role in hiring and monitoring the performance of NYC school chancellors—as well as the independence of the board from direct political takeover.

Why? Because I believed the system worked.

As in any large, urban school system, there were some bad apples, but most of the central and community school board members impressed me as dedicated, hard-working people who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.

Two decades later, I had what I like to call “an epiphany of mayoral control.”  

When it came time to made recommendations about the future of the legislation in 2008, I enthusiastically added my signature to the commission’s findings. Our overarching conclusion: “Mayoral control of the schools should be maintained so that the mayor can remain the principal public official who charts the direction of the school system and through the Chancellor is ultimately responsible for operating the schools on a day-to-day basis.”

I am more convinced than ever that a three-year renewal of mayoral accountability is the best thing we can do to move all our students to excellence and the futures they deserve.

Instead of dispersed authority and a rigid bureaucracy, we now have clear lines of accountability and responsibility. This has enabled mayors to allocate unprecedented resources to the city’s public schools and has empowered more parents to become involved in their children’s education.

Since its inception, mayoral accountability has enjoyed the robust support of business leaders like myself, for good reason. As a senior advisor to a global public relations and communications agency, I know that an educated population is essential for any company to compete in the 21st-century. An education that gives all students access to the most in-demand skills will also go a long way toward bringing equity to the workforce. Business leaders have a real interest in shrinking racial and gender gaps in fields such as computer science, where jobs are growing at twice the national average.

The Department of Education’s (DOE) Computer Science for All (CS4All) initiative is an example of mayoral accountability at its best. This $81 million public-private partnership will enable all city public school students, with an emphasis on female, black, and Hispanic students, to learn computer science by 2025. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are laser-focused on empowering more young women and students of color to pursue careers in computer science, where they are currently under-represented.

Now, New York City is leading the nation in ensuring more young women and students of color have access to, and are excelling in, advanced computer science classes. In the past two years, the DOE has seen a nearly six-fold increase in the number of girls taking an Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science test—up from 379 in 2016 to 2,155 last year. I was especially impressed to learn that girls represented 42 percent of these test-takers, versus 28 percent nationwide. An increasing number of girls are also passing an AP computer-science exam: 1,266 in 2018, up from 177 in 2016. The number of black and Hispanic students taking an AP Computer Science exam has also increased by 55 percent and 46 percent, respectively, since 2017. 

CS4All and the city’s other Equity and Excellence for All initiatives would have been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve when I served on the Board of Education. Mayoral control has created and fostered major policies at a much faster pace than we ever saw previously—while keeping responsibility and accountability focused where it belongs: with the Mayor.

I believe New York State legislators understand the benefits of having a mayor at the helm of our school system. They should include a three-year extension of mayoral control in the budget due by Monday, April 1.

It is time to make our collective epiphany a reality.

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Stephen R. Aiello is a senior advisor at Hill+Knowlton Strategies in New York City, and served as president of the NYC Board of Education between 1977 and 1979.

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Mayoral Control of City Schools Helps Students Succeed in a Global Economy - It Must Be Extended Wed, 27 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
The Answer to More Diversity at Specialized High Schools is Tutoring Programs Like Ours http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8383-more-diversity-at-specialized-high-schools-is-tutoring-programs-shsat http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8383-more-diversity-at-specialized-high-schools-is-tutoring-programs-shsat student tutor reading

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Last week, 27,000 eighth-graders and their parents opened exam results, hoping they had won a coveted seat at one of New York City’s eight specialized high schools. Unsurprisingly, this year’s offers followed trends of past years, with only 10.5 percent of offers going to black and Hispanic students, who comprise 68 percent of the overall public school system. At Stuyvesant High School, a mere seven black students and 33 Hispanic students were offered one of the 895 seats.

These disparities have long prompted debate about how to create more racial and ethnic equity in the specialized high schools while maintaining their quality. Although the test is open to all, few students in lower-income areas are able to afford test preparation, or even know about the exam. Those who do sit for it often can’t compete due to subpar educations in their poor neighborhoods.

Mayor de Blasio wants to abandon the test in favor of holistic assessments based on student grades, test scores, and class rankings. Over the course of a three-year phase-out of the test, his plan would have the number of students admitted based on class rank increase incrementally until 90 percent of offers go to the top 7 percent of students at each middle school. The remaining 10 percent of seats would be subject to a lottery open only to those with a minimum grade average of 93 percent. During the transition period, the Discovery Program, which offers admittance to low-income students who just missed the cutoff score on completion of a summer enrichment program, would expand to 20 percent of all seats.

