Marcus Winters I February 28, 2014
Yesterday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio revoked a Bloomberg administration promise to provide free public space to three schools in Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school network. Because charters receive no capital funds, these schools need the free space within the publicly owned facilities in order to operate. Thanks to de Blasio’s decision, about 700 kids—most of them are minority students from low-income households—planning to attend some of the city’s best schools in the fall will now have to return to the neighborhood schools from which they had fled…
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Charles Sahm I February 25, 2014
Yesterday, DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia issued a statement that outlined new steps the city is taking to invite more community input on any future school colocation plans. ChalkbeatNY heralded the announcement as an end to the “moratorium” on school colocations that Mayor de Blasio had campaigned on and repeated as recently as this month. The truth is more complicated.
The fact is that there never could be a “moratorium” on colocations. In a system with 1.1 million students, 1,800 schools, and 1,200 buildings, it is simply impossible to freeze all school sitings in place. Just one example: Dream charter is building its own building but construction is delayed so, per the DOE announcement yesterday, it will be given a couple classrooms from a Success Academy school this fall.
Even if the DOE has begun to think about a new process for future colocations there is still no news on the dozens of charter (and non-charter) colocations approved by the Bloomberg administration for this fall that the de Blasio administration is currently reviewing. A study out today by my colleague Marcus Winters that shows there is no harm to student achievement when schools share a building provides more support for the argument that these colocations should be allowed to proceed.
Bottom line: there never could be a “moratorium” on colocations; the real debate over their future is just getting started.Tweet
Nicole Gelinas I February 21, 2014
Thursday, just days after Mayor Bill de Blasio said he doesn’t want to see speeding and reckless drivers kill more kids, WCBS’s Marcia Kramer caught the mayor riding in an SUV whose driver blew speed limits – by a wide margin — and stop signs in Queens.
The mayor then deflected questions, with a spokesman saying that the police officers who drive de Blasio around have to break laws for security reasons, and the mayor repeating the assertion late Friday.
Does it matter, policy-wise, that the mayor can’t practice what he preaches? After all, it’s OK to want to reduce smoking even if you smoke, and it’s OK to be in charge of the subways even if you ride in a car.
In this case, though, de Blasio’s personal speeding failing does matter profoundly to public policy.
The single biggest way to reduce traffic deaths is to reduce vehicle speed. New York City currently has an ad campaign running that features a child, half his face flesh and blood and the other half a skeleton. “Hit at 40mph, there’s a 70 percent chance I’ll die,” the poster says. “Hit at 30mph, there’s an 80 percent chance I’ll live.”
On at least one dense residential road, de Blasio’s driver was going 40 when he should have been going 30. That’s the difference between life and death.
Knowing this fact is easy.
One challenge, though, is to win public acceptance for lower speed limits. de Blasio wants to lower the city’s general speed limit to 25, from 30, precisely to make it easier to penalize someone who’s going 10 miles over the speed limit.
But the city can’t depend on penalties alone. It must rely on cultural acceptance. “Drunk driving and failure to use seatbelts, once commonplace, are now socially unacceptable,” the mayor’s “Vision Zero” blueprint reads. “Today, we must bring the same concerted effort against dangerous and careless driving on our streets.”
Dangerous driving is speeding (and disregarding stop signs).
There’s no other way around it: the mayor showed New Yorkers through his behavior that it is still “OK” to speed.
Ask yourself: would the mayor have reacted the same if Kramer had presented evidence that his driver was drunk? Absolutely not.
It is highly unlikely that New Yorkers seriously believe that de Blasio’s driver broke the law because of some critical security consideration. New Yorkers likely suspect that the mayor was speeding for the same reason that they speed – because he or his driver was in a hurry.
Another big challenge, though, is to win police acceptance for lower speed limits – and to get the NYPD rank and file to understand that speeding and reckless drivers,not jaywalking pedestrians, cause traffic deaths.
One might think that this task is simple enough. The mayor controls the police department, not vice versa, and so his priorities should be the NYPD’s priorities.
But de Blasio’s action – or inaction – shows one of two things: either he was afraid to assert civilian control over this police detail, directing officers to follow the law, or he was either neutral toward or in favor of such law-breaking.
Either way, the mayor sent the wrong management signal to the police.
The biggest problem, though, is what the mayor did after Kramer exposed him.
The correct course of action was to apologize and use the incident as a teaching moment.
De Blasio should have said that his own or his driver’s own behavior – conscious or unconscious – is exactly what must change.
