NYC Issues 2001
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: EDUCATION

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?
Masthead

 

NYC Issues 2001: Education Overview

By Jessica Wolff and Joseph Wardenski

Education will clearly be the dominant issue in this year's citywide races. The four Democratic mayoral candidates have each declared reform of New York City's public schools their top campaign issue, and all four have issued certain specific proposals on how they would improve education as mayor.

The intense attention to education in this year's political races should come as no surprise to New Yorkers. The problem of how to educate the city's 1.1 million public school children receives constant attention in the local and national media, and the ongoing games of tug-of-war between Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the Board of Education, and the state are no secret. As education reform has emerged as a major topic nationwide--in the 2000 presidential election both George W. Bush and Al Gore focused an unprecedented amount of attention on the issue--the pressure for city candidates to take public school reform seriously has only heightened.

So far, political candidates' education proposals have focused on specific solutions: smaller class sizes, salary increases for teachers, increasing professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators, giving parents more public school-choice options, strengthening technology instruction in the schools. As candidates move forward in the 2001 campaign, they must also tackle the broader barriers that stand in the way of improving education for all the city's students.

These sticky problems should define the education debate in New York City:

  • ensuring adequate funding of the public schools
  • creating system-wide accountability
  • improving teacher quality
  • addressing school governance
  • fixing infrastructure and facilities problems
  • dealing with the needs of the school system's growing immigrant population

These issues, and questions to guide the political debate this election year, are offered below.

School Funding

In January, Justice Leland DeGrasse of the New York State Supreme Court ruled in Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) v. State that the state's education funding formula violated the state constitution by failing to provide thousands of public school students -- especially those in New York City -- with the opportunity for a sound basic education. Justice DeGrasse ordered the state to completely overhaul the current funding formula, a complex and arbitrary product of years of political deals.

The CFE decision is being appealed by Governor Pataki, but Justice DeGrasse's ruling clearly illuminates the detrimental impact of inadequate funding on New York City's public school students, most of whom are minorities. High percentages of unqualified teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and obsolete school facilities are among the major factors preventing the public schools from providing a sound basic education to their students.

This year's mayoral candidates will be faced with several critical questions on school funding:

  • If the CFE decision results in more education funding for New York City, what will be the top spending priorities for those funds?
  • Is the city spending enough of its own budget on education? Should the city share the responsibility for devoting more resources to the public schools?

Accountability

What are the means by which we ensure that the city's students are getting the education they need? New York City's current school accountability system has a number of components, including standardized testing of students to determine promotion eligibility; Regents exams for high school graduation; performance-based contracts for principals and superintendents; annual school report cards that make school-level student outcome and other data available to the public. The city does not have system wide accountability to ensure that schools and students have the resources needed for successful teaching and learning.

  • Are current school accountability strategies sufficient? What other measures need to be put in place?
  • How will the city be held accountable for ensuring that increases in school funding result in improved student learning?
  • New graduation requirements, including required Regents exams, without new resources to ensure student success, will result in a soaring dropout rate, especially among immigrant students still mastering English. What should be done to prevent this?

Improving Teacher Quality

New York City's teachers have been working without a contract since November 2000. Contract negotiations with City Hall are currently at an impasse. Mayor Guiliani wants a pay-for-performance system; the union wants competitive salaries for all teachers. The next mayor may inherit the high-tension job of working out a new teachers' contract.

  • Teachers need a raise; suburban teachers often make 25 percent more to teach fewer children in better working conditions. How much can the city afford to pay its teachers and what should the city ask in return?
  • What else can the city do to recruit, train, and retain quality teachers?

Governance and Decision Making

Who should run New York City's public schools? Should governance of public schools rest with a powerful central office or should decision-making power be decentralized to the school level -- to principals, teachers, and parents? These questions have been prominent ones during the current mayoral administration, and are likely ones the next mayor will face during his term.

Mayor Giuliani has been unabashed in his call to abolish the Board of Education and replace it with central administrators appointed by -- and held directly accountable to -- the mayor. Giuliani has also been a proponent of privatization, backing unsuccessful efforts to allow parents to use publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools and to turn over management of five schools to Edison Schools, a private for-profit company.

At about the same time the mayor was publicly calling for a strong re-centralized system of education governance, the state legislature two years ago mandated that every public school in New York City establish a school leadership team composed of the principal, teachers, and parents. While in some schools these teams have begun to involve parents meaningfully in school decision-making and to involve school communities directly in decisions that affect them, the New York Times recently reported that "only a fraction of the groups in place actually use their legally authorized power to create spending plans, select curriculums and draw up blueprints to improve academic standards."

  • What is the future of school leadership teams? Should the success of school-based decision-making on critical academic and budget matters be a priority of the city?
  • Should control of the public schools be given directly to the mayor or should the Board of Education remain independent as the central governing body of the New York City public schools?
  • Where do the 32 community school boards fit into this debate? Do they provide a necessary balance to central control and school-based decision-making, or do they add an unnecessary and inefficient layer to the city's education bureaucracy?
  • Is privatization an appropriate option to consider for poorly performing public schools in New York City? Are for-profit companies equipped to run public schools?

Facilities

As a result of chronic disinvestment in the city's public schools, school facilities are in bad shape. School buildings are overcrowded and crumbling; they are inhospitable and often dangerous. Students lack even the technology and equipment necessary to tackle material required by state graduation exams. Many schools lack sports and physical education opportunities for students.

  • How should the city solve its school facilities problem?
  • How can the city better encourage public/private partnerships for school construction?

Immigrant Students

Over 50 percent of school-aged children in New York City come from immigrant families. Nearly 15 percent of all students are English Language Learners, representing over 140 different languages. Some 90 percent of these students live in high need/low resource districts. These students are among those most at risk for dropping out.

  • How will the city ensure that the school system can cope with the needs of immigrant students?
  • What can be done to ensure that English Language Learners have enough teachers qualified to meet their needs?

Links
New York City Board of Education
The Board of Ed's information page on School Leadership Teams
The United Federation of Teachers
Advocates for Children
Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Links to Mayoral Candidates' Statements on Education
Fernando Ferrer
Mark Green
Alan Hevesi
Peter Vallone

Jessica Wolff is Director of Policy Development and Joseph Wardenski is Program Assistant at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. The views expressed are their own.

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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.


What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).


Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.


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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
DemocracyNet
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
DL21C
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.


Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)


2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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