Week of January 16, 2006
January 20, 2006School Overhaul
Chancellor Joel Klein said yesterday he would cut $200 million from the city Education Department�s central and regional administrative budgets over the next few years - and funnel the savings into the classrooms. Education officials said the overhaul was possible even though City Hall had already laid off 1,276 out of 3,273 employees from headquarters since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools in 2002.
In addition, Klein said he would expand by 150 the number of schools in the so-called Autonomy Zone -- an umbrella under which schools design their own curriculum, control their own budgets rather than follow general guidelines set by the city. Currently, there are 58 schools in the zone, all of which must meet strict standards in exchange for their streamlined existence.
For more information, go to Education Links in the News.
MTA Spends 4 Million on Security and Fire Alarms (Daily News)
January 19, 2006Child Welfare Workers Suspended
As hundreds of mourners bid a teary farewell to 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, the city's Administration for Children's Services said it was suspending or re-assigning six workers who were involved in her botched abuse investigation. Three child welfare workers were suspended without pay, while three other workers face disciplinary hearings and could be reprimanded or fired. The agency's commissioner, John Mattingly, also announced he would work more closely with police and shuffle his top aides to improve oversight. "The staff made poor investigative decisions and gave inadequate attention to clear warning signs of the danger Nixzmary Brown was facing," Mattingly said.
See Social Service and Children links in the news.
City Hall Committee Appointments
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn handed out more than 40 committee chair appointments to council members yesterday. Some of the appointments, which collectively earn committee heads nearly $500,000 in stipends on top of their salaries, were seen as rewards for helping maneuver Quinn into the speaker's spot, itself worth an extra $28,500. One member, James Sanders, lost his position as chair of the Economic Development Committee, perhaps as punishment for being at odds with his Queens Democratic boss Thomas Manton, who was key in behind-the-scenes brokering to get Quinn elected speaker. Councilmember Charles Barron, who abstained from voting on the appointments because of Sanders' removal, was banished to a new corner seat assignment under a statue of Thomas Jefferson, whom he has derided as a "slave-holding pedophile." Barron still held onto his spot as chair of the Higher Education Committee.
See the list of appointments here. For more, see City Hall News.
Pataki�s Tax Cuts Favor Wealthy New Yorkers (NY Times)
Mom Sues State for Kids� City School Tuition (Daily News)
Pataki Appointees Will Stick Around Long After He�s Gone (NY Observer)
January 18, 2006Pataki's Budget Plan
Governor George Pataki yesterday presented a $110.7 billion state budget for the next fiscal year, stressing tax cuts, aid to education and savings in Medicaid. The budget, which must be approved by the legislature, boosts spending by $6.4 billion, while proposing elimination of the �marriage penalty,� an end to the estate tax and cuts in the income tax. Savings would come largely from reductions in spending on Medicaid.
In his final budget, Pataki said he would increase state aid to education by $634 million, with about $329 million going to New York City. But he did not mention the court order in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which says the city schools need an additional $5.6 billion a year. Also on education, Pataki wants more charter schools and to give parents of students in underperforming districts, including the city, a $500 credit to spend on education, such as tutoring or private school.
Pataki said the budget would provide a net gain for the city of $1.1 billion, but some city officials expressed doubts. In a reference to Pataki�s possible presidential run, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "This is a good budget - unless you're planning on staying in New York, which the governor clearly is not."
For more, see finance links in the news.
Foes of Nets Arena to File Suit (NY Post)
Online Shopping And Its Impact On The Environment (Gotham Gazette)
Environment Links In The News (Gotham Gazette)
January 17, 2006Nixzmary Brown, 1998-2006
Hundreds of mourners attended the wake yesterday of Nixzmary Brown, the 7-year-old girl from Bedford-Stuyvesant who was found dead last Wednesday -- killed, police charge, by her stepfather -- as her story continues to generate outrage at the failure of the Administration for Children's Services to prevent what a Brooklyn prosecutor alleges was at least two years of systematic abuse. The mayor yesterday promised to hold errant city workers accountable. For details, see Social Services links in the news.
How Bad Is Segregation?
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the New York City public school system yesterday in response to a study by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project that found more black and Latino children in segregated schools in New York than in any other state except California. (For a link to the full report, go to Recent Reports.)
There are patterns of racial segregation throughout the country, Klein said in-between events for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. "My solution is for every kid, wherever he or she is, whatever race, whatever background, to make sure they get a good quality education. One of the things I think is really important is that our schools are improving for all kids."
Author Jonathan Kozol sees it differently: In Segregated Schools: Shame of the City, Kozol argues that the city's schools are probably the most segregated in the nation, that this is the reason why black and Latino children are getting an inferior education ("separate is still unequal"), and that Bloomberg's educational reforms are failing to address this crisis. Kozol makes suggestions about what could be done.
Commuter Trains Generally Less Punctual (NY Times)
Improving School Food (Gotham Gazette)
Education Links In The News (Gotham Gazette)
January 16, 2006Pataki's Budget
Governor George Pataki will present his executive budget tomorrow, and his main priority seems to be to cut taxes. The $110 billion budget contains $3 billion worth of tax cuts, credits and rebates. The state currently has a $2 billion surplus, but it seems that Patakiís planned tax cuts will leave his successor to deal with a deficit. The governor wants to address Medicaid costs by spending $15 million to create a new state agency to combat fraud, and by cutting Medicaid spending $1.3 billion.
The legislature, which must approve the budget, has rejected such Medicaid cuts in the past. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has also already criticized the governorís plan for tax cuts, saying the stateís surplus should be used to better finance New York City schools.
New York Cityís schools are among the most segregated in the country, largely due to housing segregation, according to a new report by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. The system is growing more complicated and difficult to confront, according to the report, and New Yorkís political leaders are failing to address it.
This week in Gotham Gazette, author Jonathan Kozol also writes about this problem ñ and describes what he sees as a starting point for a solution.
Pataki Moves to Secure Medicine for Elderly (NY Times)
Interview with John Mattingly on Nixzmary Brown (Daily News)