2015-03-18 / Political Page

Who’s Running NYC Schools, Gov Or Mayor?

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s schools program and budget proposal have mostly emphasized teacher evaluations, and the teachers and their unions have in turn responded and made this the central focus of the 2015 fight over education.

However, another part of the Governor’s battle to reform public education again creates another example of his confrontational attitude toward Mayor Bill de Blasio and positions Cuomo to directly oppose the Mayor’s designated role as head of the public school system in New York City.

Simply put, the mayor is pursuing a $150 million plan called Renewal Schools, targeting the city’s neediest 94 schools in the system with plans to close them, and giving added resources to improve 53 of them.

Meanwhile, the governor has unveiled what he calls a Receivership Plan to reform 91 failing schools in the city with more than 50,000 students enrolled in them.

However, last week, Councilman Daniel Dromm, a former school teacher who now heads the Education Committee, rallied with councilmembers, parents and educational advocacy groups, calling upon the state legislature in Albany “to eliminate the governor’s Executive Budget Proposal on school Receivership.”

Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) said Cuomo’s plan authorizes the State Commissioner of Education (SED) “to designate receivership districts in the lowest 2.5 percent statewide and schools in the lowest achieving 5 percent.

“In these cases,” Dromm said, “the SED commissioner would be authorized to appoint an individual, another district, or a nonprofit organization to assume the management of the school or district. The ‘receiver’ would have the power to unilaterally change school budgets, curriculum, collective bargaining agreements, school schedules and school staffing.

“The receiver would also be authorized to convert the school into a charter school—without a vote of parents. However, there is no evidence of the effectiveness of the receivership model.”

Dromm continued, “Governor Cuomo’s school receivership plan isn’t appropriate for New York City. We already have a plan called Renewal Schools that is showing great promise.” He said the plan “infuses an additional $150 million into our neediest schools. It reduces class sizes to 25 students and provides individualized professional development, among other things.”

Teachers are supporting the plan and “our Mayor has stepped up to the plate on this issue,” Dromm stated, “and it deserves a chance to succeed.”

Dromm emphasized, “New York City is directly accountable for the performance of city public schools, pursuant to mayoral control.”

In November, Dromm said, the city Department of Education (DEC) unveiled its plan to revitalize the “city’s lowest performing schools,” designating 94 struggling schools in the Renewal Schools program, and each will become a community school with 25 students.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D–Corona), who chairs the Financial Services Committee, noted “Mayor de Blasio’s Renewal School program relies on community involvement so families, educators and school leadership have an internalized responsibility and there are customized, deep-rooted improvements to schools.” In comparison, Ferreras pointed out, the governor’s plan “potentially eliminates parent and teacher involvement.”

She stated, “We know the needs of our children and our schools best and, therefore, improving their performance should remain under the control of New York City.”

Also emphasizing the point of local control of the city schools, Councilman Daneek Miller (D–St. Albans) stated: “The notion that Albany bureaucrats should have school control, rather than local communities and parents, is wrong and reckless. The state already owes the city billions in court-ordered education funding and clearly has not lived up to this mandate. We must question Albany’s credibility on educational issues, not embolden these bureaucrats with more authority.”

On the same point Maria Bautista, Campaign Coordinator, Alliance for Quality Education, stated: “Under [his] plan, Governor Cuomo would replace NYC control over public schools with gubernatorial control. He should keep his hands off our schools. He needs to focus on funding them properly, not trying to take them over.”

Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, who has been fighting the governor’s plan to put in place teacher evaluations and get rid of those who don’t reach performance standards said, “We have a mayor and a schools chancellor who not only understand what it takes…, but are committed to making it happen.” But suddenly he wants to “strip away local control” and give these schools “to some outside entity, one that he picks. But state takeovers of public schools have a lousy track record.”

GOV BACKED BY CONGRESS AGAINST ON-CAMPUS SEXUAL VIOLENCE: In contrast to the fierce battle Governor Cuomo is facing trying to make major improvements in New York City’s public schools, his effort to create the strongest protections on the state’s college campuses against sexual violence are moving along smoothly and gaining support steadily.

Last week the governor announced that 15 members of the state’s Congressional Delegation had joined his Enough is Enough campaign, which would codify uniform sexual assault prevention and response protocols for all colleges and universities in the state.

The Congressional Delegation’s support follows the more than 100 elected officials from across the state, more than 40 city mayors, 17 of 18 county executives and TV personality Whoopi Goldberg, who have joined Enough is Enough.

