Tag Archives: Mayor de Blasio

OMG! Is Mayoral Control a Disaster? Is it Time to Elect School Boards in New York City?

On October 1, after two delays, threats of a “safety” strike, seemingly endless criticisms from the teachers and supervisor unions, schools opened.

Half the students opted for fully online instruction and the other half for two/three days a week in-person. The Department, somehow, did not see the complexity, one cohort of teachers in school, teaching different cohorts two/three days a week, another cohort of teachers teaching fully remote students and other teachers doing both in 1600 public schools in 1200 buildings. (See 8/27/20 Memorandum of Agreement here)

A few days before school reopening the teacher union (UFT) and the Department announced another agreement (See Memorandum of Agreement on Remote Teaching here) Teachers who were teaching a remote cohort of students from school could teach from at home, principals having, for the umpteenth time, to re-program the teacher cohort schedules at the last minute.

The Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) executive board voted unanimously   to ask the state to take over the Department of Education.

In a stunning statement, leaders of the union representing New York City principals called Sunday for Mayor Bill de Blasio to cede control of the nation’s largest school district for the remainder of the pandemic, following a chaotic summer of planning to reopen.

The union’s executive board cast a unanimous vote of no confidence in the mayor and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, and is asking both leaders to seek intervention from the state education department. 

Can the State Education Department “intervene” in New York City schools?

Teachers, principals and superintendents don’t work for the State Education Department (SED); they work for elected lay school boards or mayors. In order to “take over” a school district SED requires legislation, and the legislature has been reticent, very reticent, to pass legislation.

About twenty years ago the legislature passed legislation and the state “took over” schools in Roosevelt, a school district on Long Island. A decade later the SED left, without much changing in Roosevelt. In the last legislative session legislation allowed the SED to “take over” two other school districts on Long Island (Hempstead and Wyandanch), districts with a long history of dysfunction. In other districts (East Ramapo, Rochester and Buffalo) the state assigned “distinguished educators,” with no coercive authority, they could mentor the existing superintendent and school board.

Legislation grants the governor sweeping authority during the pandemic (Read legislation here). The governor has issued hundreds executive orders (Read executive orders here) All school opening/closing decisions are within the domain of the governor.

Today, Sunday, October 4th the Mayor announced that schools with increasing COVID-positive testing would close for two weeks and others go on a ‘watch list,” waiting approval from the governor.

Bottom line: the SED has no authority to “take over” schools, whether they have the authority to monitor the implementation of the district plans filed in early August and intervene in cases in which districts are out of compliance with the plans is not known.

While the Board of Regents has asserted its authority under the state constitution the emergency powers of the governor appear predominant.

Republican legislators have demanded that the governor relinquish his emergency powers; however, the governor continues to assert his powers, including the opening and closing of schools. The state is now reporting COVID-positive testing by zip codes.

The governor gets high marks from almost everyone in his management of the pandemic.

How would you “rate” the effectiveness of the mayor as the school leader?

The vast majority of New Yorkers would rate his performance as “poor.”

Mayoral control was widely supported in 2002; the prior management system was rife with politics and underfunded schools for decades. School decentralization created a central board, one member appointed by each borough president and two by the mayor, The board was salaried ($37,500) with other perks, and, elected Community School Boards, elected by rank-choice voting (called proportional representation at the time) with the authority to hire superintendents and principals (modified in the mid-90s), set curriculum and determined school budget allocations.

Mayor Bloomberg’s move to mayoral control was widely applauded and supported.

The current NYC mayoral control legislation will “sunset” on 6/30/22, six months after the new mayor takes office. If the legislature/governor takes no action New York City will revert to the prior plan as described above.

Can we have an elected school board, one member per borough?

Probably not, the population variance from borough to borough violates the “one person-one vote” principle.

Do other large cities have elected school boards?

Los Angeles has an elected school board, the charter school supporters have poured millions of dollars into the elections and the school board has been pro-charter school. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings just donated a million to a pro-charter candidate in Los Angeles (Read details here).

Daniel Loeb, the billionaire hedge fund investor chaired the Success Academy board, would he finance an Eva Moskowitz campaign to take over an elected New York City school board?

Should each borough be treated as a separate school district?

While the unions have been frustrated by the actions and inactions of the mayor, and we’re all impressed by the actions of the governor, no one has a looking glass. Continuing with fully remote schools pushes the poorest and most vulnerable children further and further behind, opening schools, even opening schools in hybrid models has turned out to be incredibly complicated, a Department of Education woefully inadequate, and with COVID spikes the future is murky. We may see schools closing and re-opening, we may see the city moving fully remote, and unless Washington passes another round of funding we face drastic cuts in an already bleeding city.

Hopefully the governor, the mayor, the unions and community activists can act on the same wave length.

Let’s talk about school governance models in early 2022.

Treacherous days ahead.

Are We Staring at Teacher Layoffs? Or, Worse?

Is “Black Tuesday” (Tuesday, October 29, 1929) hovering? Are we a few weeks or months away from the economic cliff?

The “roaring twenties,” seemingly endless increases in stock prices, three consecutive Republican presidents (Harding, Coolidge and Hoover), the flu pandemic was gone, a farm depression was concerning; however, the nation appeared to be booming.

On March 4, 1929, at his presidential inauguration, Herbert Hoover stated, “I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.” Most Americans shared his optimism. They believed that the prosperity of the 1920s would continue, and that the country was moving closer to a land of abundance for all. Little could Hoover imagine that barely a year into his presidency, shantytowns known as “Homerville’s” would emerge on the fringes of most major cities, newspapers covering the homeless would be called “Hoover blankets,” and pants pockets, turned inside-out to show their emptiness, would become “Hoover flags.”

The stock market allowed anyone to buy stocks “on margin,” borrowing 90% of the cost of the stock from the broker, if the stock lost 10% of its value, the broker could sell the stock, the investor losing everything, for investors, seemed unlikely, the market only moved in one direction, up!

