Mar 28th - 4:31 pm
ICYMI: NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi told me during a CapTon interview last night that the reason more members of the education community have declined to sign onto his union’s lawsuit challenging the two percent property tax cap is because they’re afraid of “retribution.”
It was not explicitly stated, but it was fairly clear who would be meting out said retribution. After all, the tax cap was one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature policy achievements during his first year in office.
“We had a lot of people patting us on the back, and when we walked around with our press release they were really hard to find,” Iannuzzi said.
“But that didn’t matter. We’ve gone alone on important issues before, and we’ll go it alone if that’s what happens. I’m positive it’s fear of retribution…and it’s sad, frankly, it’s very sad.”
“Because you’re talking about education, talking about where you’re trying to instill in young people the importance of standing up for principles, and leading by example usually helps.”
I asked Iannuzzi if NYSUT has experienced any retaliation from Team Cuomo since filing its suit.
“Not at all,” he insisted, adding: “The governor knew how we felt about the property tax cap….there’s shared responsibility and I hope there will be shared responsibility in addressing it going forward.”
So, if you believe Iannuzzi – and who wouldn’t, since quite clearly retribution isn’t something that worries him – maybe this time the administration decided not to go the threat route.
Mar 11th - 3:31 pm
Here’s an interesting blast from the past: Former NY1 and WCBS-2 political reporter-turned book writer and gay nightclub/hotel impresario is returning to the public eye – this time on the other side of the pen and camera.
NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today he has tapped Kirtzman to servce as his senior advisor for Communications and Public Affairs. In this role, Kirtzman will oversee the media and public affairs offices and manage communications for the city’s Department of Education. His first day will be next Monday. (No word in the press release about his salary).
“Andrew has a long and distinguished career and will be critical member of my leadership team as we continue to raise standards and prepare students for college and careers,” said Walcott. “Andrew will lead a talented team and we look forward to working together to communicate with parents, students and our school communities.”
It’s an interesting time to take a job with the Bloomberg administration, since the mayor is on his way out the door, and the next mayor – presumably – will want to pick his or her own chancellor, who, in turn, would likely want to appoint his or her own top staffers.
The administration is also at a difficult place vis-a-vis education, which has long been a main focus for the mayor and is supposed to be a major part of his legacy. He managed to wrest control of the public school system in the city, thanks to the state Legislature, which means any positives or negatives in terms of performance rest almost entirely on his shoulders.
Kirtzman is no doubt savvy when it comes to both NYC media and politics, though he has been out of the limelight for a while. He worked in both TV and print.
From 2003 to 2008, he was a political reporter for WCBS-TV and hosted Kirtzman and Co., a weekly Sunday morning show. Prior to that, Kirtzman co-anchored NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” the sister show of YNN’s “Capital Tonight.”
Kirtzman also reported for the New York Daily News, Houston Post and Hudson Dispatch. He is the author of two books, one on Bernard Madoff and the other on former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with whom he weathered the earliest moments in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
A May 2011 New York Times story described Kirtzman as “the unofficial mayor of Fire Island Pines, as a club and hotel impresario, restaurateur, landlord and developer.” But the storied waterfront properties he owned with two business partners were gutted by a fire in November 2011. UPDATE: As per that NYT story, the Pavilion, the island’s legendary dance club and social hub, is being rebuilt and is set to re-open this season.
Mar 7th - 11:56 am
Last month, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo wrote to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli seeking guidance on behalf of several schools in her Southern Tier district that are teetering on the edge of fiscal insolvency and are unclear what options they might have if they do indeed run short of sufficient cash to pay their bills.
Today, DiNapoli’s office responded to the assemblywoman, and the answer is not terribly encouraging.
Basically, according to Deputy Comptroller Steven Hancox, schools facing a fiscal crisis have one of two options: An emergency infusion of state aid, or a state control board. (Unlike municipal governments, schools are not legally allowed to declare bankruptcy).
Lupardo says she’s focused on option A, which doesn’t come as a big surprise.
A variety of Assembly Democrats – including Speaker Sheldon Silver – have been calling for additional education funding in the 2013-14 budget, and it’s a safe bet the one-house bill we’re expecting to see from the conference Monday will include an increase to the 4.4 percent bump Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already proposed.
“Additional state aid would be ideal,” Lupardo said. “That’s something I’m working on in our budget negotiations, through a more equitable funding formula.”
