Tag Archives: Corey Johnson

Can We De-Police Schools and Assure Safety for Students and Staff?

A world turned right side up … the grandchildren of the civil rights demonstrators of the sixties seized the day, injustices centuries old bubbled and erupted, maybe our quiescent world is changing.

In New York State a number of police accountability and transparency concepts rapidly passed the legislature, signed by the governor and became law.

Cries of “defund the police” were heard across the nation, n some school districts zero tolerance and armed police are commonplace in schools.

The sharp criticism of the police is not new; the Black Lives Matter in Schools movement has been calling for “counselors not cops,’ as part of their platform.

School policing is looked upon as repression,

School policing is inextricably linked to this country’s long history of oppressing and criminalizing Black and Brown people and represents a belief that people of color need to be controlled and intimidated. Historically, school police have acted as agents of the state to suppress student organizing and movement building, and to maintain the status quo. Local, state and federal government agencies, designed to protect dominant White power institutions, made the intentional decision to police schools in order to exercise control of growing power in Black and Brown social movements

 In New York City the de Blasio administration removed police from schools and ended the position of Youth Officer in precincts. If there is a situation requiring police principals are instructed to call 911, no longer any special treatment.

School suspensions have been dramatically reduced as well as the length of suspensions.

The reaction to accusations of over-policing has been calls for sharp reductions in police budgets, and, in New York City the elimination of scanning and the movement of the supervision of School Safety Officers from the police back to the Department of Education. (See NYU Metro Center blog)

During this moment of nation-wide opposition to police killings of Black men and women, we should consider ending two longstanding NYC public school security policies–the NYPD’s control of the city’s School Security Agents, and the imposition of metal detectors in selected city schools.

  Kathleen Nolan, Police in the Hallways, (2012) spent a year in a high school in the Bronx and paints a dreary picture of a school oppressed by a “culture of control,” leading to frequent summonses and arrests,

         Although a variety of policies and practices were part of the culture of control inside xxHS, the most central was the systematic use of order-maintenance-style policing. This included law-enforcement officials’ patrolling of the hallways, the use of criminal-procedural-level strategies, and the pervasive threats of summonses and arrest

Will the removal of scanning improve the quality of life for students?

In the midst of the pandemic we see states opening their economies in spite of spiking numbers of infections: a triage, weighing increasing fatalities against the wishes of voters and the revival of the state economy.

Is the removal of scanning the equivalent?

In early 1990’s the Board of Education decided to place scanners in twenty schools. The principal of one of the schools, Thomas Jefferson High School, objected vociferously, her students must not be treated as criminals. The Board relented and Jefferson was removed from the scanning list. A year later a student was fatally shot in the school.

I blogged about the incident here, take a few minutes and read, one of my better efforts.

What is lacking is asking students and staff: do they feel safe in schools?  Have the de Blasio reforms made schools safer?

Max Eden uses student and teacher school climate surveys, an annual collection of data by the Department of Education, over 80% of students and staff complete the surveys; in “School Discipline Reform and Disorder Evidence from New York City Public Schools”    2012 –2016 (March, 2017) Eden challenges the impact of the reforms and concludes,

 … [schools] where an overwhelming majority of students are not white saw huge deteriorations in climate during the de Blasio reform. This suggests that de Blasio’s discipline reform had a significant disparate impact by race, harming minority students the most.

How do we reconcile the positions of advocates, both inside and outside of schools with the data reflecting the views of large percentages of students/staff inside of schools?

UPDATE: How do students feel about the impact of School Safety Officers in schools? See article from Chalkbeat  here.

To add to the complexity, the de-policing of schools advocates and electeds (many running for office next year) demanded that SSO supervision be removed from the police department and moved back to the schools, to the principals.

The Police Commissioner immediately agreed, the move would remove $300 million from his budget without the loss of a single police officer.

The Speaker of the City Council, Corey Johnson agreed with the concept, without speaking to the union leader, who unleashed a scathing attack calling Johnson a racist

There are 5,000 SSO’s, 90% are of color, 70% are women, many live in the neighborhoods of the schools in which they work, and many have worked in the schools for many years.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew was aghast, as the Department is struggling to maintain services, struggling to create a school opening scenario, struggling to prevent a wave of layoffs, ” … this is not the time to consider dramatic and possibly disruptive changes in school security.”  The SSO’s are currently being used to hand out masks, to work in the feeding centers, working in communities,  distributing informational materials and answering community questions.