Although diversity should be paramount to admissions, I fear that Mayor de Blasio’s proposal trades systems of exclusivity. In order to evaluate students based strictly on their scores, the test doesn’t compensate for inequities in early education. By contrast, assessments based on class rankings ignore the merit of individuals below the 7 percent line to overcompensate for inequities. Without the test, however, the student bodies of specialized high schools may be no different than others because the plan places unequal middle schools on an equal playing field.  

Moreover, students’ abilities set the pace in classrooms and determine the quality of discussions. An undistinguished student body removes the challenges meant to be integral to a specialized high school education.

Rather than reform the system to the advantage of all New Yorkers, Mayor de Blasio proposes to lower the bar. The substandard education that students of color often receive will remain in place in elementary and middle schools. Programs designed to prepare students for the entrance exam will disappear, and with them the enrichment opportunities offered to students regardless of the results.  

The diversity problem I’ve witnessed firsthand at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, a specialized high school in the Bronx where I’m a junior, persists. Some of my classmates are first-generation immigrants who overcame the disadvantage of a non-English speaking or low-income household to gain a seat. They’re the exception. In fact, they’re often among a handful of students at their middle school to be admitted to a specialized high school. In contrast, the graduating class of my Upper West Side middle school received 150 offers from specialized high schools. I had a scholarship to a tutoring program for the test, but this isn’t an option for most students of color.

Recognizing this lack of resources, a new student-run tutoring program was created at my high school to prepare local Bronx middle school students for the SHSAT. A team of upperclassmen create and teach English and math lessons twice weekly to a class of seventh-graders. We plan activities, explain the high school process to ensure that the middle school students see admittance to our school as attainable, and provide snacks.

But teenagers can only tutor 30 kids at a time when thousands more deserve enrichment opportunities. All specialized high schools and other schools should host tutoring programs. These programs can and should reach more students and at a younger age, so that fairness and diversity are ensured long before incoming students walk through the door.

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Jade Lozada is a junior at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College and a second-generation Hispanic American. Through a student-run tutoring program, she teaches local Bronx middle-schoolers English Language Arts in preparation for the SHSAT exam.

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The Answer to More Diversity at Specialized High Schools is Tutoring Programs Like Ours Mon, 25 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Ending The School Aid Charade http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8324-ending-the-school-aid-charade http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8324-ending-the-school-aid-charade gov cuomo edu

(photo: governor's office)


It is budget season in New York State and the annual game of determining the amount of state aid each of the 674 school districts will receive is in full swing. Every district and its legislators will fervently argue that more school aid is needed, that its schools are underfunded, and that its students will suffer serious harm if more money isn’t devoted to them as soon as possible. But in fact, the vast majority of New York’s schools are generously funded, while our results in terms of achievement are only mediocre. Instead of targeting additional aid to the few truly needy districts, all are given more.

As is the case in most states, New York public schools are primarily a local responsibility. Each school district runs its own schools, has its own contract with the teachers union, and relies on local property taxes to fund a large part of its costs. State school aid is meant to supplement the local tax contribution so that children in ‘low wealth’ districts are not denied the ‘sound basic education’ guaranteed by the State Constitution.

Each year a chorus of school advocates including the teachers union, school administrators, and state legislators argue for more state school aid. Whatever increase the Governor proposes is inevitably denounced as too little. The higher amount recommended by the State Education Department (SED) (controlled not by the Governor but by the Legislature via the State Board of Regents) is also decried as too low. Inevitably, some compromise amount is set in the state budget that is always a significant increase over the prior year.

The total amount of legislatively-approved school aid statewide rose 32% percent over the ten years between 2006 and 2017 and totaled more than $28 billion in fiscal year 2018, the largest expense in the state’s operating funds budget. Combined with local allocations, New York State school districts now spend a whopping $69 billion a year, an average of more than $25,000 per student, by far the highest amount in the country.

The game in its current form has been played since 2011, following the recession of 2008 when across-the-board school-aid cuts were imposed, when the Governor and the Legislature agreed to an annual ‘cap’ on the growth of school aid tied to growth in personal income and used a ‘foundation formula’ to determine the amount of aid each district would get, based on its number of poor students, English language learners, students with disabilities, regional cost differences, property values, and wealthy residents.

