Sunday, March 13, 2022

Mayoral Control Under Attack, Assembly Dems Push Back - Call for Tweaks, Where Does UFT/Unity Stand?, Will UFT Snub Robert Jackson Again?

IDC, Unity - Is there a difference?

Angel Vasquez's work for an IDC member. He also works on the 14th floor at the UFT, where he advises Mulgrew on political policy along with Cassie Prugh (former Cuomo policy staffer and energy industry lobbyist) and others.

The UFT has endorsed Jackson’s opponent every time he’s run for the Senate: Marisol Alcantara, even though she was IDC and pro-charter. The first time she won and the second time she lost.  His opponent this time is Angel was her chief of staff.

You can link mayoral control in any city to resistance to class size reduction. They prefer to blame the teachers. So note this comment from Leonie Haimson on her blog re State Sentator Robert Jackson and follow the UFT bouncing ball.  

Sen. Jackson repeatedly threatened that he would hold back state funding if the DOE refuses to lower class size, as outlined in the his bill S6296A, and the same as Assembly bill, A7447A, sponsored by AM Simon. Jackson also implied that his support for continuing mayoral control was at risk due to DOE negligence on the issue-- and that in any case, he would not support an extension of more than two years.

THERE ARE RUMORS THE UFT WILL SUPPORT Angel’s Vasquez, PRIMARY OPPONENT OF LONG TIME FRIEND OF TEACHERS ROBERT JACKSON? Don't be shocked. 

Angel’s Vasquez'  LinkedIn profile shows that his only teaching experience was at a CO charter school.  Meanwhile, RJ has always been resolutely anti-charter – as well as the #1 proponent of class size reduction in the Legislature, and the sponsor of S.6296A  which would phase in class sizes caps at much lower levels starting next year.

WOULD UFT OPPOSE A STRONG SUPPORTER OF CLASS SIZE REDUCTIONS AND MAYORAL CONTROL OPPONENT -- DOING THE WORK FOR ED DEFORMERS.

James Eterno commented: Jackson is too pro-teacher.
Yes Virginia -- the leadership of the biggest teacher union is fundamentally, time and again, Anti-teacher.

Leonie reported this revealing point about Jackson at the recent
State Assembly and Senate Joint Hearings.


The topic of class size was first introduced  by Sen. Robert Jackson, the original plaintiff in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which after many years of advocacy, is finally bringing more than $1.3 billion in additional state funds to NYC schools. Yet the administration plans to invest none of these funds in lowering class size, though the city's excessive class sizes were a central issue in the lawsuit and the court's decision that our students were deprived of their right to a sound, basic education.  

... Leonie Haimson continues:

I’ve testified at countless mayoral control hearings since it was instituted nearly 20 years ago. Yesterday’s joint Senate and Assembly hearings far surpassed any of them.  You can watch the video here. Sorry to say there were very few news stories about it, because most of the education reporters were covering the Mayor's announcement about lifting the mask mandate in schools.  It was their loss, since the questioning by legislators was sharp and had a new seriousness about it, and the testimony from parent leaders was passionate and incisive.  - on her blog.


Attempts to raise the issue of mayoral control of the schools with the UFT/Unity leadership have been rebuffed since last year. The fact is the UFT has always been in favor of having the least amount of voices involved in decision making as long as the leadership (not the membership) had a seat at the table. The UFT/Unity mantra - the least amount of democratic voices possible. And don't forget their continued opposiiton to putting class size front and center in contract negotiations - plus the severe Mulgrew defeat on his city council class size initiative -- which I supported but of course was executed ineptly.

There have been some soundings coming out of fortress Unity calling for tweaks - like shifting some PEP choices to borough Presidents and maybe a seat or two for the city council - still a system where political operatives, not regular people have a voice. Maybe there should be a Unity Caucus rep on the PEP.

But after 20 years of mayoral control, more and more people have grown tired of one person dictating control of 1700 schools, one million kids and their parents, and 125,000 pedagogues. 

Here's Mayoral control stalwart opponent Leonie Haimson's full blog postm followed by a Politico and NY Post article.

Why Friday's hearings on Mayoral control were the best in twenty years

 and what was said about the need for smaller classes & more fiscal oversight

https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2022/03/why-fridays-hearings-on-mayoral-control.html

In recent years, the opposition to Mayoral control has grown, here in the city and nationwide.  As I point out in my testimony, the system has never been popular among average voters.  But the evident dysfunctionality of the system and the way it allows autocracy to override the wishes of parents and the needs of children, no matter who is Mayor, is now more widely recognized.  Many districts such as Detroit and Newark that once suffered under mayoral control or worse, state control, have returned to an elected school, and Chicago will soon do so.  