“We all share a responsibility for ensuring schools are safe places for learning, and I am honored to be joined by our congressional partners in our fight against sexual assault on college campuses,” the governor stated. “Together, with a bipartisan group of officials from every level of government and every corner of the state, we are saying that ‘Enough is Enough’ and it’s time to put a stop to these crimes once and for all.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–NY), who is leading the effort nationwide, stated “Sexual assault on college campuses is a pervasive problem and too often it’s swept under the rug. I commend Governor Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Hochul for their leadership and efforts to spotlight and combat this issue in New York State. At the federal level we must flip the current incentives of a broken system to provide real accountability from higher education institutions and end sexual violence on college campuses.”

Of the 15 members of the state’s delegation who have joined in this effort with the governor, five are from the Queens delegation: Joseph Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks and Steve Israel.

Congressman Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) stated: “Every student on every campus deserves to learn in an environment free from the fear of sexual assault. We’ve seen the alarming numbers we’ve heard the devastating stories— there is no question that more must be done to strengthen prevention efforts and help ensure the safety of every student. New York has been at the forefront in the battle against campus sexual assault and I applaud Governor Cuomo for his continued commitment to making our campuses safer.”

Congresswoman Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) said: “Governor Cuomo is delivering the most aggressive approach in the nation to combating sexual assault on college campuses. The Governor’s plan clearly defines consent, ensures students know their rights, and creates training requirements for university staff to ensure they know the law. At the federal level, I passed the CampusSaVEAct, and I have introduced the House version of Senator Gillibrand’s Campus Accountability and Safety Act. It’s good to see that all levels of government are working to ensure that being sexually assaulted is no longer a part of earning a college degree.”

Congressman Meeks (D–Southeast Queens) stated: “Governor Cuomo’s legislation is a great leap forward in protecting our college students from the harms, both physical and mental, of sexual assault. I applaud the Governor’s work on this critical issue and encourage the State Assembly to pass the Sexual Assault Prevention bill as quickly as possible.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D–Flushing) said: “I commend and support Governor Cuomo’s efforts to combat sexual violence on college campuses throughout our state. It is critical that we raise awareness of this heinous behavior and do all we can to prevent it. The Governor’s proposals to create a uniform policy for all colleges and universities in New York will go a long way toward accomplishing those critical goals, and they would ensure that victims of this terrible crime receive all the assistance and support that they require.

Congressman Steve Israel (D–Northeast Queens/L.I.) said: “The prevalence of sexual assault on our college campuses is simply unacceptable. Enough is enough, which is why I’m pleased to support Governor Cuomo’s program to provide the resources colleges and universities need to combat sexual assault.”

GIANARIS SEEKING $7M OWED TO LICHS: State Senator Michael Gianaris has declared he is “working to see that New York State provides Long Island City High School with the nearly $7 million the school is owed…”

Gianaris (D-Western Queens) explained that that amount was determined by a 2006 Court of Appeals decision it handed down in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) case. The lawmaker, who graduated from LICHS, noted that his alma mater was “owed more than all but two other schools—$6,709,960.29 in total.”

“This astronomical figure averages out to more than $2,660 per pupil” he added.

The Senator has a long history of fighting for LICHS in the face of threatened co-locations and closures.

Gianaris charged, “Starving our public schools of the resources they need has led us to a crisis. It is unacceptable that this school, which has beaten back attack after attack in recent years, remains nearly $7 million short of what it needs.

“We should be giving our kids every opportunity to succeed, but instead the students at Long Island City High School have been forced to deal with bureaucratic distractions, and now we find out it’s “not getting millions of dollars to which it is legally entitled.”

He promised, “I will do all I can to make sure this is rectified.”

Gianaris explained that the CFE decision determined Albany shortchanged New York City schools by billions of dollars, and in so doing failed in its constitutional obligation to provide students with a sound education.

Senator Gianaris stated he has long worked to make sure NYC schools get the funding they deserve and will continue his efforts to see that children in Western Queens get the education resources they need to succeed.

The lawmaker noted his advocacy extends to PS 111 as well, which is owed nearly $1 million. All figures presented come from a recent analysis of what specific schools deserve according to the CFE ruling.