On Thursday, October 24th the market stumbled, Hoover delivered a radio address on Friday in which he assured the American people, “The fundamental business of the country . . . is on a sound and prosperous basis.” On Tuesday the market crashed, by December the market had lost 50% of its value. President Hoover had only been in office for eight months and his response was far from adequate,

President Hoover was unprepared for the scope of the depression crisis, and his limited response did not begin to help the millions of Americans in need. The steps he took were very much in keeping with his philosophy of limited government; a philosophy that many had shared with him …   Hoover was stubborn in his refusal to give “handouts,” as he saw direct government aid. He called for a spirit of volunteerism among America’s businesses, asking them to keep workers employed, and he exhorted the American people to tighten their belts and make do in the spirit of “rugged individualism.”

 Read an excellent analysis of the origins Great Depression here.

Does it seem a little familiar?

In the last hundred days the stock market has increased more than in any other hundred days since 1933. The market has reached unheard of levels. While the market pushes higher and higher the pandemic has shattered the economy with unemployment levels approaching Great Depression levels.

The Congress and the President immediately responded with the infusion of dollars, the CARES Act:  $600 week unemployment, $1200 payments to all Americans earning under $75,000, loans used to retain workers that can be forgiven to virtually any business.

In May the House passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion infusion, dollars for schools, for cities and states, continuing unemployment insurance (the CARES Act expired at the end of July), See details of HEROES bill here.

The Senate refused to negotiate with the House, eventually Mark Meadows, the President’s chief of staff and a former House member led the negotiations on the Republican side. At least 20 Republican Senators are opposed to any additional aid.

The negotiations are stalled, the President issued “questionable” (are they constitutional?) executive orders, one of which suspending payroll taxes, the funds used to fund Social Security and Medicare.

The response to the pandemic: quarantine, social distancing, wearing masks, contact tracing shut down local economies and is resisted in some states.

Without the HEROES bill state and local governments, schools as well as tens of millions of unemployed Americans are desperate.

The politics of the November 3rd election determine every decision: regardless of the consequences.

Are we seeing the repeat of the Hoover approach to the stock market crash?

Federal law prohibits states from declaring bankruptcy. State and local governments, without federal dollars will have to raise taxes and/or cut services, aka, laying off state and local workers.

The New York State budget passed on April 1st, with a caveat, if revenues lagged the state could cut the budget midyear, and, the governor has mentioned a potential 20% cut in the budget.

The New York City budget passed in the waning days of June, was “funded” by borrowing from itself, using dollars in the “rainy day” funds  including $1B in unspecified savings from labor agreements.  Mayor de Blasio threatened 22,000 layoffs unless the unions agreed to 1B in labor savings, and, without the “rainy day” funds next year’s budget will be far worse.

Progressives, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party have all called for “taxing the billionaires,” the cries are popular. The bills introduced into the legislatures would tax unrealized profits from investments, called ad valorem taxes, taxes specifically prohibited by the NYS Constitution.

Intangible personal property shall not be taxed ad valorem nor shall any excise tax be levied solely because of the ownership or possession thereof, except that the income therefrom may be taken into consideration in computing any excise tax measured by income generally. Undistributed profits shall not be taxed. (NYS Constitution, Article XVI (3))

Mayor de Blasio is moving forward on his threat to layoff 22,000 city employees by October. He has asked every city department  to identify specific job titles and prepare layoff lists.

The New York State Comptroller released a report that paints a bleak picture of city and state finances.

Here are some of the highlights, or really lowlights, of what the crisis has done to the state’s economic engine:

  • More than 944,000 jobs were lost in March and April. That’s the largest job loss since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. Unemployment has spiked from 3.4 percent in February to 20.4 percent in June. It has never been higher in 44 years.
  • New York City has projected a revenue loss of $9.6 billion from the pandemic. It has taken $11.4 billion from different resources, including $4.1 billion from reserves and $2.6 billion from the Retireee Health Benefits Trust.
  • The proposed budget is resting heavily on non-recurring actions to balance its spending and close a gap of $4.2 billion.

“The social, economic and budgetary impacts of the pandemic have been unprecedented on New York City, the state and the nation,” the Comptroller said. “Without additional federal budget relief, the city will need to make hard choices to ensure budget balance in the current fiscal year and to close next year’s budget gap.”

The unions are reacting cautiously, supporting asking the legislature to allow the city to borrow, frowned upon by governor, and the unions continue to “discuss” savings with the city.

The economy is precarious.

Investors could seek other havens for their dollars and flee the market sending prices into a downward spiral; the continuing spread of COVID, a delayed vaccine, an international “incident,” could push world economies into an abyss.

Sense could prevail and the White House could agree to an iteration of the HEROES bill, or not.

As the days tick by, closer and closer to the September 10th school opening New York continues to bleed dollars fighting the pandemic the specter of public employee layoffs looms.

How can schools re-open in a highly controversial hybrid model and, at the same time,  the city plan for layoffs?

Not uplifting, perhaps fitting, Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker,”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0nmHymgM7Y

Is Re-Opening Schools a Political, Science-Driven or an Emotional Decision?

* “If we don’t re-open schools another generation of students will be doomed to a life of poverty and the poorest, must vulnerable parents will burdened with childcare expenses; if our economy doesn’t revive a depression paralleling the Great Depression is inevitable.”

* “We have to follow where science leads us, testing, contact tracing, social distancing, masks, and not allow politics or emotions to dissuade us.”

* “I’m afraid, I know too many people who died or who spent weeks recovering and months later are still suffering, until there’s a vaccine I’m not going back to work or allowing my children to go to school.”

*”I go to work every day, I have no other options, I have to pay my rent and feed my family; teachers say they love our kids; not enough to be willing to go to work, as I do.”