This was the first time in my experience that influential legislators seem really intent about making improvements to the law.  Sen. John Liu, chair of the NYC Education Senate committee, and Sen. Shelley Mayer, chair of the NY State Senate Education Committee, along with Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein and Jo Anne Simon, closely questioned Chancellor Banks  about what changes could be made that would ensure that parents have a real voice in the system.  Yet he seemed strangely unprepared for their pointed questions. 

After a brief appearance by Mayor Adams, who was driving in his car but didn't have time to answer any questions, Chancellor Banks said that the DOE had brought down school Covid positivity rates  from 16% at the beginning of January, to below 1% now, which he claimed was a "direct result of Mayoral Accountability."  

Yet as was widely reported, Omicron exploded in our schools with tens of thousands of students becoming infected in January, with DOE's safety protocols recognized to be  largely ineffective.  The Omicron surge rose and fell on its own in our schools, as it did nearly everywhere else in the city and indeed the nation, and this had nothing to do with any new measures put in place by the Adams administration. Indeed, as I pointed out in a tweet, the schools in Los Angeles have put in place far more effective Covid vaccine and testing protocols, and their schools are governed by an elected school board.

Banks also claimed he would be a far different kind of Chancellor than those who preceded him, because he himself had gone through the public school system.  Unmentioned was that Joel Klein attended NYC public schools as well, and we know how little respect he showed parent and community views and priorities.

Banks promised that he intended to closely collaborate with the parent-led Community Education Councils.  But when AM Epstein asked him what he thought of any of the numerous specific improvements to the Mayoral control that the CECs have proposed in many resolutions, Banks admitted he hadn’t read them.

Senator Shelley Mayer followed up by asking whether he would agree to any specific changes to the law to ensure parent input is taken seriously.  Banks then turned to Deputy Chancellor Weisberg to ask "Dan do we agree with any changes?" Weisberg, who was himself high in the DOE leadership structure for six years under Chancellor Klein, said no.

There was also much discussion on the failure of the DOE to put any effort into reducing class size during the twenty years of mayoral control -- even though this is a critical reform proven to help students learn, especially students of color.  Smaller classes are also the top priority of NYC K12 parents every year on the DOE's own parent surveys.

The topic of class size was first introduced  by Sen. Robert Jackson, the original plaintiff in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which after many years of advocacy, is finally bringing more than $1.3 billion in additional state funds to NYC schools. Yet the administration plans to invest none of these funds in lowering class size, though the city's excessive class sizes were a central issue in the lawsuit and the court's decision that our students were deprived of their right to a sound, basic education.  The topic of class size was also mentioned by AM Jo Anne Simon and some other legislators. 

Sen. Jackson repeatedly threatened that he would hold back state funding if the DOE refuses to lower class size, as outlined in the his bill S6296A, and the same as Assembly bill, A7447A, sponsored by AM Simon. Jackson also implied that his support for continuing mayoral control was at risk due to DOE negligence on the issue-- and that in any case, he would not support an extension of more than two years.

When asked what were their plans in terms of class size, Banks again deferred to Weisberg, who said that class sizes had already decreased this year, partly because of enrollment decline - which is true. Though I hadn’t commented on the issue in my written testimony, when I had a chance to testify in the afternoon, I pointed out that if the city's proposed budget cuts to schools are adopted, amounting to nearly one billion dollars over three years, class sizes will quickly increase to their former levels.
In response to Jackson's questions, both UFT President Michael Mulgrew and CSA President Mark Cannizzaro agreed that lowering class size was critical; Cannizzaro added that to do so, the Fair Student Formula (FSF) that  is the main source of every school's funding must be altered, since it  is aligned to large classes. 

In my oral testimony, I pointed out how the FSF Task Force created by the City Council in 2018 had never released their report, because its members pushed for revising the formula to allow for smaller classes, but the Mayor's office under de Blasio had stifled their concerns, by refusing to allow the issue to be mentioned in the report.

Another problem that both Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks encountered is a glaring contradiction in their rhetoric .  Both repeated their now-familiar refrain about how terrible our schools are, especially for Black and brown kids. But of course, if true, this failure persists after twenty years of mayoral control - the very system that they claim is necessary to solve the problem. 