The weekly “Stated Meeting” of the City Council was held today, and, the question of “defund the police” was defined as transferring dollars from the police budget to fund “safety net” programs in the most CIVID impacted communities, Council Speaker Johnson made it clear that Mayor de Blasio has resisted.

The budget must be agreed upon by the Mayor and the Council by June 30th, if the Mayor and the City Council fail to agree on a budget a Financial Control Board can replace the Mayor and the Council in making financial determinations and the Governor would no qualms about becoming the “de facto” mayor.

When elephants fight, it is the [New Yorkers] that suffer, [amended African Proverb]

States, counties and cities are facing catastrophic budget shortfalls; unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression and uncertainty over the re-opening of businesses and schools.  Each day as expenditures exceed revenues the deficits widen,

While the state budget was approved on April 1, under his emergency powers the governor can adjust the budget, in other words the budget is malleable; depending on revenues the budget can be adjusted after the July 1st.

A bill, the HEROES Act passed the House, it provides over $1 trillion for a wide range of supports.

Will the HEROES Act  pass the Senate? And, if so, how will the Senate change the House bill?

The current House bill would be a life-saver for New York City as well as cities across the state (See proposed $$ to each city here). Speculation is that the final bill will not come before the Senate until late June and will look considerably different than the bill that passed in the House.  The final bill has to “satisfy” Senate leader McConnell, the Republicans and the President.

In a normal year the Mayor and the City Council Speaker would be deep in discussions over the final budget. New York City, since the sweeping governance changes in the late eighties, is a “Strong Mayor,” system. The Mayor has wide discretion over the allocation of resources, the Council, aside from approving the budget; its powers are limited to land use and the holding of hearings.  (Read a fascinating account of New York City governance and the emergence of the current configuration here).

Corey Johnson, the leader of the Council is a candidate for mayor.  Scott Stringer, the Comptroller, is also running for mayor, as well as the Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Boro President and who knows who else …. Andrew Yang? The ranked-choice primary will be held in June, 2021.

Taking “shots” at a weakened term-limited mayor is de rigueur in the world of politics.

Stringer calls for a $1B cut in the NYPD over four years by attrition and using the funds for community programs (Read presser here).

Meanwhile the Independent Budget Office (IBO) paints a bleak picture of New York City’s economy over the next few years,

The coronavirus pandemic has put New York City in the worst economic crunch in decades, with 22% of residents currently out of work and City Hall mired in a nearly $9 billion budget gap.  

 The state government in Albany is facing an even more dire fiscal situation than the city. Rather than providing assistance to the city, the state has looked to the city for fiscal relief. The state budget adopted last month includes hundreds of millions of dollars of cost shifts from the state to the city, including a direct raid on the city’s sales tax revenues. In short, New York City is facing nearly unprecedented challenges as it struggles to maintain budget balance, protect vital services, and provide a safe and healthy environment for individuals who want to live, work, or visit here

After the police clashed with demonstrators and widespread looting occurred the governor threatened to remove the mayor. Can the governor remove the mayor?

(See the text of the City Charter and State law below)

 “What happened in New York City was inexcusable,” Cuomo said during his Tuesday press conference, unprompted. “I have offered the National Guard; the mayor has said he can handle it with the NYPD. My option is to displace the mayor of New York City and bring in the National Guard as the governor in a state of emergency and basically take over … the mayor’s job. You’d have to displace the mayor.”

One would hope and expect that electeds: the governor, the mayor and the candidates will work together to restore the city, to make the city into a better place. We are in a moment in time when sweeping change is possible. Change is inevitable, and change can be disruptive, not all change make education better.

Teachers simply want to back to their classrooms in a safe environment, and we have yet to define safe.

I suspect some of the elements of remote teaching, can be incorporated, adding remote parent conferences to in-school conferences, one on one remote learning to reinforce in-school learning, remote conferences in lieu of out of school meetings, etc., and probably more.

If, however, the decision-makers, continue to bicker, to try and use the crisis for political advantage schools can slide into an abyss.

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

Dante Alighieri


Its Friday; gray and rainy, listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “Leaving Eden,” a poignant song in troubling times, one of my favorites.