VALLONE: PARTICIPATORY BUDGET VOTING APRIL 11-19: Voting on the Participatory Budget will be held April 11-19 in Council District 19, Councilman Paul Vallone’s district, he has announced. The district includes the following communities: Auburndale, Bayside, Bay Terrace, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Malba, Little Neck, North Flushing and Whitestone.

Anyone living in any of these areas and is at least 16 years old can vote on the proposals, even if you’re not registered or eligible to vote in electoral elections.

Visit www.council.nyc.gov to verify that you live in the district. Please bring proof of residency (an ID, a bill etc.) with you in order to vote.

Vallone (D-Bayside) said to learn more about Participatory Budgeting and the location of voting sites in District 19, call 718-619-8611, email: District 19 @council.nyc.gov; website: Council.nyc.gov/pb; visit: 42-40 Bell Boulevard, Suite 507 (main voting site) Facebook: Facebook.com/Councilmember Paul Vallone; or Twitter @PaulVallone.

Vallone points that through Participatory Budgeting you can decide how at least $1 million is spent on community improvements to parks, schools, libraries, streets and more. “Come out and make your voice heard by voting on which projects should be funded this year,” he says.

MALONEY BLASTS ATF ALLOWING ‘COP-KILLER’ BULLETS: Reacting to the decision by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) decision to shelve a proposal that would have banned M855 ammunition, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney declared, “It’s shameful that the gun lobby has, yet again, successfully worked to block an effort that would keep our communities safer from the threat of gun violence.”

And she pointed out that “this time we’re talking about banning the use of armor-piercing ammunition, also known as ‘cop killer bullets’, that can be used in increasingly more concealable weapons.”

“The decision to shelve this rule puts the narrow interests of the gun lobby before public safety.”

Putting a clearer meaning on allowing such powerful ammunition, Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) stated: “Last year, 50 police officers were killed with a firearm in the line of duty, and nothing significant has been done to prevent similar tragedies this year. Police officers put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities. At the very least we should enforce the laws on the books, and that includes continually updating regulations based on how those laws apply to a changing marketplace.

“It is a national scandal that in the face of terrible tragedies, this country has failed to take meaningful action to protect the public from the tens of thousands of gun-related deaths every year.”

Prior to the decision on the M855 ammo, Maloney had been circulating a letter to her colleagues supporting the ATF’s proposed rule:

Dear Director Jones

We commend the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on its proposed framework update for the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act (LEOPA) and urge ATF to implement this important new policy that will keep our officers and first responders safe. In 2014, 50 police officers were killed with a firearm in the line of duty, and these incidents exact a tragic toll, not just from these departments, but from the families and communities they serve. Congress passed LEOPA in 1986 to ensure that law enforcement officers did not face extreme safety risk from firearm technology like armor-piercing ammunition. For years, the exemption of rifle ammunition made sense, but the recent proliferation of handguns capable of firing 5.56 mm steel-core armorpiercing rifle ammunition prompts action to pro- tect officers from emerging threats.

ATF took great care to consider and evaluate the concerns of both law enforcement and the firearm industry while developing the revised framework, and we strongly support its decision to consider the likely use of ammunition in nonsporting handguns when determining if a product will be used primarily for sporting purpose. In addition, objective, predictable criteria for eligibility will help manufacturers plan new products and grant consumers greater certainty. The proposed framework is a tremendous step in the right direction to reclaim Congress’ intent in LEOPA and we look forward to ATF’s continued diligence to protect our brave law enforcement officers. Sincerely, Carolyn B. Maloney.

MALONEY APPLAUDS $2M GIFT TO LAG CC: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney last week praised a $2 million gift to LaGuardia Community College, which is the largest donation the college has ever received in its history and will help reduce dropout rates she said. The gift was from Goldman Sachs Gives, a charity run by the Wall Street firm.

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) stated: “I congratulate LaGuardia Community College on this terrific news and thank Goldman Sachs for its very generous contribution to this great institution. Thanks to Goldman Sachs’ donation, which is the largest in the school’s history, LaGuardia will be able to provide additional student support, reduce the dropout rate, and better prepare young people to get jobs. This will make a huge difference in many people’s lives.

Maloney concluded: “Community colleges provide important opportunities, and a pathway to the middle class, for thousands of students, and no school does it better than LaGuardia Community College, which I’m so proud to represent.”

And the lawmaker added the following tagline: LaGuardia Community College has one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, with students from more than 150 different countries, speaking over 125 native languages.