“Fiscal control boards remove local control and would surely be a last resort. In the absence of more state aid, and tangible mandate relief, schools will have to continue making steep budget cuts or borrow funds to meet rising expenses. They could of course try to override the property tax cap, but that is highly unlikely in fiscally strapped communities like ours.”
Mar 5th - 1:03 pm
ICYMI: The Campaign for Fiscal Equity is representing several New York City public school parents in a lawsuit against Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the NYC Department of Education for what they maintain are ongoing and persistent violations of New York’s Contract for Excellence Law.
The law requires districts receiving state aid to spend the money on programs to improve student learning, such as smaller class sizes, full-day K and pre-K, and also develop a spending plan through a public process.
Districts are supposed to publish their proposed plans for comment and hold public hearings in each of the five boroughs.
The lawsuit maintains that the NYC Education Department has failed to hold any borough-wide hearings for years, and also posted its C4E plan five months late – in mid-February, well after much of the money in question was spent.
CFE is asking the court to compel the DOE to schedule borough-wide hearings and extend the deadline for public comment to give parents a genuine opportunity to participate in the C4E process.
“The DOE’s actions with regard to the Contract for Excellence make a mockery of the public process provision of this important law,” said CFE’s senior attorney, Wendy Lecker. “Parents and community members have no opportunity to provide meaningful input on how these vital education dollars are being spent and no ability to track where the money is going.”
This comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed against the state by one of the attorneys who brought the original CFE suit, Mike Rebell, for its decision to withhold some $260 million worth of education aid from the New York City schools after the Bloomberg administration and the UFT failed to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation deadline.
Rebell successfully sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from keeping that money from the city until the lawsuit is decided. The Cuomo administration has indicated it will appeal that decision.
In the meantime, the Assembly Democrats are pushing Cuomo to restore the $260 million and also end the financial penalty for districts that fail to negotiate on-time teacher evaluation plans with their respective unions.
Lawmakers and Rebell argue that keeping back cash from districts ultimately hurts students and deprives them of their constitutional right to a sound, basic education.
Mar 1st - 10:54 am
A poll of school board members across the state found support for the state’s effort to impose an evaluation system if a district can’t come to an agreement on local criteria with a teachers union, the New York State School Boards Association announced this morning.
The news comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day amendments to his $142.6 billion budget proposal would have the state Department of Education impose an evaluation plan for teachers and principles in New York City after the United Federation of Teachers and the Bloomberg administration couldn’t reach a deal.
“School board members recognize the importance of having an effective evaluation system in place for teachers and principals,” said New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “At the same time, they know full well the challenges involved in negotiating evaluation plans and believe there should be some default mechanism in place for districts that do not reach agreement.”
The board found its survey also indicated support for a minimum wage increase and narrow 51-percent majority support expanding casino gambling outside of American Indian tribes.
As proposed by Cuomo, 90 percent of the revenue from new casinos would go toward education and 10 percent toward local property tax relief.
Cuomo wants to build three casinos north of the New York City metropolitan region, but one of the oustanding issues in his spending proposal with lawmakers is who has the power to site the casinos — the governor’s gaming commission or the Legislature.
Kremer said the school boards don’t want the gambling revenue to substitute current education spending.
“If casinos become a reality in New York, revenue generated to support public education must be used as a supplement – not a substitute – for current education funding,” he said.
Feb 19th - 7:33 am
An education reform organization is hitting the airwaves today with a six-figure ad buy that calls on “Albany” to impose a teacher evaluation system on the NYC schools since the Bloomberg administration and UFT have failed to reach a deal to do so.
The ad from Educators 4 Excellence, which appears below, notably doesn’t mention Gov. Andrew Cuomo, even though he reportedly is poised to introduce teacher evaluation legislation sometime this week.
“With no local deal in sight, the time has come for our leaders in Albany to step in and implement a real and meaningful evaluation system that will give teachers the critical feedback and support they need to help their students grow,” said E4E Executive Director Jonathan Schleifer.
“Teachers and students need immediate action, and by hitting the airwaves and collecting thousands of petition signatures across the City, we hope our leaders in Albany will hear the pleas of classroom teachers and deliver for them and the city’s 1.1 million school kids.”
The E4E ad buy is expected to be larger than $250,000, according to the NY Post. And the spot will be running in “heavy rotation” on broadcast and cable TV for at least the next week.