The Removal of a Mayor in New York State

“The mayor may be removed from office by the governor upon charges and after service upon him of a copy of the charges and an opportunity to be heard in his defense. Pending the preparation and disposition of charges, the governor may suspend the mayor for a period not exceeding thirty days.”  (NYC Charter)

“The chief executive officer of every city and the chief or commissioner of police, commissioner or director of public safety or other chief executive officer of the police force by whatever title he may be designated, of every city may be removed by the governor after giving to such officer a copy of the charges against him and an opportunity to be heard in his defense.  The power of removal provided for in this subdivision shall be deemed to be in addition to the power of removal provided for in any other law.  The provisions of this subdivision shall apply notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions of any general, special or local law, ordinance or city charter.” (NYS Law)



Its Friday; gray and rainy, listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “Leaving Eden,” a poignant song in troubling times, one of my favorites.



What Happened? Why Are the New York City Specialized High Schools (and Schools in General) So Segregated? Some History and Suggestions

It was February, 1964, my first high school teaching job at Wingate High School; I was hired as a substitute to fill a full term assignment and showed up nervous, only to see police barricades and a crowd waving signs, it was the first day of the Galamison integration boycott.  The sixties: anti-war demonstrations, a new militant teacher union, civil rights marches into the South, and, a school integration movement in New York City. Reverend Milton Galamison, the pastor at the Siloam Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant and allies led an attempt to integrate NYC schools. Clarence Taylor, “Knocking at Our Door: Milton Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools” (1997, 2001) recounts in detail the political struggles and infighting of the 60’s  that has reemerged more than a half century later and David Rogers, “110 Livingston Street: A Study of Politics and Integration in NYC Schools,” (1968) unearthed the conflicts within and outside of the Board of Education.

I have described the former Board of Education as a lump of silly putty, easy to impact and difficult to change permanently; characteristic of large bureaucracies.

A close friend and mentor, Chet Fulmer, in a reverse busing plan sent his children to an all-black school near the Brooklyn Navy Yard while across the city in Queens a community organization, Parents and Taxpayers (PAT) fought against busing black children into white schools.

I really liked Wingate, a great staff, it was an exciting place, and on the last day of school I received my appointment, not to Wingate, to James Madison High School; the school at which Chet was the union leader.

The Board’s ambitious elementary school busing plan faded away under unrelenting pressures; the Board did implement a high school plan, an all-black neighborhood was zoned into Madison; while the kids were welcomed by the staff the neighborhood surrounding Madison was not happy. Madison was probably chosen because Chet was the union leader and a staunch advocate and defender of integrated schools.

Almost a decade later, in December, 1973 a race-based riot erupted in and around Madison, Fran Schumer wrote a perceptive article (“Prisoners of Class”) a few weeks later in The Harvard Crimson and I blogged about the complexities of school integration a few months ago.

A half century later school integration is once again at the top of the political agenda.

Only seven Afro-American students received offers at Stuyvesant out of the 895 student offers, meaning, passed the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admittance Test).

The school integration efforts of the 60’s were not a failure. The City Colleges moved to open admissions, yes, highly controversial, a few school districts implemented integration plans.

Susan Edelman, in the NY Post, unearths surprising numbers, the currently segregated specialized high schools were not as segregated before mayoral control.

In 1984 [Brooklyn Tech] had 4,531 students — including 2,239 black and 814 white. Black and Hispanic kids made up 63.5 percent of the student body.

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, black and Hispanic kids made up close to half or more of the Brooklyn Tech student body. Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, the other original specialized schools, had many more black and brown kids than today, though not a majority.

Twenty-five years later New York schools are described as “extreme segregation.”

How did New York City move from continuing incremental steps towards integrated schools to the damning report of the UCLA Civil Rights Project, “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future,”

New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.

 The Civil Rights Project breaks out the numbers in detail – see charts/graphs here.

What happened?

 Changing Demographics:

The white school population continued to decrease, the school white population is currently 14.7%. The Black population has decreased slightly, the Hispanic population has increased and the Asian population has increased exponentially.  Chinese are the largest immigrant group entering New York City each year.

On the bright side, a just-released report  from the UCLA Civil Rights Project finds that public schools in gentrifying neighborhoods are becoming less segregated.