ADDABBO SAYS ‘NO’ TO LIQUEFIED GAS PROPOSAL IN ROCKAWAYS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. made it very, very clear that he is “giving a big ‘N-O’ to the Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Facility Proposal” in the Rockaways, “citing amongst many concerns the threat to the environment and a serious issue for public safety.”

And the lawmaker added, “Here’s a surprise— another proposal that affects our community, but has no benefit for our people. After surviving Sandy and Irene, protecting New York from fracking and continued governmental efforts to preserve our environment, this proposal, if approved, could knock us back to square one,” said Addabbo, a member of the Senate Environmental Committee. “Now, we must work together so this idea does not become a reality.”

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained: “Liberty Natural Gas (LNG) proposed this offshore port, which would import liquefied natural gas. The port would allow two LNG vessels, each as long as the height of the Empire State Building, to directly connect to Long Island’s natural gas system. It would sit just south of the Rockaway beaches and mere miles from John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport.

The lawmaker continued, “Currently, there is no need for an import site, given the country’s abundance of natural gas. This leaves LNG the opportunity to flip this facility into an export location to ship domestic natural gas to Europe or the highest bidder. This could dramatically increase hydrofracking in nearby states and will increase pressure to tap new sources.”

Addabbo said, “Not only is there this significant environmental concern, but the Port Ambrose facility poses a threat to public safety and specifically my constituents near JFK Airport and in the Rockaways. This site would bring a constant supply of explosive, volatile gas sitting just miles from shore—a supply which is said to hold the same explosive power as 55 Hiroshima bombs. Are we simply to sit around and hope the ticking time bomb doesn’t run out?”

Addabbo added, furthermore, the LNG facility is proposed for the same area and would conflict with a potential wind farm, which would supply clean energy and lay the groundwork for a future in renewable energy. The wind farm would provide upwards of approximately 2,800 full-time jobs and add $645 million to the local economy, according to a SUNY Stonybrook study. In contrast, there is no economic need for Port Ambrose, the pipeline operation would create minimal jobs and the United States has more than enough natural gas supplies.

The lawmaker concluded, “Governor Andrew Cuomo has the power to veto Port Ambrose next month, and the public had until March 16 to voice its opposition. For more information, people can visit www.cleanaction.org, www.nolngcoalition.com or www.saneenergyproject.org. He signed off, saying, “In the time we have left, we must show the governor we do not want this dangerous, hazardous facility so close to our homes. There is no logical reason to go through with it.”

AVELLA/WEPRIN LEAD RALLY AGAINST BRIDGE TOLLS: State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin have gathered several hundred small businesses, civic organizations and the Queens Chamber of Commerce against the renewed congestion pricing proposal, which includes tolls on all East River bridges.

The small army of opponents includes: Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free, the Small Business Congress of New York City, representing over 180,000 small businesses throughout New York City; the Queens Civic and cooperative associations; members of the Queens Chamber of Commerce; Friends of LaGuardia; and many community and civic organizations throughout the city.

The congestion pricing plan was unveiled by Move NY recently as part of its transportation plan, and it proposes tolls on all East River bridges crossing into Manhattan, eliminating the only remaining free routes in and out of Queens and Brooklyn, the lawmakers said.

They added that the East River bridges— which include the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Ed Koch Queensboro spans–are used every day by low and middle income families who commute between boroughs for access to hospitals, schools and other facilities.

The added tolls, Avella and Weprin said, would also pose a threat to the financial future of thousands of small businesses who use these bridges for deliveries every day.

They also stated that although under the congestion pricing plan, the East River bridges would become toll routes, other bridges, such as the Whitestone and Throgs Neck, would have tolls slightly lowered. However, they noted, the plan creates a serious concern that once tolls are implemented on the East River crossings, the price to cross the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges would then be jacked back up to their current rates, if not higher.

Avella had previously introduced legislation (S. 1100/A. 6029), carried by Weprin in his house, that would ban tolls on any East River crossing, whether vehicular or pedestrian.

Avella (D–Northeast Queens) pointed out: “In a district like mine, where public transportation is hard to come by, residents rely on their vehicles to get around the city every day. This often means crossing any of the bridges in and out of Queens and Brooklyn, including the ones over the East River. Adding tolls to these onlyremaining free routes does a serious injustice to the thousands of commuters who drive across these bridges.