E4E is leaving open the possibility that the ad will stay on the airwaves longer, which is probably a good thing, since state lawmakers are on their winter break and many of them are out of town.
The NYC schools lost $250 million as a result of the failure by union leaders and the mayor to reach a teacher performance evaluation deal by the Sept. 17 deadline set by Cuomo.
(NYC is not the only district in the state in this predicament, but it is the largest).
The loss of cash, which state Education Commissioner John King is threatening will grow still larger, is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Michael Rebell – the attorney who successfully sued the state in the infamous CFE case.
Rebell’s argument in this instance is essentially the same as the one he made while arguing CFE – that depriving districts of cash hurts kids, not officials, and robs them of their constitutional right to a sound, basic education.
In his 2013-14 budget, Cuomo is pushing to keep the link between state aid and the teacher evaluation deadline – a necessary move, supporter say, since most of the plans approved across New York will only be in place for a single year.
But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has suggested that’s going to be a tough sell in his conference, which is dominated by downstate Democrats and is closely allied with the teachers unions.
If Cuomo does act to impose a plan on NYC, it sort of begs the question of why he didn’t get involved in the first place – not to mention proving Rebell’s point that the state should simply mandate an evaluation system if it wants one so badly.
Of course, creating a structure for putting teacher evaluation plans in place was a headache to begin with.
Officials almost blew the federal Race to the Top deadline, putting in jeopardy millions of dollars, with their bickering over the details of who would plan the plans and what data they would be based on.
Thanks to Cuomo’s involvement, state education officials and the teachers unions reached an eleventh hour teacher evaluation deal in 2012 just hours before the deadline the governor had set.
At the time, Cuomo threatened all the interested parties that he would step in and establish a system for them if they weren’t able to come to a deal.
And guess what? They did.
Given the fact that this “you do it, or I will” worked so well for the governor last time around, it’s a little curious why he didn’t try it again this time, instead opting to let NYC blow its deadline – something that clearly was on track to occur, given the acrimony between the UFT and Bloomberg – and lose millions of dollars in the process.
Here’s the script for the E4E ad:
Teacher 1 (Susan): I’ve been teaching for 13 years, and every day I give my students my all.
Teacher 2 (Jemal): A meaningful evaluation system will tell me what’s working and help me do better for my students.
Teacher 3 (Rafael): With feedback and support, I will be a stronger teacher for my students.
But New York City and the teacher’s union can’t agree on a new evaluation system. As a result, our classrooms lost $250 million, and could lose millions more.
We need Albany to pass a real, meaningful evaluation system now.
Teacher 2: We can’t afford any more empty promises, and empty programs.
Teacher 1: Our students deserve better.
Jan 30th - 2:33 pm
UFT President Mike Mulgrew was in Albany yesterday to testify at the joint legislative hearing on education, and got an earful from state lawmakers – particularly Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, who was furious about the union’s failure to reach a teacher evaluation deal with Mayor Bloomberg by the Jan. 17 deadline, costing the district hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid.
Nolan lectured Mulgrew about the need to get back to the negotiating table ASAP and stop short-charging NYC school kids, who, at the end of the day, are going to pay the price of funding lost because adults who are supposed to be more responsible and mature weren’t able to put their differences aside.
At the hearing, Mulgrew managed to keep his cool in the face of Nolan’s wrath, but also reiterated his oft-repeated claim that the mayor is lying about the circumstances surrounding the failed pre-Jan. 17 talks. (Basically, the union insists there was a deal and the mayor walked away, and the mayor rejects that claim, saying it the union didn’t really want a deal and made unrealistic demands).
But during a CapTon interview on his way out of town, Mulgrew upped the ante in his war of words against Bloomberg, suggesting that if the mayor isn’t able to work with the UFT to meet new terms laid out by state Education Commissioner John King, then he will ask state lawmakers to end mayoral control of the NYC school system early. (It is scheduled to sunset in 2015, long after Bloomberg is gone from City Hall).
“I don’t want to see any district lose money,” Mulgrew told me. “I’m in Albany every year advocating for school funding. This is something I take very seriously. I asked at the hearing today, I said: Direct New York City to take it out of central bureaucracy. You know, there’s other ways to do this right now.”
“We don’t want to lose any more money, which is like a major issue for us, because now February 15th, Commissioner King has put this issue in play where we have to have a training plan put together and submit it into SED.”