But the cap has never really been adhered to, and the results of the foundation formula are undermined through the addition of other kinds of aid (e.g. transportation, high tax aid) and foundation aid ‘hold harmless’ provisions ensuring that no district ever loses aid and indeed, that all get at least some increase each year no matter what they spend.

Why does this game go on? First, school aid is the primary vehicle for state legislators to ‘bring home the bacon’ and demonstrate effectiveness to their voters. The wealthiest school districts are in suburban areas where residents have shown the value they attach to top quality schools by paying very high property taxes. Even though these districts are already spending outsized amounts per pupil on their schools, they want more and their representatives need to get it for them. The Governor needs the support of these legislators for other parts of his agenda, so he is loath to disappoint them.

Second, public education advocates continue to make the argument that there are unmet school needs as revealed by the shortfall between aid amounts and what would have been provided under the foundation formula had it continued to be applied as approved in a lawsuit filed by a consortium known as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE).

The lawsuit ended in a settlement in 2007, and, while clearly articulating the right of all children in New York to free quality education, did not legally require implementation of its calculations of optimum aid. The Governor has called the CFE aid formula a ‘ghost of the past’ but the state teachers union and an alliance of other advocacy groups continue to insist that there is a shortfall of at least $4 billion in state school aid.

It is true that some school districts are underfunded and should receive more state aid to make up for their high number of poor students and their low property tax wealth. But there are less than 35 districts in this category and their unmet needs total less than $200 million. This shortfall could easily be filled by re-allocating a small part of the money that is going to school districts that do not need it; they are already spending far more than enough.

The 62 wealthiest districts in New York are receiving almost $5,000 a year in state school aid and are spending an average of $30,500 per student per year. The 68 poorest districts are getting much more aid – an average of $15,700 per student – but because they don’t have sufficient local resources, they can spend only $22,000 per student per year. There is no educational reason to give the wealthier districts any aid, and certainly no more than they are getting.

Surely, everyone involved in setting school aid amounts knows this. But the CFE advocates don’t want to alienate a large of portion of their support from the wealthy districts by arguing only for targeted aid increases and the legislative representatives of the well-funded school districts are certainly not going to kill the golden goose. So we continue with a charade of hand-wringing about the need for more school funding state-wide.

This year Governor Cuomo has proposed almost $1 billion in additional aid, SED wants more than $2 billion more, and the CFE groups are still demanding $4 billion. The reality is there is no justification for more state school aid, it just needs to be re-allocated and targeted to the specific districts that are actually needy. But more school aid there surely will be. This is especially infuriating when the Governor is proposing to reduce spending on Medicaid to address an expected $2.3 billion revenue shortfall in the next fiscal year.

In his second State of the State address, in 2012, Governor Cuomo complained that all the adults in the public school system have lobbyists pressing for more spending and that he would now be the students’ lobbyist. But over time, he has made compromises with the political realities; while his school aid proposals are accompanied by rhetorical acknowledgement of the need for better targeting, the chorus of calls for everyone everywhere in the state to receive more school funding continues. It is well past time for this charade to end.

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Carol Kellermann was President of Citizens Budget Commission from 2008 through 2018.

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Ending The School Aid Charade Sun, 03 Mar 2019 05:00:00 +0000
A Fairer New York City Requires Salary Parity for the Early Childhood Workforce http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8292-a-fairer-new-york-city-requires-salary-parity-for-the-early-childhood-workforce http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8292-a-fairer-new-york-city-requires-salary-parity-for-the-early-childhood-workforce may bdb com

(photo: Rob Bennett/Mayor's Office)


At his State of the City address, Mayor de Blasio pointed to the expansion of universal prekindergarten for New York City four-year-olds and the expansion of 3-K as an integral part of his administration’s commitment to making New York City “the fairest big city in the country.”

While listening to the mayor’s speech – and the attention he paid to the success of universal pre-K and the new 3-K expansion – child advocates and educators in the audience found ourselves wanting to shout out ‘Salary parity now!’

To date, the cornerstone of the city’s ambitious early education efforts has been these extensions of public schooling to four- and three-year-olds. Enrollment in universal pre-K for four-year-olds is up over 350 percent since the mayor took office and 94 percent of universal pre-K classrooms are meeting nationally recognized standards for positive classroom conditions and child outcomes. The mayor pointed out in his address, “Pre-K and 3-K classrooms are jumpstarting children’s education and putting thousands of dollars in parents' pockets at the same time.”

