Education report card for Mayor de Blasio
Today, Sunday April 19 at noon, in front of the Department of Education headquarters at Tweed, NYC Kids PAC released a report card on Mayor de Blasio
NYC KidsPAC provided the DOE and the Mayor’s office with this report three weeks ago, and received no response. They will now provide the report to the leaders and members of the State Legislature, to help them decide whether to renew mayoral control.
In 2013 NYCKids PAC endorsed Bill de Blasio for Mayor, citing the hope he would “stop the rampant privatization of our schools and the overemphasis on testing, will listen more closely to the concerns of parents and communities, and will push for new investments in expanding preK, improving classroom conditions and alleviating school overcrowding.” We believe that De Blasio has a better understanding of the issues than the previous administration, and has made several positive changes, most notably the expansion of preKindergarten, but has yet to live up to his promises in other important areas.
The grades the Mayor received from NYC KidsPAC are decidedly mixed, ranging from “A” and “A-“ on cell phones, school closings, and arts education, to a “B” on testing, and a “D” on co-locations, space planning, parent engagement and input, special education and student privacy. He received an “F” on class size, transparency and accountability and diversity.
Shino Tanikawa, president of NYC KidsPAC and a Manhattan parent leader explained: “We thank Mayor de Blasio on his reversal of the cell phone ban and halting school closures, two issues that are important to many parents. We are also encouraged by his commitment to arts education. The Mayor expressed some very promising ideas for improving the governance of our school system during his campaign. For example, he proposed fixed terms for the Panel for Educational Policy members, and to ask Community Education Councils to vote on changes in school utilization including co-locations. Then PEP members would be required to refer to those votes in their decision-making. None of these reforms have yet occurred, and we have seen many damaging co-locations approved without reference to the priorities of parents in those communities. Our report gives him a “D” in the category of Co-locations, and an incomplete in Governance. Though we hope that he will deliver on more of his promises soon, we must oppose the renewal of mayoral control without real checks and balances and more decision-making power given to parents and community members.”
Eduardo Hernandez, a member of Community Education Council in District 8 in the Bronx, said: “NYC kids have just endured three strenuous days of ELA testing and will sit through another three days in math next week. We gave the Mayor a “B” in this category, because the DOE has acknowledged that parents have the right to opt out their children out of testing, and engage in another activity. However, the DOE has not publicized this sufficiently, and many parents remain unaware of their rights. The Mayor has neglected to reform the admissions process to gifted programs and to the five selective, specialized high schools under his control that still rely solely on test scores. Though when he ran for office, he pledged to make admissions to these programs and schools based on more holistic factors, they are still based solely on high-stakes exams with racially disparate outcomes.”
“Overcrowded classrooms and rising enrollments are pervasive problems that have plagued our children’s schools for far too long. We gave him an “Incomplete” because so far the de Blasio Administration has failed to act follow up on his promises to alleviate overcrowding by improving the school capital plan, which is months overdue. The current version of the plan doesn’t meet one third of the actual need, given existing overcrowding and enrollment projections, and without improvement, NYC kids are likely result to be subjected to even more crammed conditions in the future,” said Andy Lachman, head of Parent Leaders of Upper East Side Schools (PLUS).
As Gloria Corsino, president of the Citywide Council for District 75, pointed out, “Bill de Blasio gets an “F” when it comes to transparency and accountability. Our education budget is no clearer than under Bloomberg; huge consulting contracts are still approved by the PEP with little or no explanation, including a $1 billion contract that was awarded to a company that had engaged in a kickback scheme. Luckily, City Hall reversed that decision at the last minute, but this is a contract that should never have been proposed in the first place. Freedom of Information requests are responded to no more quickly, and the DOE still refuses to count all the kids in trailers, including hundreds of students with disabilities, and thousands of high school students. The recommendations of the Blue Book working group for improving the accuracy of DOE’s figures on overcrowding have still not been released to the public.”
Karen Sprowal, a parent leader in Upper Manhattan, gave some of the reasons why the Mayor received a “D” for Parent engagement: “It is very disappointing that parents have so little input under this administration. The Chancellor now claims in court that School Leadership Teams, composed of half parents, have only advisory powers, which is contrary to state law. The DOE revamped their parent survey without any input from parents, and took out what we considered the most important question, as to which improvement strategy we would most like to see in our schools, a question that has been asked by DOE since 2007. Too often at Town Hall meetings, the Chancellor responds to parental concerns with a dismissive attitude. Sadly, we have also heard from many CEC members that they still feel their views are not consulted before important decisions are made.”
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, said, “The Mayor gets an “F” on class size, because he has fulfilled none of his promises on this critical issue, the top priority of parents according to the DOE’s own surveys. Despite his commitment to reduce class size significantly, and if necessary, raise funds to do so, class sizes remain at a fifteen year high in the early grades, and the administration has taken no action in this area or indicated that they intend to follow through in any way. In fact, the Chancellor has repeatedly ignored the concerns expressed by educators and parents, and has stated that class size is not a problem that needs to be solved, despite the decision of the state’s highest court that NYC children are denied their constitutional rights because their classes are too large. “
“NYC KidsPAC gives the Mayor an “F” for diversity, as the well-documented segregation in NYC schools has not been addressed despite his campaign promises. The administration has failed to respond to communities asking for district-wide solutions that have been shown to increase equity of access in numerous school systems across the country. Mayor de Blasio has failed to live up to his obligation to address this civil rights issue by amending the admissions policies that stratify our schools,” concluded Lisa Donlan, President of Community Education Council in District One on the Lower East Side.