“…If the mayor refuses to even do that, then I’m going to have to go to the Legislature and say: We need to get rid of the current governance of the New York City School system. We can’t wait two more years for that to sunset. Because if he won’t even put together a plan with us to train people, and risks losing more money, then it’s just reckless.”
Mulgrew would likely find a sympathetic ear among the Senate Democrats from NYC, many of whom are not big Bloomberg fans and have made clear in the past that they’re not happy with the way mayoral control has worked out. (They did, however, vote to reauthorize it back in 2009.
Other than that, however, it’s highly unlikely that ending mayoral control early would be a proposal that receives serious consideration in Albany – a lot of consternation for not very much payoff, since it’s already scheduled to sunset anyway.
This whole discussion might be moot anyway, since Mulgrew confirmed the UFT and the administration have agreed to start teacher evaluation talks again, although there was no set schedule as of late yesterday afternoon.
“In the middle of this, we have figured out a way to try to get our talks moving again, because it’s got to be about the kids…I’m hoping the politics can be set aside. I’m not sure,” Mulgrew said.
Jan 30th - 12:46 pm
In the first four-way (yes, four!) legisaltive leaders meeting this morning with Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year, the governor unveiled a proposal designed to force the United Federation of Teachers and the Bloomberg administration into an agreement over teacher evaluations.
Cuomo told reporters after the meeting that he would introduce a new law that would allow the state to assume control over the evaluation process if the UFT and Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t come to an agreement “shortly.”
Failing to reach an agreement on the local criteria for teacher evaluations has meant a $450 million loss of federal and state aid to the city.
Cuomo and state lawmakers last year agreed to tie a 4 percent boost in state aid to completing teacher evaluations on the local level, with nearly all of the districts around the state finalizing plans with their individual bargaining units.
The notable exception, however, has been New York City and missed the Jan. 17 deadline.
“The city has been unable to come to the terms with the union,” Cuomo said. “I told the leaders this morning it was my intention to firmly request the city of New York and teachers union resolve their differences, come to an agreement, put a teacher evaluation in place and do the best they can to educate the children of New York.”
Cuomo said the state would act through the state Education Department and the Board of Regents, which approves the evaluation plans anyway.
After the negotiations failed, Bloomberg pointed to the UFT seeking an “sunset” provision in the deal, while union President Michael Mulgrew pointing to the administration’s intransigence.
“They missed the deadline,” Cuomo said. “A deadline is a deadline. The system worked extraordinarly well last year. That’s what we have to remember.”
Cuomo wouldn’t give a specific timetable for when he would push for the possible law to be adopted.
“We’re all grownups,” Cuomo said. “They understand the severity of the situation. Now maybe with this default mechanism it will give them a new perspective on the situation.”
Update: UFT President Michael Mulgrew released a statement saying they “welcome” Cuomo’s involvement.
I welcome Governor Cuomo’s involvement, and while we would prefer a negotiated settlement, it’s good to know that should the talks fail again, people who actually understand education will be part of the decision-making process. Parents need to know that, thanks to the Governor and the legislative leaders, there will be no further risk of the loss of state money for our schools.
Jan 25th - 12:27 pm
Today’s morning memo:
There was a lot of happy talk from legislative leaders after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his 2013-14 executive budget earlier this week – a plan that was clearly designed to minimize controversy and diminish any chance of the third on-time (or perhaps even early) budget deal of the governor’s tenure.
At first blush, it was difficult to see where, exactly, the trouble spots would be. But now that the respective leaders’ staffs – not to mention the special interests – have had a chance to read the fine print in Cuomo’s proposal, some potential problems are starting to emerge.
On the Senate side, the Republicans have issues with some of those so-called “revenue extenders” (in other words, taxes) that the governor has proposed.
It’s also unclear how, exactly, the minimum wage negotiations will go, although Cuomo has signaled he’s open to compromise. Ditto for the business community.
Over in the Democrat-dominated Assembly, Speaker Sheldon Silver is starting to make some noise on several of Cuomo’s key policy initiatives, including the siting of new, non-Indian run casinos (assuming the constitutional amendment allowing them gets second passage fro the Legislature and a green light from the public).
Silver said yesterday that he wants the Legislature to play a role in deciding where new casinos are located, and the decision should not be left solely to the governor’s new State Gaming Commission.
The speaker also apparently now disagrees with Cuomo’s push to keep casinos out of New York City “for the foreseeable future,” saying he’s open to a resort-style facility in the five boroughs – although not in densely populated areas in Manhattan and Central Brooklyn and Queens.