Banks tried to get around this evident contradiction, by testifying that all the deficiencies exhibited by our schools are the result of the system that earlier prevailed, more than twenty years ago: "We are still dealing with the remnants of the past world before Mayoral Accountability was adopted.  Corruption, patronage, and inequity ruled the day, and our students suffered greatly.  That is evident in some of the glaring disparate outcomes we still see, especially for communities of color."

Yet this argument didn't seem to be particularly convincing to the legislators.  In fact, in the first five hours or so of the hearings, while I was still watching, only one of them expressed strong support for continuing the current system for another four years, Senator Luis Sepulveda from the Bronx.  A four year extension is what Gov. Hochul has proposed and of course Adams and Banks would prefer:  The attitude of the other legislators seemed to range from slight skepticism to clear opposition,  at least during the portion of the hearings that I was able to observe.

Moreover, the parent leaders who spoke were nearly unanimous in their criticism of the way in which mayoral control had allowed their voices to be ignored and the needs of their community's public schools to be trampled upon, by both Bloomberg and de Blasio.  Their testimonies were tremendously compelling,  and in their combined impact, overwhelming.  I hope you watch them here. There was only one parent among the scores who spoke during the first five hours who said she supported the current system to any degree: Yiatin Chu, the co-chair of PLACE,  and even her co-chair, Lucas Liu, appeared to disagree. 

My brief oral comments are at about 4 hours and 46 minutes into the video, and focused on two issues: class size and fiscal accountability.  In my written testimony, I detailed and supported many of the changes proposed by the Education Council Consortium and the CECs, including a reconfiguration of the Panel for Education Policy so that the mayor no longer appoints a majority of members, and a requirement that the DOE should be made subject to local laws passed by the City Council.  Currently, unlike every other city agency, the City Council can pass laws regarding education only in the area of requiring more DOE reporting, not in any policy area.  I also spoke about the need for stronger fiscal oversight by the   Panel for Education Policy, who every month routinely rubber stamp many wasteful contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with insufficient scrutiny and sometimes even those awarded to vendors who had previously been shown to be corrupt. 

To address these glaring problems, I proposed that the NYC Comptroller be able to appoint a non-voting PEP member, who could provide expert counsel on contracting and other financial matters .  I also proposed that the Comptroller be responsible for training the PEP members in financial oversight, accountability, and fiduciary responsibilities.  According to state law, all Board of Education members are supposed to receive at least six hours of such training; and yet PEP members have publicly said that the training they receive is insufficient and minimal at best.

The state law does include a provision that the DOE is exempt from these requirements, but only if the Chancellor certifies annually in writing to the State Education Department that the training that PEP members receive is at least as rigorous as the law requires.  Yet after I FOILed the State for these written certifications, NYSED said they hadn't received any in at least the last three years. 

Politico 

Mayoral control of New York City schools not expected in state Legislature's one-house budget resolutions

Lawmakers have publicly been divided on the issue.

ALBANY, N.Y. — The issue of whether to grant New York City Mayor Eric Adams extended control over the nation’s largest school system is poised to be left out of the Assembly and Senate’s one-house budget resolutions, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.

The exclusion, expected to not be included in the resolutions to be released in the coming days, is an immediate blow to the new mayor’s agenda in Albany despite support from Gov. Kathy Hochul, who sought to grant Adams a four-year extension that would have run through the entirety of his first term in City Hall in her budget proposal in January.

But lawmakers have publicly been divided on the issue, and some have indicated they are leery of including it in the state budget without more time to review the matter.

One source familiar with the matter didn’t rule out that mayoral control could still be part of final budget negotiations with the governor for the fiscal year that starts April 1, but that it would not be included in one-house budget resolutions, which set out the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s agenda before budget talks start in earnest.

While mayoral control is traditionally not pushed for in one-house resolutions, it has also been kicked out of budget talks over the years and left to debate independently during the remainder of the legislative session, which runs through early June. The current version is set to expire on June 30.

Adams implored state leaders to not kick the measure out of the budget after POLITICO first reported the development earlier Friday, saying extending mayoral control would give students certainty over the management of their schools.

“Given its vital importance to the nearly one million students in our education system and the fact that parents right now do not know who will be responsible for their schools in mere months, it would be disappointing for mayoral accountability to be omitted from the budget,” Adams said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“We have a long way to go before a final budget is approved and our broad coalition will continue to wage this fight on behalf of our city’s children.”

Hochul’s office suggested that budget negotiations are continuing.