For the children and families who benefit from these programs, there is no doubt that such progress is meaningful.

Yet, the ability to fully celebrate this important milestone is tarnished by the mayor’s failure to achieve salary fairness for early educators.

Those of us who have been championing the mayor’s early education proposals for years, even prior to his days in the City Council, and who have forcefully advocated to help secure the state resources necessary to make universal pre-K a reality feel betrayed.

We are forced to ask again and again, why hasn’t the de Blasio administration secured salary parity for the early childhood workforce?  

In 2014 the de Blasio administration launched universal prekindergarten and engaged over 1,000 community-based organizations (CBOs) with a history of providing high-quality child care and preschool services to the city’s poorest children, with the opportunity to offer pre-K. These organizations operate separately from K-12, public Department of Education (DOE) schools. Their workers are represented by different unions and some workers have no representation. Because these CBOs provide more than half of all UPK classrooms citywide, they have had and continue to play a critical role in the de Blasio administration’s most well-regarded achievement — one through which he seeks to acquire a national reputation.

Importantly, the CBOs are not only responsible for the majority of universal pre-K classrooms in New York City, they also offer working parents programming for longer hours than their counterparts at DOE schools. The teachers and staff in CBOs often work into evenings and through summer months when most DOE classrooms are shuttered or teachers are on vacation. Yet, despite longer days and year-round work, CBO early educators earn far less than their DOE peers.

CBO early educators that hold a bachelor’s degree earn a starting salary of just over $42,000 and those with a master’s degree earn a starting salary of nearly $48,000; compared to starting salaries of nearly $58,000 and just over $65,000 for prekindergarten teachers with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, respectively, at DOE schools based on an updated salary progression that goes into effect this month.

Salary disparities widen over time as CBO early educators typically see their salaries rise by approximately $2,800 over the course of eight years; whereas DOE early educators see their annual pay rise by $20,000 during the same period.  

In the mayor’s recently-released 2020 preliminary budget, funding for various education initiatives would see increases – including a $25 million increase from last year to expand universal 3-K to two new districts for next school year. The preliminary budget also makes a $316 million investment in new collective bargaining costs related to United Federation of Teachers (UFT) teacher salaries in 2020, an investment that grows to $829 million annually in the out-years of the budget plan.

There is no investment in the mayor’s budget in pay parity for the workforce in community-based organizations.

Because compensation levels are so unequal, turnover rates are high in CBO pre-K and 3-K. The Day Care Council of New York reports that half of CBOs lost teachers to the DOE in the first year of universal pre-K alone. As turnover issues persist, many pre-K students in CBOs find their learning environments destabilized at some point during the year.

So, one should ask: how can we in good conscience celebrate the success of universal pre-K and new 3-K expansion efforts while early educators in CBOs earn $15,000 to $35,000 less than their DOE peers?

We also know that women of color are the primary victims of this profound inequity in compensation. There is no mistake that the achievement of salary parity, for them, would be life-altering. Just think what an increase of $15,000 to $35,000 in salary would mean to their pocketbooks and their own capacity to address their household needs.

Furthermore, parity would bring program stability to CBOs and the early education system overall, benefitting children and parents who rely on these programs.

Finally, in July of this year, DOE will acquire responsibility for all contracted early education programs, family day care, and child care centers, currently overseen by the Administration for Children’s Services. In preparation for that transition, the DOE is about to rebid the entire early education system this winter with the goal of having new contracts in place for infant and toddler care, Head Start, and universal prekindergarten and 3-K by 2020. Indeed, the transition has been touted by the DOE as an opportunity to build a seamless early education system for New York City’s children from birth to five years of age.

Mayor de Blasio is seeking to solidify his place as a progressive rising star of national importance by pointing to New York City’s continued progress on early education as illustrative of how to make big cities fairer. It is critical that he brings true fairness to the city’s early education workforce and makes salary parity a reality. There is no greater opportunity to ensure that the city’s children are prepared for school success than by equitably compensating the workforce that supports and nurtures their growth.