School opening opinion varies widely.

As tropical storm Isaisis blows by torrential rain interrupted by glaring sunlight flashes by, sort of like the school opening discussions of the moment.

For weeks the Board of Regents, the Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio dueled over who would make the school reopening decisions.

The governor appointed a commission, the Board of Regents gathered up a few hundred stakeholders, the mayor selected his commission. The Board of Regents/State Education Department issued their 149-page school opening guidance requiring that each of the 700 school districts in the state submit a plan for every school (4400 schools, 1800 in New York City). The New York State Department of Health issued  guidance, the governor announced he would make his decision on school opening “the first week in August,” and set a metric, COVID positive testing below 5% (as of 8-3-20 COVID positive testing was at 1%).

To the best of my knowledge the only district that failed to submit a plan was New York City, the city submitted the outlines of a plan, Read here.

At his Monday (8/4) press conference the governor said, “… the final decision on whether kids will head back in September will be up to parents;” I guess he means if parents don’t like the local plan they can opt for full remote or home-schooling for their children. The governor went on to say, “Where you have a district with multiple schools, they have to address the plan for every school … If you don’t have the details for each school then you don’t have a plan, because how can a parent make a decision, and it’s not just New York City — it’s any school district…. A district could have a uniform plan for the schools in its system, but they would need to work out the logistics for how each school is going to things like testing in order to track the virus.”

Does the city plan to survey parents in each of the 1800 schools? Is it conceivable that some schools will offer a hybrid model and others a remote model? Is the failure to inform the Department that you are opting out by the August 7th soft deadline the only evidence of supporting the school plan? The plan you have never seen?

The Re-Opening Plans were posted on school district websites and many school boards hosted parent meetings to answer questions.  See a school opening plan for a small district (one K-8 school with 700 kids) here.

On Monday evening the school district hosted a virtual session for the community and welcomed questions about the plan, the meeting lasted over two hours, and, Tuesday the district posted the Q & A   on their website , in English and Spanish.

A neighboring school district (Read here)) posted their plan, and included a parent survey:  35% feel comfortable sending their children back to school, 25% not comfortable, and the remainder somewhere in the middle.

The elements of the New York City Plan that the mayor announced and that appear on the site include a 3% COVID positive test metric to trigger all remote, COVID testing available to all staff prior to school re-opening, a process on how schools respond to COVID positive students and staff, and fails to address many, many other questions. The city cannot provide a school nurse for every building (the plans above have school nurses on staff), the overnight deep cleaning without additional custodial staff appears unlikely, and, the supervisory and teacher unions are “doubtful” that the city can address all the outstanding issues before school opening; the first day for students in NYC is Wednesday, September 10th.

The instructional models, aka, which days are kids in-school which days at home, a hybrid, in-person/remote model is still being discussed, although the chancellor has a preference,

Principals and school leadership teams will compare the different programming models to the specific needs of their students and communities to select a best-fit model. However, the Chancellor has identified certain models as “Chancellor Recommended” so that there is greater consistency for parents across the system.

What does “greater consistency for parents” mean?  There are 1800 different schools, why not allow schools to craft models that meet the needs of the students in their schools?  See the “key tenets” of the programming models here.

While the NYC planning is fluid, without many key elements resolved will the plan satisfy parents and teachers?

A week ago at the American Federation of Teachers convention Randi Weingarten and Dr. Anthony Fauci had an hour chat; Dr Fauci answered questions from teachers and nurses across the nation. (Listen to the discussion here). As I talked with teachers who listened to Dr, Fauci some were comforted and other discomfited by his comments. Science provides facts, not advise.

Urban school districts across the nation are opening with remote only instruction and have COVID positive rates far, far above New York City rates:

Los Angeles seven day average COVID positive testing rate: 8.8%

Chicago seven day average COVID positive testing rate: 5.4%

Houston seven day average COVID positive testing: 14.1%

To answer my initial questions: for teachers and parents a visceral, deeply emotional quandary; for the governor and the mayor, the political implications can be career making or career ending. For the governor very high marks can dissolve if he supports school openings and the COVID positives spike, for the mayor, a mayor who continues to be bashed by mayoral contenders and the conservative media, and by his own stumbles, a chance to resuscitate his mayoralty.

In my opinion the governor who wanted to be the ultimate decision-maker appears to be backing away. The mayor is desperately looking for friends, to “satisfy” parents and teacher/supervisor unions and a Board of Regents/State Education Department without the capacity to review plans for 4400 schools could be the scapegoat.

For the unions assuring a safe opening for their members and students is paramount. The Israel early school reopening disaster is resonating,  The UFT, the teacher union is demanding,

For school buildings to reopen, school communities need:

  • Voluntary testing for all students and school-based staff returning for in-person instruction.
  • A rolling testing regimen in every school community for adults and student volunteers to identify those infected with the virus but asymptomatic.
  • The results of these tests should be available within 24 hours.
  • A dedicated group of contact tracers to investigate who else has been exposed when an adult or a student in a school contracts the virus.
  • A school nurse in every school building.
  • Evidence that the protections and procedures outlined in the plan have been implemented, including the testing and upgrading of ventilation systems, and the necessary staff and supplies to deep clean the buildings every night.

Stay tuned.

Listen to the Almanac Singers, “Which Side Are You On”


The End of the School Year: Confusion, Uncertainty, Fear and Chaos

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

TS Eliot

  Chris Hayes


“Do policymakers realize that without full time school this fall, parents are screwed and everything will fall apart? I get that it’s a hard problem! I don’t know the answer, but anything approaching “normal” is not possible for working parents while homeschooling”

Will New York State be in Stage 4 by September and can we look forward to a return to regular school?

Is an upsurge in COVID inevitable as we begin to open up the economy?