“Governor Hochul’s executive budget includes bold initiatives to embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our future, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to finalize a budget that serves all New Yorkers,” Hochul spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement.

The issue of New York’s school governance system has plagued city and state politics ever since mayoral control of city schools came to be under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who sought to improve the city school system by taking authority from the troubled local school board.

Adams has in recent days ramped up his push to keep intact mayoral control over city schools, which he supported on the campaign trail while maintaining that he would push to better engage various parties. From his alma mater in Bayside, Queens, Adams pitched mayoral control this week as a necessary tool in helming schools toward stability amid the disruptive tides of the coronavirus pandemic.

In March 2019, the Legislature approved a three-year extension under Adams’ predecessor, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, that will expire months into Adams’ first term. The bill included changes like increased parental involvement in Community Education Councils and more local representation on the Panel for Educational Policy, the Department of Education’s governing body.

But state lawmakers and parent leaders have said they are seeking more changes, including more parents chosen by communities on PEP, changing elections for Community Education Councils and giving the comptroller’s office power within PEP.

At a recent legislative hearing on the issue, State Sen. John Liu (D-Queens) said some questioned mayoral control’s place in the budget, given that it “does not actually have a fiscal impact.”

There has also been questions about whether Adams should get a full four years of mayoral control or a shorter stretch.

The head of the city’s principals union has called for a review of mayoral control by an independent organization as well as a task force and the addition of a Council Member and Community Education Council member to PEP. Michael Mulgrew, who heads the city’s teachers union, said he supports mayoral control but with changes and fixed terms for PEP members.

When asked about changes to PEP, Adams said it would reduce “the power of mayoral accountability.” He also said they may get “mayoral accountability,” but wondered what version of it they will receive.

“That’s the question,” he said during the press conference in Bayside on Tuesday. “If we don’t get this done now, what is the version that we’re going to get? As some state, turn over the power, the PEP to … parents. Some state that every year come back. What version are we going to get?”

Joseph Spector contributed to this report.

Comments on NY Post article below:

hmmmmmm....it's surprising the POST wasn't banging on about this and calling everyone who asked for the changes dangerous left wing socialist democrats who want to destroy the "best thing" that ever happened to NYC pubic schools  

My humble opinion, as a former district superintendent renew for one year, letting everyone know it is not being renewed past that date. This will give the City time to create a Central Board, a process to hire or retain the Chancellor and a process to create local school boards with caveats, like no DOE employee can serve on the local board. That was the number one corruption issue when I worked for the BOE
 

 NY Post

Albany Dems will seek to block Mayor Adams from school control, demand ‘tweaks’

By

State Assembly Democrats are moving to block New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ bid to extend mayoral control of city schools for four more years, demanding “tweaks” that would lessen his direct control over public education in the Big Apple.

The chairman of the Education committee in Albany’s lower chamber, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto (D-The Bronx), confirmed to The Post that Democrats in his chamber will not include the measure in their budget bill.

The provocative move takes aim at not only Adams, but Gov. Kathy Hochul, who included a four-year extension of mayoral control in her budget proposal.

“Given its vital importance to the nearly one million students in our education system and the fact that parents right now do not know who will be responsible for their schools in mere months, it would be disappointing for mayoral accountability to be omitted from the budget,” said Adams in a statement responding to the move late Friday.

It comes at a time when Adams is facing off against powerful Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) over his request for significant tweaks to the state’s controversial criminal justice reforms, which Heastie and many progressive Democratic lawmakers who loosened the laws under bail reform vigorously oppose.

“The mayor has good reason to be concerned. It’s not going to be considered in the budget bill,” Benedetto said.

The chair of the state Senate’s committee on public schools in the five boroughs, state Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), declined to comment.

The Assembly budget bill is the chamber’s answer to the budget proposal already introduced by Hochul. Lawmakers and Hochul have until April 1 to hammer out a deal on the must-pass legislation.

Mayoral control expires on June 30.

State lawmakers and disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo have frequently held up renewals of mayoral control as a way to gain political leverage over New York City’s mayors.

“That’s really the only plausible explanation of what’s going on here,” a senior DOE official said Friday. “It’s a touchy subject and they aren’t going to say it publicly, but that’s the perception.”

Schools Chancellor David Banks and the mayor have made grand pronouncements about their ability to reform the DOE — and losing mayoral control would badly hobble that effort.

In 2009, the tumult in among Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate delayed extending mayoral control for so long that New York City was forced to temporarily reinstitute the much-maligned Board of Education — when Adams was a state senator.

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