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Jennifer March, PhD., is the executive director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. On Twitter @JenMarchCCC and @CCCNewYork.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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A Fairer New York City Requires Salary Parity for the Early Childhood Workforce Tue, 19 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
To Close Achievement Gap, Give Legal Status to Undocumented Parents of Citizen Children http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8282-to-close-achievement-gap-give-legal-status-to-undocumented-parents-of-citizen-children http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8282-to-close-achievement-gap-give-legal-status-to-undocumented-parents-of-citizen-children rob cher mbdb

(Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


Latino Americans now number close to 60 million and a significant share of the 18 million children therein have persistent achievement shortcomings. Unfortunately, Latinos are seen primarily through the lens of competing immigration narratives.

Conservatives claim that they threaten American society: criminal activities, overuse of social services, and adverse effects on native-born workers, particularly less-educated black men. By contrast, pro–immigration activists point to positive examples, particularly successful young people in the DACA program. They also downplay social service costs as simply a first-generation experience and adverse employment effects as isolated to a small group of workers.

Each of these narratives has some truth but neither looks seriously at the academic obstacles Latino youth face.

Latino-white fourth-grade achievement gaps are substantial. Latino children are twice as likely as white children to be below basic achievement levels and less than half as likely to attain the proficiency level or better. Moreover, these gaps are unchanged as children age and some studies find that it is just as large for second- and third-generation Latino children.

There are a host of factors that influence this achievement gap. One is the impact of illegal immigration. Piecing together two data sources (here and here), I estimate that among Mexican- and Central-American U.S. immigrants, 45 percent of children are either undocumented or citizens but living in a household with at least one undocumented family member; and they represented 34 percent of all Latino children in the country.  

Given these mixed family situations, threats of deportation influence the Latino-white achievement gap. Researchers estimate that Latino school attendance declines by 10 percent when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has partnerships with local police, and these declines are concentrated among elementary school students. This may explain the high chronic absentee rates of elementary school children in the Bronx.

By contrast, as a result of President Obama’s DACA program, high school graduation rates increased by 15 percent and college attendance by 25 percent.

Undocumented parents are also in some instances less able to advocate for their children’s educational needs. Given the problems with the traditional public schools in many poor communities, black parents successfully shift their children to the charter school sector to a much greater degree than Latino parents. Whereas there are 78 percent more Latino than black students in New York City public schools, there are 40 percent more black than Latino students in its charter schools. This and other similar issues may explain why children with undocumented parents score lower on assessment exams that those with authorized parents, even after controlling for a number of variables; and children gained more than one year of schooling when their parents were able to obtained legal status.

There are of course other factors that influence the achievement gap. In 2017, the Latino poverty rate was 16 percent, double the white rate and only slightly below the black rate. In addition, English language deficiencies hinder educational achievement. An additional explanation is that despite their own limited economic circumstances, many Latinos focus on giving aid to their more impoverished family members in their home countries.

As a result, remittances from the U.S. to Mexico and Central America dwarf those to other countries. In 2016, they were at record levels. This focus puts added pressure on Latino youth, particularly boys, to gain employment as soon as possible, constraining educational attainment.

In 2017, among those 25 and older, only 19.8 percent of Latino men compared to 43.2 percent of white men had at least an associate degree. Not surprisingly, the average hourly wage of Latino men was 32.5 percent below white men’s wage rate. Economic Policy Institute researchers Maria Mora and Alberto Davila reported that including adjustments for differences in educational attainment and age, the wage gap declined to 14.9 percent. This remaining gap is virtually eliminated if we then adjust for lower Latino academic test scores that are linked to weaker schools attended and low-earning occupations entered.

What can be done? Certainly we should seriously consider legalizing undocumented parents of citizen children.

In addition, providing more occupational programs may be effective in responding to the employment goals of young men in Latino communities. As Kenneth Adams, the director of workforce development at Bronx Community College has documented, given the high failure rate in Bronx community college academic programs, this may be an effective strategy.

We must move efforts to reduce the Latino-white achievement gap to the forefront of policy discussions regardless of any fear that it would strengthen anti-immigrant forces.

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Robert Cherry is Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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To Close Achievement Gap, Give Legal Status to Undocumented Parents of Citizen Children Mon, 18 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
As Cap on Charter Schools in New York City is About to Hit, Little Talk of Extension in Albany http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8253-as-cap-on-charter-schools-in-new-york-city-is-about-to-hit-little-talk-of-extension-in-albany http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8253-as-cap-on-charter-schools-in-new-york-city-is-about-to-hit-little-talk-of-extension-in-albany albany charter gov

(photo: the governor's office)


Throughout his tenure, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been a strong advocate for charter schools as part of his broader education policy, even as many of his fellow Democrats are far less friendly toward, if not opposed to, the privately-run, publicly-funded schools. Cuomo has repeatedly supported and helped orchestrate a raising of the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in New York, both across the state, and the sub-cap for New York City, where the vast majority of charters exist.