Is Chris Hayes (2.1 million twitter followers) right? Will “everything fall apart” if we end up with anything less than fulltime school?

BTW, who decides whether schools will re-open? And what an “open school” would look like?

Betty Rosa, the Board of Regents Chancellor reminds us that the NYS Constitution uses the term “governed” ….

The corporation …, under the name of The Regents of the University of the State of New York, is hereby continued under the name of The University of the State of New York. It shall be governed and its corporate powers, which may be increased, modified or diminished by the legislature

 State education law grants the power to “advise and guide …all districts … in relation to their duties and the general management of schools” to the commissioner.

 He shall have general supervision over all schools and institutions  which  are  subject to the provisions of this chapter, or of any statute  relating to education, and shall cause  the  same  to  be  examined  and  inspected,  and  shall  advise  and  guide  the  school  officers of all  districts and cities of the state in relation to their  duties  and  the  general  management of the schools under their control.

 However, tucked into the 2020-21 Enacted Budget is a section that gives the governor sweeping authority,

… broad emergency powers to temporarily suspend or modify statutes, local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations during periods of disaster emergencies,

 The governor has issued over 200 Executive Orders, the latest requiring fourteen day quarantines for visitors from high COVID states.

Earlier in the year as I arrived at the majestic State Education Building I noticed a crowd waiting at the entrance, and they suddenly pushed past security, rushed into the building unfurling banners and raced through the halls demanding a meeting. They were anti-vaxers, protesting the requirement that children are vaccinated for specific diseases before enrollment in school. Eventually they met with members of the Regents who told them they were picketing the wrong building; vaccination requirements were the domain of the Department of Health.

Should decisions relating to school opening health issues be made by the NYS Department of Health?

.Governor Cuomo appointed a Reimaging Education Task Force, New York City Mayor de Blasio a school re-opening Advisory Committee and the Regents identified a few hundred education leaders from every constituency across the state.

The State Education Department has held four regional meetings, “guidance” from experts and many resources for parents and schools (see here)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published “guidance” for schools, as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association also issuing in-depth guides.

The CDC guidance is clear,

  • Lowest Risk: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
  • More Risk: Small, in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days and groups do not mix. Students remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures, or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).
  • Highest Risk: Full sized, in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.

How much “risk” do teachers and parents think they want to expose themselves  and their children too?

Chris Hayes is simply wrong. As states rushed to re-open, Texas, Florida, Arizona and other COVID cases exploded. Ironically New York State, the first state to confront the explosion is now one of the few states that appear to have corralled the spread of the virus.

New York City is slowly and carefully crafting plans with many, many questions to be answered:

  • Temperature checks at entrances for adults
  • Protocols for COVID positive staff and students
  • Testing prior to the beginning of the school year for all staff
  • School cleaning
  • Protocols for “at-risk” staff members, and
  • Social distancing school models, i. e., alternative days, alternate weeks, others.

As school districts cobble together plans advocacy organizations are releasing instructional and teacher training suggestions for September, the Center for NYC Affairs  plan here  and the NYU Metro Center is hosting a virtual conference here.

As the school community inches towards a re-opening plan Mayor de Blasio announced the possibility of layoffs, and UFT President Mulgrew responded,

On June 24, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would play to lay off up to 22,000 city workers to fill the budget gap left by the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued the following statement: 

There’s a “thank you for your service” during the pandemic — a layoff notice for thousands of city workers who created an unparalleled virtual education program, staffed the clinics, drove the ambulances and kept other city services going.

The New York City budget is due June 30th, neither the Mayor nor the City Council wants an Emergency Financial Control Board; a budget will be in place.

The governor, after reviewing state revenues as of July 1, under his emergency power can adjust the budget, aka, further reductions or release of additional funds.

The HEROES bill is stalled in the Senate, without the passage of the bill a bad situation will undoubtedly continue to deteriorate.

The September re-opening plans are overwhelmed by the specter of layoffs.

Sleep late Monday morning, remember the “rules,” exercise, meditate, improve your remote learning teaching skills, take long walks on beaches or the country, just another chapter in your memoirs.

A dark song performed and written by a friend …..


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.

How will the decision to re-open schools be made? What will re-opened schools look like?

“You can’t bring back a life; you can start a new business”

 “There’s no on/off switch”

Sunday morning Mayor de Blasio outlined his “Restart” proposals (See here  on Twitter) and a few hours later Governor Cuomo outlined his “Reimagine” Plan (Read here).

Perhaos, just perhaps, de Blasio and Cuomo could shake hands, virtujally of course, and work together.

Both plans are light on education,

De Blasio appointed a task force that will report out a draft proposal by June 1st, Cuomo spoke in general terms about a phased re-opening based on two weeks of positive data, aka, the curves continuing to decline.

Cuomo mused about the whether schools should open in the summer. Summer schools to make up for remote learning losses, and, acknowledged that we were unprepared for the instantaneous switch from classroom instruction to remote learning.

Some sections of the state have low levels of COVID infections and low rates of transmission: Cuomo proposed a phased re-opening starting with low incidence sections of the state: will schools be included?

School openings must be guided by medical advice; however, the decision will be made by the governor.

The UFT started a Change.org petition with specific requirements before reopening.

The following things need to be in place when buildings reopen:

  • Widespread access to coronavirus testing to regularly check that people are negative or have immunity
  • A process for checking the temperature of everyone who enters a school building
  • Rigorous cleaning protocols and personal protective gear in every school building
  • An exhaustive tracing procedure that would track down and isolate those who have had close contact with a student or staff member who  tests positive for the virus

Will the unions, school boards and parents be involved in the re-opening decisions?

The contradiction is that until the re-start, until businesses reopen the loss of revenues to the state will result in lower and lower revenue to cities: fewer policeman, fireman and teachers.

There is a cry: tax the billionaires.