He should have said that he and his staff are like all New Yorkers – in a hurry, and trying to avoid the most probable but not particularly disastrous risk (being late yet again) at the expense of the lowest probable but catastrophic risk (hitting and killing a small child who runs between two parked cars in the path of the police SUV).
Think there’s no risk? That’s what Jon Corzine thought, too, despite his own professional drivers. In fact, that’s what everyone thinks. Nobody wakes up in the morning expecting to crash into a tree.
And that’s the problem.
De Blasio could have said that he —- like everyone – has to do a better job of monitoring and controlling his own behavior, and that his staff must do the same – starting today.
Instead, the mayor behaved defensively, missing an opportunity to educate the public. That’s not a personal failing; it’s bad public policy.Tweet
Howard Husock I February 20, 2014
On the surface, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s professed concerns about what might be called the social justice dimensions of charter schools and the condition of some of the city’s most celebrated parks—including Central Park—might appear unrelated. But look more closely and one sees a common thread—one that should especially concern charitable donors. It’s a link which connects proposals to limit the expansion of charter schools with a proposal to redistribute philanthropy directed to park conservancy organizations. The common thread is this: a commitment to equality of resources, above all, that extends to a willingness to risk mediocrity in public services in the name of fairness…
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Nicole Gelinas I February 19, 2014
Rough as his first few weeks have been, Mayor de Blasio didn’t sound shaky yesterday in pledging to cut traffic carnage. “We at City Hall don’t accept this reality” of more than 250 New Yorkers dying each year — 26 this year so far — in truck and car crashes. “There are so many people losing their lives that we could have saved,” he said. The mayor then put forward a plan on how to avert lost lives — and it sounds like a good start…
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Charles Sahm I February 18, 2014
1) Co-location is nothing new. Public schools have been co-located with other public schools in NYC since the school system was created in 1898.
2) How many public schools are co-located? 1,150 (63%) of the city’s 1,818 public schools are co-located.
3) But how many are charter schools? Of these 1,150 co-located schools, only 115 are charter schools.
4) Co-located schools do not cause overcrowding. Analysis by the Independent Budget Office and NYC Charter Center shows that buildings hosting co-located schools tend to be less crowded than single-school buildings, and those with charters are even less crowded.
5) Charter schools and other co-located small, theme-based high schools are improving student achievement. 79% of charters posted higher proficiency rates in math than their “peer” schools; 54% had higher rates in reading; a multi-year MDRC study has shown that the smaller high-schools have boosted graduation rates by at least 10 percentage points.Tweet
Nicole Gelinas I February 13, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inaugural budget left big fiscal questions unanswered. The budget contained a smaller puzzle, too – one that further muddles the mayor’s argument for hiking taxes to spend more on education.
In his Blue Room presentation Wednesday, de Blasio persisted with his plan to use $530 million from a new tax on the wealthy to pay for pre-K and after-school programs. (Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who must sign off on a such a tax hike, spent the mayor’s budget day honing his opposition to the tax.)
But beyond that figure, the mayor said he wants another half-a-billion dollars from Albany, as well. “In this preliminary budget,” notes the mayor’s fact sheet, ”the de Blasio administration is asking the state for an additional $500 million to fund improvements to New York City public schools.”
De Blasio said he’d spend that other $500 million on smaller class sizes (meaning more teachers) as well as more teachers’ aides and something called “raising the floor.”
But unlike with the $530 million in requested pre-K tax money, de Blasio won’t rely on this other $500 million to balance this year’s budget. That is: if this extra money doesn’t come through, the city won’t spend it.
This points up two problems with de Blasio’s budgeting approach.
First: if this randomly desired $500 million has nothing to with the task at hand – balancing the annual budget – then why include it in a budget presentation? De Blasio spent much of his first budget presentation talking about things that have nothing to do with the mayor’s mandate, under state law, to make sure that the city doesn’t spend more than it takes in.
Second, the request for another $500 million from Albany highlights the flaws in de Blasio’s tax-hike argument. De Blasio has repeatedly refused an offer of cash from Albany in lieu of the tax hike to pay for pre-K. He has refused Cuomo’s offer because, the mayor says, New York City cannot rely on Albany to keep up the funding year after year amid economic and political cycles.
But if money from Albany is so unreliable, then why does de Blasio want an additional half a billion dollars from Albany? After all, even though the city may not need this money now for budget balance, after the city has received the money and grown accustomed to spending it year after year, the city would be on the hook to maintain this new spending if Albany ever cut back.
One takeaway from the new mayor’s first crack at the budget: de Blasio wants to rely more on Albany, even as he says he wants to rely less on Albany.Tweet