Now, as that sub-cap on charter schools in the city is about to reach its limit with a new round of approvals in March, there is virtually no talk in Albany, from Cuomo or legislators, about raising or doing away with the sub-cap, either of which would allow more charters to open in the five boroughs. Though he has recently reiterated his support for charter schools when asked by reporters, Cuomo did not mention charter schools or the cap in his January State of the State address or the lengthy accompanying policy book, nor in his Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2020.

During his first eight years as governor, Cuomo has had fellow charter school supporters leading the state Senate, where Republicans held the majority, at times with the help of charter-friendly breakaway Democrats in the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). The Democrat-dominated Assembly has been unfriendly toward charter schools and closely aligned with teachers unions that oppose them -- most charters are not unionized. But now, both the Republican Senate majority and the IDC are gone. While there are charter-supporting legislators in both houses, including some Democrats and Republicans, Cuomo now faces more of the individual responsibility to advocate for charter-helpful policies in Albany.

While his policy book and budget do not include anything on the charter cap, that does not mean Cuomo won’t push for changes that would allow more charters to open in New York City. A new state budget is due by April 1, and though the city sub-cap will be hit by then, it would be just a short delay if Cuomo orchestrates a cap change in the budget, where many deals are known to come together in Albany.

The governor’s recently-outlined plans do include a 3.5% increase in total per pupil funding for New York City charter schools, but this was the only time charter schools were mentioned in the State of the State book or Executive Budget.

New York State has a cap on the number of charter schools that can be approved by the two authorizing authorities, but there is a special sub-cap for the number of charters, which allow a group to start a new charter school, that can be issued for New York City. There are currently 236 charter schools in New York City educating 123,000 students, according to the New York City Charter School Center.

There are now seven remaining charters left under the New York City sub-cap, while there are 99 charters left for the rest of the state. There are currently 18 applicants for charters in New York City that have made it through the initial application process and a meeting of the SUNY Board’s charter schools committee, one of two authorizers, is set for March.

This would be the first time that the board has to decide not just whether an applicant meets its standards, but also which of the 18 applicants should get the seven remaining charters. Assuming that more than eight applicants meet the standards, this would mean that some potentially satisfactory applicants would not receive charters.

Charter school advocates, such as those at the New York City Charter School Center, believe this is a worst possible scenario. The Center has called for the charter school cap to be eliminated altogether or at least raised to allow for new charters to be issued. Another proposal would be to end the sub-cap so that there would no longer be a distinction between charters issued for New York City and the rest of the state. This could mean dozens of new charters in the city as opposed to the final seven under the current sub-cap (in theory, all 107 statewide slots could go to charters for the city).

In a statement, James Merriman, the CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, said the “arbitrary charter cap for New York City” should be raised. He called the current situation “the definition of a crisis” and that “we are running out of charters at a time when charter schools are making remarkable progress in closing the achievement gap for some of the most vulnerable children in New York City.” Merriman called on state lawmakers “to forgo special interests and ensure all families have the opportunity to access high quality public school.”

No proposal to change the cap is currently on the agenda of the state Legislature, which has been moving a host of progressive legislation long-stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Gotham Gazette sent multiple requests for comment about the charter school cap to spokespeople for Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; none of them were returned.

The politics around charter schools has shifted in New York over the last year or two, but especially since the November 2018 elections. While Cuomo, an outspoken advocate for charter schools, won a third term as governor, pro-charter school legislators lost a variety of races, including several in New York City, both in Democratic primaries and the general election. Republicans and members of the Independent Democratic Conference lost a large number of races, though charter schools were rarely central issues in those elections. Advocates for charter schools, of both parties and in both houses of the state Legislature, currently do not hold enough power to extract charter school expansion as a concession in larger policy negotiations, but like with many issues, the fate of the charter school cap may rest in Cuomo’s powerful hands.

Lifting of the charter cap last happened in 2017, when a deal was struck for a two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools that also included a provision that would allow 22 revoked or surrendered charters to be reissued. Now, only seven of those “zombie” charters remain.