Thomas Piketty, a French economist, argues, “Billionaires should be taxed out of existence;” others argue that its illusory, billionaires create corporations that create millions of jobs for the middle class.

A lengthier debate …

The state has announced another cut, a 20% cut in the budget, and, the date for school budget votes has not been set by the governor. If the state does not re-open there could be increasing reductions after July 1.

Could the continuing low levels of revenue result in layoffs of state and local employees?

Could it lead to teacher layoffs? After the 2008 Great Recession there were teacher layoffs across the state, not in New York City.

How do you weigh the positive economic impact of  a restart versus an upsurge in COVID infections?

The governor has made it clear that there are specific data points that must be met before businesses can be reopened and the reopening will be phased in guided by “precautions.”

Tourism is a major driver of the New York City economy; under what conditions will tourists return to the city?  Restaurants are also drivers of employment; once again, under what conditions can restaurants reopen?  Without tourism and restaurants it is hard to imagine the return of pre-COVD revenues.

Federal infusions of dollars are a stopgap until the economy can be restarted and it could easily be years before pre-COVID levels of revenues are reached: fewer dollars for schools and economic woes for the city.

Let’s raise a few school re-opening questions?

How will school buses practice social distancing?

In New York City and other Big Five cities, how will public transit practice social distancing?  Will every rider be required to wear a mask?  Will teachers feel safe taking public transit to get to school?

Is it possible to take the temperature of every bus/train rider?

What will classrooms look like?

Can you social distance in classrooms?

Can kids go to school on alternate days to reduce class size by half? And only move to full days if the data moves below medically established data points.

Can secondary schools move to end-to-end sessions?  As a student my high school had end-to-end sessions, as a teacher I programmed a 5,000 plus student high school on three overlapping sessions. My first year of teaching I was on late session – 11:40 to 6:00, some teachers took college classes in the morning, other partied late into the night (without social distancing, in fact, the opposite)

Would all teachers be tested before they could be returned to the classroom?

Can schools reopen and hold regular classes with the provisions in the change.org petition?

Dr Fauci warns about a return in the fall of both the regular flu and COVID.

I agree with Cuomo and de Blasio, every step must be guided by medical evidence, and hovering is the impact economic impact on the citizenry.

Over the next month or two the questions I raised will require answers.

Check out an old labor song


Stay Safe.

Listen to Trusted Expert Advice: Coronavirus, Schools, Fear and an Uncertain Future

This was going to be a busy week, meetings, events, every day, planning for events over the next few weeks. My phone began to ping, one by one the meetings/events were postponed and/or cancelled.

An event I was sponsoring, six weeks down the road, after consultation, I postponed.

The NCAA March Madness basketball tournament cancelled; the NBA and the NHL suspending all games, MLB delaying the opening of the season  Broadway dark, and, unfortunately some electeds becoming “experts.”

Wild flucuations in the stock market, down 10%, up 5%. the hedgefunders selling short and buying long and making millions while the rest of us watch our pensions melt away.

The source of all coronavirus advice is the CDC, the federal agency, and their advice on school closing is complicated, basically, case by case.

To quote Mayor de Blasio, “We must separate fact from fiction.”

How to respond to positive tests in schools is complex, and is evolving hour by hour, day by day.

China and Italy did not respond quickly, a major error and allowed the virus to spread.  The extreme measures that we have taken, hopefully, will slow the spread of the virus; experts are warning us that the progress of the virus will proceed for months.

As we test we will find more and more positive tests.

I was speaking with a school supervisor yesterday: he was teaching a kindergarten class: how to wash their hands; hopefully these lessons are being replicated in all classrooms across the city.

Science lessons, by grade, should explain what a virus is; English classes should be reading non-fiction about viruses and epidemics.

When I mentioned this I was told, “We don’t want to unduly scare children.” Knowledge is power: the more we involve the children, teach children, we all know that the “teachable moment” is at the heart of impactful instruction.

“Social distancing:” encouraging “at risk adults, (over 60)” to avoid unnecessary interaction is excellent advice.

To again echo Mayor de Blasio, “No day is like the previous day.”

The economic repercussions:  reductions in budgets, sharp increases in unemployment, businesses closing, are we facing a 1929? a 9/11, 2008?  Or, will the economy bounce back? We have no way of knowing.

No one has any idea, recessions and depressions do not follow a single pattern,

I see tweets and emails, “Close the schools,” “Cancel the state tests,” Cancel the Regents,” as I have said these decisions should reflect the best medical and scientific information, not the loudest voice.

We are entering uncharted waters, we have to sift among the voices, and make decisions that represent the best evidence.

Stay safe, meditate, exercise, hydrate, an opportunity to watch luge, bobsledding and  curling … and try a new recipe.

And listen to fitting music


Can the de Blasio Specialized High School Schools Admissions Plan Avert the Disastrous City University Open Admissions Program? Or, Was Open Admission a Success?

The de Blasio plan to replace the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT)  with an admissions based on class standing in middle schools and state test scores was introduced in the Assembly and pushed into the next session, beginning in January, 2019.

Legislation sponsored by Assembly member Charles Barron to create a new admissions system for New York City’s specialized high schools (A.10427a) was today reported out of the Assembly Education Committee. This is a first step in addressing this issue, and I will be having conversations with Assembly members and various stakeholders to determine how to proceed in order to best serve New York City’s school children. The Assembly Majority will work deliberatively, speaking with all the affected communities, so that together we can find a resolution that benefits all of New York City’s students.

I am told that legislators have been flooded with messages opposing the bill, and, controversial bills rarely come to the floor. No legislator likes to create enemies, especially enemies who are well-organized and well-funded; the Assembly Speaker, wisely, decided to push the bill down the road (Read Speaker Heastie’s comments here).