During an interview with our sister station NY1 last night, Silver opened up yet another avenue of disagreement with Cuomo – this time over teacher evaluations and the governor’s desire to penalize districts that fail to reach a deal with their unions by withholding state aid.
Silver noted that New York City is losing millions of dollars worth of state and federal aid due to its failure to reach an evaluation deal with the UFT by the Jan. 17 deadline – including $240 million that would have come as a result of the education aid increase in last year’s state budget.
Silver, who hails from lower Manhattan, made it clear that perpetuating that penalty – as Cuomo has proposed in his latest budget plan – will likely be a tough sell with his NYC-dominated conference.
“I wasn’t party to the negotiations. At some point I thought there was a deal being made, so I don’t know what went wrong with the deal. Two parties don’t agree, you know, there’s no deal, and that’s what happened here.”
“The city is penalized $240 million. One of the things in the budget, the governor perpetuates that penalty.”
“And that’s something that I think with 60 percent of the members in the majority of the Assembly coming from the City of New York that might be a difficult thing for the Assembly to including in the budget – the ongoing penalty of that $240 million.”
“I’m just saying it would be a difficult thing to deny the children of the city. There’s still a penalty of federal funds that we don’t control. There’s significant money on the table to encourage them to make a deal. And that was the original thought of it, is to put money on the table and say: Look, this means more teachers, this money, or less layoffs, if that’s the case.”
“…The deadline is over; I don’t think he should extend the deadline. You’re talking about this year’s money? (He has) until the end of the fiscal year, and then you begin the new fiscal year.”
“I’m just suggesting, looking at the new budget, we should not perpetuate that penalty so that the City of New York continues to lose that $240 million in state aid.”
More than 90 percent of the teacher evaluation plans submitted by districts across New York expire after one year. Mayor Bloomberg called these “sham” deals, and rejected the UFT’s effort to follow suit, arguing it takes two years to remove an ineffective teacher from a NYC classroom.
But state Education Commissioner John King defended his agency’s decision to approve these one-year plans, reasoning that the legal requirement for districts to have evaluations in place isn’t going anywhere, and also pointing to Cuomo’s intention to continue linking plan approval with state aid increases.
But Silver’s comments last night call that into question.
The Assembly Democrats have long been close allies with the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, and its NYC affiliate, the UFT. If they decide to make an issue of the teacher evaluation penalty, budget negotiations could get ugly.
Jan 18th - 3:56 pm
In a letter to NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, state Education Commissioner John King made it clear that just because the Bloomberg administration and the UFT blew last night’s teacher evaluation plan deadline, losing millions of dollars in state aid and federal grants in the process and putting additional money at risk in the future, does not mean they’re off the hook in coming up with a deal.
“The Department requires that, no later than February 15,2013, NYCDOE provide the Department with a plan, timeline and budget to accomplish the following, consistent with collective bargaining to the extent applicable, by March 1, 2013,” King wrote, before laying out exactly how much cash the state’s largest district has already lost – and stands to lose – if this directive is not met.
“…It is unfortunate that I am forced to take these actions, but the 1.1 million children who attend New York City schools deserve the very best education we can give them,” the commissioner continued. “The ongoing impasse regarding evaluations continues to deny them that education; we mus ttake action.”
The district has already lost $240 million worth of increased state aid that was contingent on SED’s approval of an evaluation plan by yesterday’s deadline. (That’s a 4 percent increase included in the 2012-13 budget, which went to all schools, the other five districts that also blew the deadline are losing their aid, too, but since their budgets are smaller, the overall amount pales in comparison to what was at stake for NYC).
There were also additional teacher support and systemic grants worth $45.65 million that are also now out of the picture for NYC.
What’s more – and this is all laid out in the letter below, and was reviewed by King during a conference call with reporters this afternoon – NYC needs the state to approve its Title 1 and Title 2A budgets, which fund some $827 million worth of activities in the district.
King said the state does not want to penalize the city’s public school students because the adults haven’t been able to get their collective act together, so instead, in the absence of a deal on a plan, will take action to take control of this money and direct how it is spent.
Additional federal funds from the federal Race to the Top grants – about $256 million – were contingent on a working teacher evaluation plan, King said, and so SED plans to “thoroughly review” its options where that cash is concerned, and then make a decision about its fate.