Multiple School Options:

There are a number of high achieving predominantly Black schools and a few well-integrated screened schools. Bedford Academy, and Medgar Evers,  are high achieving Black schools, Columbia Secondary High School is a high achieving integrated school. Go to “School Performance Dashboards” and check on any school.

 The Elimination of IGC and SP Classes

Under the old Board of Education there were citywide standards for Intellectually Gifted Classes (IGC) in grades 4-6 and Special Progress (SP) classes in grades 7-9 based on English and Math scores on city-wide tests; yes, there were state tests and city tests and district tests, without the complaints we hear today. A few districts had “gifted” elementary schools (District 7 – South Bronx and District 16 – Bedford Stuyvesant), The Bloomberg administration supported the  creation of centrally controlled Gifted and Talent classes, in predominantly white and/middle class districts and ended the major route to the specialized high schools for students of color.

Explosion of Test Preparation

The SHSAT is not aligned with the state ELA and Math tests; test preparation geared to the SHSAT is vital for students, and, expensive. Before mayoral control districts provided Saturday and after school tutoring programs, washed away under mayoral control.

Politics and Mayoral Control

The downside of mayoral control is using education policies for political advantage. The creation of numerous screened schools and programs in predominantly white/middle class schools appears to be a policy to attract white/middle class voters, conversely, not creating gifted and talented programs in schools in areas that oppose Bloomberg is an example of the downside of putting mayors in charge of education policy. deBlasio, who paints himself as the “progressive mayor” raced up to Albany in the closing days of the legislative session with a bill to replace the SHSAT with a percentage of highest achievers in each middle school; a policy supported by the progressives, the de Blasio constituency.

Either through the passage of a change in the law or the de Blasio tweaks to the Discovery Program it appears that the percentages of student of color in the elite high schools will begin to change; however, changing numbers does not change school and community cultures.

By 2020, each of the specialized schools that determine admission based solely on a single exam will be required to reserve 20 percent of their seats for students in the Discovery program. (Stuyvesant High School, which is participating in the program for the first time this year, admitted 23 students through Discovery. Under the mayor’s plan, the school will have to increase that number sevenfold.)

The NYC Human Right Commission Report that followed the racial conflict at Madison exposed the underlying problem; simply adding students of color without supports is a formula for failure. Read the NY Times article after the release of the NYC Human Rights Report.

The race for Gracie Mansion is in full swing, 2021 may be down the road, the candidates are defining themselves, aiming at possible constituencies. Corey Johnson, the leader of the City Council released his plan , a disastrous plan for the city. Johnson suggests more elite screened high schools and more gifted and talent schools/programs, effectively widening the “tale of two cities.” Johnson would create two school systems, one made of up higher achieving students segregated into high achieving schools leaving the remainder of the schools with struggling lower achieving students.

Jumaane Williams, the newly elected public advocate and a graduate of Brooklyn Tech, one of the legacy SHSAT schools, recommends, in an NY Daily News op ed a more measured approach, more gifted and talent programs and more opportunities for test prep in local schools, and, a great deal of community engagement.

Cristina Veiga at Chalkbeat tweeted a number of core questions that Johnson and Williams failed to address.

I’m concerned that many of the “solutions” will exacerbate a “tale of two cities” in schools; segregating kids by academic abilities. Once upon a time the system created comprehensive high schools, schools with a wide range of kids by ability and interests. Schools with advanced classes and shops, classrooms made up of kids with a range of academic abilities; yes, teaching was more challenging, what we call heterogeneous grouping in high schools requires different skill sets.

Career and Technical Education (CTE), formerly known as vocational education does not always require separate schools; these programs can be embedded in the larger high schools or embedded in schools on multiple school campuses.

We cannot create a “solution” to the elite high school enrollment problem that negatively impacts other schools.

The Discovery Program and test prep programs over time, will increase the enrollment at the specialized high schools. The specialized high school test can be more closely aligned with the state tests and curriculum.

Too often the “cure” only exacerbates the problem. There are no easy fixes, Corey Johnson’s response is an example; magic wands only work in fairy tales. Community engagement, by community I mean parents and teachers and advocacy organizations, difficult meetings, internal disagreements, over time leading to mutually acceptable accommodations; perhaps “creating a process where tolerable compromises can be found.”

Rule # 1 of personal and organization change: participation reduces resistance, coupled with Rule # 2, change is perceived as punishment.

This education stuff is hard, complicated and never-ending, as is life.