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by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been changed to cite seven available charters in New York City, not eight, as dicated by a spokesperson for the state education department; though there has been conflicting information put forward by several entities involved about whether there are seven or eight charters available under the city sub-cap.

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As Cap on Charter Schools in New York City is About to Hit, Little Talk of Extension in Albany Mon, 04 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
After Parent’s ‘Gut-Wrenching’ Testimony, Next Step in City Council School Bus Reform http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8254-after-parent-s-gut-wrenching-testimony-next-step-in-city-council-school-bus-reform http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8254-after-parent-s-gut-wrenching-testimony-next-step-in-city-council-school-bus-reform council mem just brannan irish

Council Member Justin Brannan (photo: John McCarten\City Council)


Sally Kabel was diagnosed with infant leukemia at ten months old, the treatment for which led to seizures, three broken bones, and a weak immune system. She developed epilepsy, and after her third bout of pneumonia she required continuous oxygen support. None of this stopped her from going to school more than complications with her school bus, according to her mother, Nicole Kabel.

After missing the first day at Manhattan Star Academy on the Upper West SIde because she was sick, 5-year-old Sally was ready for her own first day. But, her assigned nurse did not show up to accompany her to school. Three days later, Nicole was informed Sally’s nurse had been reassigned, so Sally couldn’t go to school until she had a new nurse. It took two weeks. After persistent, unfruitful calls to the Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT), a division inside the city’s Department of Education (DOE) responsible for providing transportation by yellow bus and public transit for all students in New York City, Nicole found out Sally’s nurse could not accompany her on the bus, as the bus was only designated for one passenger.

Nicole, who has two other children, took Sally to school herself before a bus with a nurse finally showed up. But then there was no car seat for Sally. Nicole tried calling the DOE, but there was no fix. Sally had an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a personalized plan for the education of children with special needs, which meant she had her own school bus and a supposed shortened commute time. Finally, the bus matron convinced the bus company to put a car seat on the bus, uncleared by the DOE.

“School was her happy place. Psychologically she needed it to stay positive and keep going,” Nicole said during testimony at a City Council hearing of the education committee in October 2018, discussing the many challenges their family faced in trying to get Sally to school at the hearing, which was dedicated to oversight of the Office of Pupil Transportation and a suite of bills to reform it.

Throughout the entire 2017-2018 school year Nicole made consistent calls to the DOE and OPT trying to address the long commute time and the lack of car seat. Sally began at a private school that summer, but the summer bussing company would not give her a car seat as it still violated code. Nicole tried to address the issue, but in the absence of a car seat, the nurse was forced to hold up Sally’s head and body to avoid breathing issues while Sally napped.

In late August 2018, Nicole attempted multiple times to contact the DOE to again address the incorrect coding and the small nurse staff. Sally didn’t start school on time that year either.

“She thrived [at school], whatever pain was happening to her, she forgot about it at school,” Nicole said in an email. “It was her happy place. It breaks my heart she was not able to go to school the first week of September. Her teacher whom she had previously and was going to have again texted me every day hoping busing/nursing issues would be sorted. The school missed her, and she missed them.”

On September 15, 2018, four days after her sixth birthday, instead of going to school Sally was brought into the NYU Langone emergency room where she went into septic shock. She died four days later, on September 19.

“I spent countless hours and days the last month of our daughter’s life battling to get her back to school where she could be happy. Those are hours wasted that should have been spent with her that we can no longer have back,” said Nicole.

Nicole was among the parents and education advocates who testified at the City Council hearing last year, pushing Council members to address problems with the city’s school transportation system, including more transparency from the Department of Education and more efficient bus times.

On January 9 of this year, the Council passed a series of bills designed to update the school bussing system of New York City. The package was spearheaded by Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos and Brooklyn Council Member Mark Treyger, the chair of the Committee on Education. Legislation dealing with the city’s school bussing system has been kicked around the Council for over 15 years, primarily driven by former Brooklyn Council Member Michael Nelson, who called for tracking capabilities as early as 2005 and two-way radios in buses as early as 2000, but has never made it out of committee.

Most notably in this block of bills known as the School Transportation Oversight Package (STOP) is a bill, Intro. 1099, that mandates that each school bus used to transport students to and from school must be equipped with a GPS tracking device and a two-way radio allowing communication with the operator of the school bus. Furthermore, parents must have access to the real-time location of their child’s school bus.