The bill, which I believe is poorly crafted, replaces the SHSAT admissions test with a process as follows,

… students attending public schools located in the city of New York  who are in the top three percent of their eighth grade class, as  calculated  based  on  multiple  measures  of student achievement …  … and  who  achieve  a  composite  score above  or  at  the  cut-off composite score for the school such students have committed themselves to attend, …  provided  that  such students shall also rank in the top quarter of public school students in the eighth grade citywide based  on   such multiple measures of student achievement, and provided further that   openings  shall  be  reserved for such students at each specialized high   school as set forth in subdivision seven of this section; 

Yes, the bill leaves many questions unanswered, the bottom line, top students within individual schools across the city will have access to the specialized high schools and students with higher achievement in high achieving middle school will not achieve a spot.

I’m not going to muse on the fairness/unfairness of the current SHSAT process or the fairness/unfairness of the new proposal; the bill, as I read it, would increase numbers of students of color and reduce numbers of Asian students.  The proposal is reminiscent of the late sixties battle over the admission process to the four-year CUNY schools. For those of us of a certain age the sixties is burned in our memory, for some, sex, drugs and rock and roll, maybe not in that order, for others a free education at a CUNY school.

Today #blacklivematter and #metoo dominate the landscape, football players knelling during the national anthem, Trump’s blatantly racist tweets and comments, the criminalization of immigrants, the nation appears divided and reminiscent of the angst of the sixties..

The very survival of the nation seemed at risk in the sixties.

Riots in Detroit, Newark and Los Angeles, scores of deaths, National Guard troops in the streets, massive ant-war demonstrations, civil rights marches, the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and, in September 1968 a two month racially toxic teachers strike.

Student sit-ins broke out at Queens College, Brooklyn College and Columbia protesting the absence of minority students. The New York State budget made drastic cuts in the CUNY budget, the president of City College and department heads announced their resignation, the CUNY chancellor announced the colleges would not accept an opening class in September. Students and community activists occupied City College to protest the overwhelmingly white student body; classes were suspended, the occupiers and the college commenced negotiations and at the end of May, 1969 announced a new policy: open admissions. (Read a contemporary account here).

Students would no longer have to pass rigorous entrance exams; graduates of high schools could gain admittance to the four-year city colleges.

Did Open Admissions open opportunity at the four year colleges to students of color or turn the colleges into remedial institutions filled with student without college level skills?

Almost a half century later Open Admissions is still an emotional topic.

I was at an art gallery out on the end of Long Island wearing my CCNY baseball cap. A gentleman pointed to the cap, “What year?” The topic immediately turned to, from the point of view of the gentleman, how Open Admissions ruined his beloved alma mater.

A recent book, “Changing the Odds: Open Admissions and the Life Chances of the Disadvantaged,” by David Lavin and David Hyllegard,

… examines the impact of what they call the most ambitious effort ever made to promote equality of opportunity in American higher education, the open-admissions experiment at the City University of New York (CUNY). From 1970 through 1976, the seventeen-campus, two hundred thousand student CUNY system guaranteed admission to all high school graduates. Test scores were not considered in the admissions process. All those with at least an 80 average in college preparatory courses or who ranked in the top half of their high school classes were deemed qualified for a four-year college. Everyone else was eligible for community college enrollment.

The initial results of the new policy were not surprising: the size of the CUNY freshman class grew by 75%, and the number of Black and Hispanic enrollees quadrupled at the system s four-year colleges.

I spoke with a CCNY graduate from the mid-seventies about Open Admissions, he laughed, “If wasn’t only for minority kids, I would never have gotten in, I’m a big fan.”

The Clarion, the newsletter of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the CUNY union, in a February 2018 article  argues,

The deleterious consequences of dismantling open admissions were brought to light in The Atlantic: “Since it went through an aggressive, system-wide overhaul that began in 2000, the City University of New York’s top five colleges – Baruch, Hunter, Brooklyn, Queens and City – have been raising admission standards and enrolling fewer freshmen from New York City high schools. Among the results has been the emergence of a progressively starker two-tier system: CUNY’s most prestigious colleges now increasingly favor Asian and white freshmen, while the system’s black and Latino students end up more and more in its overcrowded two-year community colleges.”

According to the 2010 census data the black plus Hispanic population in New
York City was 50% and the black plus Hispanic population at CCNY  (2017-18) is 57%.  The diversity numbers at the college mirror NYC numbers; however, how do we measure school success?

In a major research study, Raj Chetty and his team reviewed millions of data sets to analyze rates of social mobility: colleges moving students from the bottom 40 percent by income to the top 40 percent. Of the many hundreds of colleges examined the City College of New York, my beloved CCNY has the second highest student social mobility rate (Check out the research as parsed by the NY Times here) in the nation. Pretty impressive!!

Was Open Admissions a success or a failure? Was Open Admissions sabotaged through budget cuts and a lack of supports with the colleges?  Does the Chetty study tell us that in spite of budget cuts the CUNY colleges have been extraordinarily effective in carrying out their mission?

I attended the CCNY graduation last week, the salutatorian, a woman who arrived from China in 2008 without knowing a word of English graduating at the top of her class ten years later with a degree in bio-medical engineering.

After the November election democrats may be a majority in the Senate; however the democratic side of the aisle in the Senate has always been fractious. The last two democratic leaders were convicted of crimes and left in disgrace and the former Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) members, while in the democratic conference will vote as they please on controversial issues.

Next year is also the year that Mayoral Control has to be reauthorized in the legislature and Corey Johnson, the speaker of the Council and Mark Tryger, the chair of the City Council education committee have voiced dissatisfaction with the current shape of mayoral control in the city.

Our new chancellor, six weeks on the job, has been a spectator who has made a number of “feel good” speeches and a few, very few comments that he rapidly backed away from: can he become a major voice? While the “ink” has been all around the Specialized High Schools there are well over a hundred screened schools: will the mayor or the chancellor take any action to change test-score based enrollment policies at the screened schools, or, the zones of the schools that limit applications from students across the city? (See an excellent Chalkbeat article here ).

