Public Education

Effective public education, in elementary, middle and high school, is essential to preparing our children for success. The schools of the 39th Council District have some of the city's best teachers, principals and parent leaders, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they are supported in the crucial work that they do.

Whose visions for Gowanus? Come take a look.

You may have seen the recent New Yorker cover on Gowanus, in which artist Adrian Tomine makes fun of “people eating their organic kale and quinoa salads while gazing across the opaque, fetid water.” It’s a funny cover, and it’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves (and our neighbors). And there are certainly many ironic contradictions around the Gowanus Canal these days.   

But the issues we face in Gowanus are serious ones: How do we confront the legacy of industrial pollution, and the challenges of climate change and resiliency? How can we create inclusive neighborhoods – with room for working- and middle-class families, for public housing, for artists, for manufacturing – amidst skyrocketing real estate values? What’s the right balance of housing and jobs? Can we preserve, (or even strengthen) the mixed-use, eclectic, creative character of the neighborhood amidst change? Read more »

Your Neighborhood Needs You!

Our 5th year of Participatory Budgeting NYC (PBNYC) is about to kick off, and we need your help! 

The PBNYC process gives New Yorkers the power to decide how to spend tax dollars in our neighborhoods. If you’re not familiar with PBNYC, here’s how it works: Read more »

Welcome Back to School

It’s a big day for NYC families as 1 million kids head back to school – including mine, who are starting 7th and 11th grade today (incredible how fast the years go, since it was just yesterday they were starting pre-K).

We’re starting off the school year with a lot of good things going on in our schools:

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The democratic promise of our public schools

Nothing is more important to our democracy than strong public schools that offer all kids a genuine opportunity to learn, grow, solve problems, imagine, create, work in teams, get ready for careers, and become citizens of NYC. In just a few short weeks – at 5th grade, 8th grade, and high-school graduations across the district – we’ll have a chance to see and celebrate the magic that happens daily in our public schools.

We’re lucky to have many great schools in District 15. And we’re making some strong steps forward: I’m especially excited about the continued expansion of Pre-K in our community. Next fall, I believe that the majority of four-year-olds in our neighborhoods will be served in free, high-quality, public Pre-K programs. 

Still, we’ve got a long way to go to fulfill the true democratic promise of public education. Across NYC, too many of our schools aren’t providing kids with the education they need. And as you’ve been reading in the news, we are still grappling with many public policy issues (though most of these are set, for better or worse, at the state level) from mayoral control to high-stakes testing to the charter school cap.

I won’t go into all of those here – but I did want to fill you in on some of the work my office has been doing in recent days to strengthen our City’s schools: confronting segregation & improving diversity, re-imagining the middle-school admissions process, the PTA 5k fun-run-for-schools, school crossing guards, and more: Read more »

City Council Passes “School Diversity Accountability Act”

New law will require NYC Department of Education to provide detailed demographic data & steps it is taking to advance diversity in NYC schools, Seen as strong tool for advocates confronting school segregation.

NEW YORK – Today, the New York City Council voted to pass new policies designed to confront segregation and increase diversity in NYC public schools. Read more »

City Council, Advocates Ask Mayor for School Crossing Guard at Every Dangerous Intersection

Elected Officials, Advocates, School Community Members respond to Mayor’s Lack of Attention for School Crossing Guards in Executive Budget, Demand Better Job Quality for City’s Valuable Public Servants

NEW YORK--Today on the steps of City Hall, City Council Member Brad Lander, and Chair of the Committee on Public Safety Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, along with other elected officials, labor leaders, street safety advocates and representatives from the school community called on Mayor de Blasio to address the lack of school crossing guards at dangerous intersections across the city, and poor job quality that makes it difficult to keep positions filled. Read more »

A better middle school admissions process?

As past, present and soon-to-be 5th graders and their parents know, the current “middle school choice” admissions process for District 15 (and more broadly in NYC) can be stressful, frustrating, and feel unfair. Around this time of year, I often hear from parents that the process is confusing, demoralizing, too heavily based on screening, and amplifies the problems of segregation.

Before we start the process again next year, we wanted to work together with some of our partners to have a community conversation about the issue, and what changes you believe are necessary. Read more »

Schools, Libraries, and Our Charity

As one of the "spirited Brooklynites" who spent last weekend running (and even helping to organize) the Brooklyn PTA 5K Fun Run for Public Schools, and then Biking the Branches in support of the Brooklyn Public Library, I completely agree with Liza Featherstone's critique in this article: that we must not come to view our schools and libraries as "charities," but as fundamental public institutions that we have a duty to robustly (and more equally) support with our tax dollars. AND that we are not doing so. AND especially not in the case of NYC's public libraries. AND that this is a real shortcoming of the budget that Mayor de Blasio put forward this week (which cuts the expense budget of the 3 library systems $10 million from last year, and includes only a scant & largely illusory increase of capital funding).

For what it's worth, though, I do think events like the PTA 5K, and Bike the Branches -- and even more participatory budgeting (PBNYC) -- can be a fundamental part of efforts to "fight privatization, not revel in it," as Featherstone rightly demands. Read more »

More crossing guards, less testing, and hordes of runners!

All year parents at the new pre-K program at Bishop Ford have been concerned about the dangerous intersection at 10th Avenue & 19th Street – where hundreds of 4 year-olds cross every day with no crossing guard. So I’m happy to announce that due to our combined efforts (with help from City Hall and the 72nd Precinct), a crossing guard will be stationed there starting today.

But this is a problem that exists across the city. School crossing guards are some of NYC’s most essential workers – but we don’t have enough to keep all our kids safe, so many dangerous intersections are uncovered.

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City Council Hearing: Finding Ways Forward to Confront Segregation and Increase Diversity In NYC’s Schools

Sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal is inherently unequal,” New York’s public schools are among the most segregated in the country. On December 11, 2014, the New York City Council took a stark look at issues of school segregation and diversity – in a day-long hearing that I worked with Education Committee Chair Danny Dromm to convene. The hearing was contentious at times (you can view the whole 9-hour video here), but pointed to some concrete ways forward.

Public schools are, for me, our most important democratic institutions – the mechanism by which all our children are supposed to receive an opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.  Segregated schools communicate an enormous amount to our kids about what sort of society we really value. Taking real steps to confront school segregation is necessary if we care about the core democratic principal of equal opportunity. Read more »