(According to the City Council Finance Division, about 6,000 out of the approximate 10,000 school buses used for pupil transportation already have GPS technology compliant with the legislation.)

The suite of bills, which Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to either sign or allow to age into law, also mandates that the DOE must report to the Council twice a year specific information regarding bus transportation duration times, detailed information on complaints about school bus service and ensuing investigations, as well as the number of compliant buses, vendors, and students using the system.

The DOE will have to share with parents their student’s bus route, scheduled arrival and departure times, as well as a school bus ridership guide with detailed descriptions of the system and the complaint protocol process. DOE will also be required to share daily if their child’s bus is late arriving or departing their school.

The ridership guide is required to be sent to authorized parents and guardians of general education and special education students.

The Department of Education and the Office of Pupil Transportation have long been criticized for complications in the complaints process and for leadership turmoil. Public criticism reached a height this past November when multiple school buses, including students with special needs, were stuck in the snow and could not deliver some students until past midnight. While getting stuck was apparently not the bus company or drivers’ faults, the lack of ability to communicate with parents or for parents to track their children’s whereabouts was frightening and troubling to many, including parents and City Council members.

But while the package of bills passed by the Council do a lot, they do not address all of the issues faced by Nicole and Sally Kabel, and other families with similar challenges. A new bill is in the works to more directly address those situations.

Nicole said that the doctors at NYU Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital “gave their hearts, they gave their hours, they supported us in every way, shape, and form. And although they could not save her life, I have no anger to them whatsoever.”

“I do, in fact, have anger towards the Department of Education and the Office of Pupil Transportation,” she said.

Council Member Justin Brannan, whose Southern Brooklyn district the Kabels live in, said Nicole’s “testimony at that hearing was just gut-wrenching. I knew the story because I had lived it with her but really hearing her lay it all out in front of everybody was really eye-opening and really moving. I wanted to become an elected official for moments like this.”

“Most people would think [testifying at the Council] would be an insane thing to do after losing a child but there’s so many things that are out of your control that doing something on things you can control makes me feel better,” Nicole said in a phone interview.

The STOP bills most directly address the aspects of Kabel’s testimony dealing with communicating with the Office of Pupil Transportation and lodging complaints against the Department of Education and the OPT. However, the bills don’t really deal with issues related to how parents directly manage Individualized Education Programs and transportation.

Brannan told Gotham Gazette that as a direct result of the Kabel family’s ordeal, he is currently writing legislation to address the school bussing system for students with special needs.

“I’m a big believer in the constituent marching in the office and saying there should be a law and you doing everything you can do to make a change,” Brannan said in a phone interview.

“The idea that came out of her testimony was to find a way so that no other child with additional needs or an IEP has to deal with this type of insanity ever again,” he said.

The Council “listened to a lot of families and have given it a lot of thought on how to make the process better,” Kabel said in the interview.

Brannan’s planned bill, which is being drafted by the Council’s staff, would require the Department of Education to name specific caseworkers for parents and guardians of children with both an IEP and some type of special needs transportation assistance.

“One of the problems Nicole speaks about is she got someone on the phone with a heart and who cared but then was rerouted and had to tell her story again while she should have been playing in the park with her daughter who was dying of cancer,” Brannan said.

Furthermore, Council Member Kallos told Kabel at the October hearing that the OPT “may need a position just focused on special education” and a way to enhance “interoperability in the DOE for the different departments and to share information,” both of which could potentially be part of further legislation.

“I was so angry about the time I wasted in bureaucracy and the amount I had to do to give her a meaningful life in a world in which a child can go to school and have friends and learn,” Kabel said in the interview.

She added she would still like to see the DOE implement a program to assign someone who knows the IEP, is assigned year around, and “makes sure everything is done correctly without putting it back on the parent.”

“This is where bureaucratic dysfunction was impacting real lives,” Brannan said. “When your daughter is sick, and her life hangs in the balance then bureaucracy isn’t just frustrating, it’s life affecting.”

Brannan’s bill will be introduced in the City Council once Council lawyers finish drafting it. He said he expects it to pass the Council quickly, becoming the next step in efforts to improve both the city’s school transportation system and its services to students with special needs, and where the two meet.

“It should not be so hard to send your child to school,” Kabel said.

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by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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After Parent’s ‘Gut-Wrenching’ Testimony, Next Step in City Council School Bus Reform Mon, 04 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000