The leader of the teacher union, Michael Mulgrew, made an interesting proposal in regard to admission at screened schools that has not received any discussion, use the 16-66-16 Education Option guidelines for high school admissions. (66% of kids within one standard deviation of the mean, 16% above and 16% below).

We should work towards a solution that permits all high achieving kids, BTW, that term requires a more nuanced definition, to receive the education that is appropriate to their skills, ideally in an integrated setting. We can’t set kids against each other by race, ethnicity, language or gender.

Any ideas?

Chancellor Carranza’s Theory of Change: Create a New Research-Based Urban Education Paradigm or Implement Proven Education Programs?

The new chancellor has been skipping from school to school for a month: the obligatory meet and greet new chancellor tour; heavily scripted trips around the city, the Sherpas arranging carefully controlled media availability, meetings with community and political leaders, lots of pictures with kids and the smiling chancellor. I had an opportunity to tag along on one these tours in the past: you could sniff the aroma of fresh paint, the custodian touched up the school the day before the visit, the student work on the bulletin boards all dated the day before the visit, the obligatory walk-through the day before by the superintendent to make sure everyone was on their best behavior as the chancellor smiles and shakes hands his inbox piles up with folder after folder.

Inbox folders: Specialized HS Options, Diversity (Note: NEVER use the words integration, or, heavens forbid, segregation), Suspensions, Renewal Schools, Fair Student Funding formula, UFT contract negotiations, ATRs, Management structure, Political relationships, Media relationships and more.

Will the chancellor’s management style be to respond to criticism, or, create his own agenda? His predecessor responded to criticism by creating a “program,” with dollars and a press release attached and move on to the next issue. The one initiative that she created, Renewal Schools, has been subject to constant criticism.

Many school and school district leaders follow a triage management philosophy; running from school to school, from problem to problem pouring water on the flames; unfortunately, they sometimes pour from the wrong bucket, pouring gasoline on the problem

After a raucous meeting at an Upper West Side white parents spoke out against a school integration plan, the chancellor, at 1 am retweeted, 

,”WATCH: Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools,”

The next day the mayor was asked to respond,

“I don’t think he at all intends to vilify anyone — he’s not that type of person,” said de Blasio. “This was his own personal voice … I might phrase it differently.”

At a school visit the next day the chancellor responded to reporters,

“The criticism of my predecessor Chancellor Fariña was that she didn’t do anything about this,” he said. “And here I am in my first month actually engaging in this conversation.”

“Let’s all take a breath,” Carranza said. “Let’s let communities come forward with what their solutions could be. Let’s give the space to our CECs to lead those conversations.”

The following day  the chancellor called the plan “very modest, quite frankly,” and a few days later,  “Nowhere in there (the District Three Middle School Integration Plan) are they talking about some of the very drastic things like busing or like rezoning or any of those things. I think it’s a modest conversation to be had.”

Welcome to the Big Apple.

A heartfelt comment tweeted out results in a few days of scrambling and back pedaling.

I was on a review team visiting a low performing middle school; we arrived at the school bright and early, the secretary apologized, the principal was busy assigning coverages for absent teachers. The principal walked into the meeting, somewhat disheveled, “Had to find teachers for coverages, we can never find enough substitutes.” The team leader began the meeting with a soft question, “How would you describe the qualities of an effective teacher?” The principal, replied immediately, “They come every day and blood doesn’t run out from under the door”

Triage management, advance planning is the crisis of the moment and the norm becomes constant triage: a description of the job of the NYC Chancellors of the past?

Does the new guy have a theory of action?  Guiding principles?

Marc Tucker, President of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in a paper entitled, “The Problem with the ‘What Works’ Approach to Education Research and the Case for Focusing on the Determinants of Highly Successful Education Systems” is sharply critical of focusing on programs, which he sees as commonplace, as the reason for mediocre student outcomes decade after decade. Tucker urges research leading to systemic change.

In my judgment … what the “proven program” research paradigm actually does is identify programs that produce marginal results in a dysfunctional system, when the real issue is how to fix the system, a problem that cannot be addressed with this paradigm.

 The underlying logic is simple. Start with the problem – say, a large proportion of students leave elementary school two or more years behind in reading. Come up with a theory about the cause of the problem and, to test the theory, use the theory to develop … a program. Administer the program with statistical controls … Then, put all the programs whose effect size crosses a certain threshold and meet certain criteria for research quality on a list of proven programs. Then stand back and watch the policymakers implement them in great numbers, replicating everywhere the results the researchers observed. Except, of course, they don’t. They never have, and when they do, we don’t see much improvement at scale.

 What researchers in the United States are doing is identifying programs that are at least making a little difference in a highly dysfunctional system. They tell you nothing whatsoever about how to build a highly effective system. They are a prescription for assembling a house of Band-Aids, when we could be building a great house.

 And that bring us to the main point, which is that effective schools, districts and states are not compilations of effective programs. They are effective systems. You may have a great way to teach reading, but, if you have lousy teachers, it won’t produce great reading results. You may have great teachers, but, if the school leader is a petty tyrant and does not support good teaching, the good teachers will either leave or give up while going through the motions of teaching.

Tucker concludes,

I am advocating for is a large program of research on the most successful education systems in the world, organized to help American states understand what combination of features of their systems account for their success, or, put another way, what the common principles are that underlie the different approaches they have taken. What is needed is a design orientation, which is to say that the purpose of this research should be to facilitate the redesign of our current state systems of education for high performance.

  Robert E. Slavin Director, Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University in “Using What Works [is the] Best Way Forward,” sharply disagrees with Tucker, he avers there are specific interventions that work.