“In addition, the Move NY plan provides no guarantee that the money collected from the imposed tolls would actually be used to maintain these four bridges. That is why I have introduced legislation that would prohibit placing tolls on any of the East River bridges. Clearly, we need to better fund mass transit and infrastructure, but placing these tolls is not the way to do it.”

Weprin (D–Glen Oaks) stated: “The City of New York is a very large metropolis where not all locations in the five boroughs are easily accessible by public transportation. And oftentimes, the many outer-borough residents of this city are left with little-to-no adequate transit options for themselves and their families.

“They choose to drive because they have to, not because they find the drive particularly enjoyable, and certainly not because they are rich. We, as elected officials representing the various New York City communities must do everything we can to protect our neighbors, not hurt them. It is nothing but a renewed toll-tax scheme, and this type of ‘highway robbery’ does not belong in our great city.”

Corey Bearak, Senior Policy Advisor for Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free, stated: “Those who claim to be about fair tolling and transportation reinvestment ignore the record of the city residents who use the free roads that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. This toll-tax scheme asks these residents to bear a cost just above $11, or $16 cash, per day. Tolling the free East River bridges connecting Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan certainly will not ‘move New York’. We agree that our electeds must treat support for transit seriously. Toll-tax schemes represent nothing serious when we must focus on real revenue streams to support public transit.”

Raymond Irrera, former President and current member Queens Chamber of Commerce, stated: “This plan has the potential to hurt the small businesses of Queens and Brooklyn, for no guaranteed benefit. I stand with Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin in opposing any congestion pricing. Businesses and taxpayers cannot afford this.”

Bob Friedrich, President of Glen Oaks Village in Queens, said: “Imposing $16 roundtrip tolls on the East River crossings that have remained free for more than 100 years is a crushing expense and cost burden that families and seniors on a fixed income cannot afford. Outer borough residents, and particularly seniors, will be hurt by this proposal each time they venture into Manhattan seeking medical care or a doctor’s appointment.

“Many parts of New York City have only limited bus service, yet the Manhattan-centric proponents of this plan have the audacity to call car ownership a luxury, when in reality, it is a necessity for many of us… This confiscatory tax-tolling scheme must be stopped and our East River bridges must remain toll-free.”

Ken Paskar, President, Friends of La Guardia Airport, wrote: “Friends of La Guardia Airport strongly oppose congestion pricing because it will prevent fair and equal access to our city’s airports for city residents in Manhattan and the Bronx. We are putting at great risk our city’s travel industry, which provides hundreds of thousands of jobs for New Yorkers and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for New York every single year.” He closed by saying any financial gains and job creation that might be derived from congestion pricing will be offset by greater losses, and he believes the new plan will have an immensely negative impact on the city’s travel industry, so his organization “strongly supports” the Avella- Weprin bill.

Steve Barrison, President, Small Business Congress of New York City, representing over 180,000 small businesses throughout NYC, said, “Small businesses in all five boroughs serve, deliver and care for our city and they all need to travel by vehicle. Thus, tolls hurt mom-andpops, individual independent business owners, seniors who need medical care, sole proprietors, professionals, and the handicapped and disabled.

“Most of the outer boroughs, except when you live close to mass transit, are underserved. Most small businesses need vehicles to operate, and the increase in cost hurts them the most.”

MILLER ANNOUNCES 2 NOMINEES FOR WOMEN OF DISTINCTION AWARD: Sandra Singh, owner of Singh’s Sporting Goods in Ozone Park, and Francesca Ferrara, of Glendale, moderator of the Padre Pio prayer group have been nominated for Women of Distinction Awards, Assemblymember Michael Miller (D–Woodhaven) announced. It’s all part of March being the month in which we honor them, Miller explained.

He continued: “The two women from our district who have been nominated as Women of Distinction are two incredible sources of strength to our community. (which includes Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Glendale).

“Time and again these women have shown the utmost dedication both in and outside of what is expected of them, reaching into the fabric of our community itself to help foster the sense of pride that so defines the area we call home,” Miller waxed on. “These are truly women of distinction, whose abilities and tireless efforts have made their achievements undeniable to anyone even passingly familiar with who they are.

“It is with strong gratitude that I acknowledge the work these women have done for our community and say ‘thank you.’”

Miller invites the community to join in his Women of Distinction Awards ceremony at the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center on March 27 at 10 a.m. “Please take the time to be part of the ceremony,” he asked. “It is just a small token of appreciation for those women who have done so much for us.

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