 The only programs known from research that routinely add the equivalent of 20 or more PARCC points involve tutoring. This is particularly true when tutoring exists in a response-to-intervention format, in which students receive only the services they need. Tutoring is expensive. However, its costs can be greatly reduced by hiring high-quality paraprofessionals (teacher assistants), such as ones who have a B.A. Also, effective tutoring is likely to reduce special education costs in the long term. The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE), which I lead, recently completed a research review and found that tutoring from high-quality paraprofessionals exercised substantially positive outcomes on student achievement, averaging the equivalent of 26 PARCC points for one-to-one tutoring in reading or math, and 14 points for one-to-small group tutoring. If continued with integrity and care across multiple years, a growing number of students would reach “proficient” each year … students eventually could advance far beyond those in Massachusetts and “top-performing” countries. And there would be additional benefits: the apprenticeship model of hiring and training high quality tutors could bring talented, eager, recent college graduates into the teaching profession.

 The most important problem in America’s schools is not our middling PISA scores. It is the persistent gaps in achievement according to social class and ethnicity. Middle-class, White, and Asian students do not present major achievement challenges for our country. It is African American, Hispanic, and Native American students, and disadvantaged students of all ethnicities, whose learning demands our full attention … My proposal goes to the heart of this problem.  There is nothing wrong with struggling learners that tutoring and other proven programs cannot substantially improve. 

Is Carranza the “firefighter” chancellor, responding to blazes, hopefully quelling the jibes of critics and the media? Or, as per Tucker, will be spend months analyzing and researching the system and move forward with sweeping systemic change? Or, as per Slavin, will he select well-researched programs, for example, tutors, and put the programs at the core of the teaching/learning process?

In the meantime those inbox folders continue to grow as advocates and critics lose patience, remember the new journalism mantra: if it bleeds, it leads.

My recommendation for Richard: exercise, meditation and lots of mariachi practice – you picked one stressful job!!


Political Axiom: “Remember, the Hand You Bite Today May Be Attached to the Ass You Have to Kiss Tomorrow.”

Buddy Cianci, the “colorful,” occasionally outrageous former mayor of Providence is running again; Cianci also served time at the expense of the feds, and is noted for his political quips, one of my favorites,

“Remember, the hand you bite today may be attached to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.”

For many years I served as the elected union leader of a school district representing 2,000 union members. There were times the superintendent or the school board did something I strongly opposed, there were times that members were outraged by some policy. I learned that no matter how angry, no matter the political pressures, I represented all of my members, not just the “angry and outraged” members. I had to learn to both vigorously express my displeasure and at the same time not to burn bridges – to “agree to disagree.”

I asked the superintendent to sign a form to get a teacher whose payroll was screwed up and about to be evicted an emeegency check.

I had to ask him to approve a leave with health benefits for a teacher who had had used up sick days.

Ripping the superintendent in public would satisfy angy members and have tragic results for other members; I always had to keep the door ajar.

The polls close in New York State at 8 PM, minutes later Andrew Cuomo will be declared the winner by the TV stations, his opponent Rob Astorino will trail by about 20% and the Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins will end up in single digits.

My e-mail box is filled with teacher denunciations of Cuomo, endorsements of the Green candidate, refusals to vote for anyone, just plain anger directed at Cuomo.

Cuomo deserves the disapprobation of teachers.

The NY Daily News report on a Cuomo meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board,

ALBANY — Vowing to break “one of the only remaining public monopolies,” Gov. Cuomo on Monday said he’ll push for a new round of teacher evaluation standards if re-elected.

Cuomo, during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board, said better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving and entrenched public education system.
“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.”

He said the key is to put “real performance measures with some competition, which is why I like charter schools.”
Cuomo said he will push a plan that includes more incentives — and sanctions — that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

Cuomo expects fierce opposition from the state’s teachers, who are already upset with him and have refused to endorse his re-election bid.

“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it,” Cuomo said. “I feel exactly opposite.”

Cuomo can be described as a bully, self-serving, amoral, endlessly ambitious, and these are the kinder terms, on the other hand he’s going to be the governor for the next four years.

He is a master strategist: at the heart de Blasio’s campaign for mayor was “pre-kindergarten for all” paid for by increased taxes from earners of over $500,000. There was relatively little pushback. Under New York State law all taxes, state or local, must be approved by the legislature and the governor. Cuomo shot down the mayor’s plan and insisted the funds must come from the state budget.

de Blasio, the vassal, must show fealty to his feudal lord, pay homage each and every year to keep the pre-kindergarten dollars flowing. Any hint of disloyalty by the mayor can result in Cuomo, the lord, questioning the value of pre-kindergarten, jeopardizing the program and pointing blame at the mayor.

Mayor Bloomberg, a major contributor to the Senate Republicans, introduced legislation to end seniority for teachers in New York City; in a staff reduction principals would choose which teachers to excess, and, similar to Chicago, if “bumped” teachers could not a find a job in another school they would be laid off. The bill whisked through the Republican controlled Senate. Cuomo ended Bloomberg’s attack on “first in-last out” by announcing there was no need for the bill, the teacher evaluation law would sort teachers.

For whatever reason Cuomo chose the union over Bloomberg.

Every twenty years the legislature must decide whether to place a proposition on the ballot calling for a constitutional convention. There are some groups in support: maybe an Equal Rights Amendment or changes in the funding of schools – sounds like a good idea; however, on the other side are the dangers.

A simple clause in the state constitution,

After July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

School districts, cities, business groups, the Tea Party, and on and on would love to delete that simple sentence. To allow the state to “diminish and impair” pensions.

The last constitutional convention was 75 years ago and in my view another convention would do mischief.

Each time the question has arisen, previous governors and legislatures have passed – no interest.

There is always the next battle, be it avoiding a constitutional convention or amending the property tax cap. Unions, properly, have responsibly criticized the governor for his unseemly and antagonistic comments, and, I hope, keep the door ajar for the next issue.