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.

Steps Forward Toward More Diverse Schools

Last spring, our community held a forum at John Jay Educational Campus to address issues of segregation in our public schools – and to look at what steps we can take toward schools that better reflect the diversity of our city. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, we learned that New York’s schools are the most segregated in the country. But we also learned that schools, districts (especially District 1, 3, and 13), and advocates across New York City are working hard to make change.

At that meeting, the District 15 Community Education Council (who co-sponsored the event with Council Member Carlos Menchaca and me) announced its new CEC 15 Resolution on Diversity. That resolution called on the DOE to prioritize diversity, especially when establishing the admissions policy for new schools.

So I’m pleased to report that this week, we made a small but meaningful step forward. The DOE agreed to an admissions plan – suggested by the community – for the new “PS/IS 437” (in Kensington) that will strengthen diversity, include a new middle school, and promote collaboration.

Read more »

Reflections from a 5th grade graduation

It’s sentimental, and yet deeply true: for me, there is no better celebration of American democracy than a 5th grade public school graduation, rooted in the idea that every single student has the potential to achieve their goals, and the right to get a real opportunity to try.

If we want a democratic society – inspired by the ideals of equality, of opportunity, of fairness, of creativity, of stewardship for future generations, of commitment to the common good – a good starting place is to celebrate and recommit to what can happen in our public schools. Read more »

A Strong Step Forward for Our Kids, Teachers, Parents, Schools ... and City

I’m very enthusiastic about the preliminary contract agreement announced today between the de Blasio Administration and the United Federation of Teachers. I believe it provides a framework to improve our schools, support teachers, encourage innovation, and better include parents.

As a public school parent, I have a deep appreciation for what our teachers do. This contract shows respect for their craft, streamlines an overly cumbersome evaluation process, and treats them fairly – while at the same time achieving savings in health care and attending to the real fiscal constraints our city faces. Read more »

This Tuesday: Help break down a divide (and watch some great student videos at John Jay HS Campus)

John Jay Video Showcase 4-29

Although it’s located right in the middle of Park Slope, there has too long been a divide between the public schools in the John Jay Educational Campus and the surrounding community.

Next Tuesday, we’ve got a chance to help break down that divide. Read more »

The real champions of change

I’m honored to be in Washington DC today to receive a “Champions of Change” award from the White House for work (along with Alderman Joe Moore from Chicago, and Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito from East Harlem) on participatory budgeting.

I’m excited to meet and learn from other elected officials, not-for-profit leaders, and community organizers who are pioneering new forms of civic engagement and open government (like Jessica Klein, co-founder of Rockaway Help, which created new technology tools to enable people to collaborate for disaster relief). 

But there is something not-quite-right about getting an award for something as inclusive as participatory budgeting (which The New York Times called “revolutionary civics in action”). The whole idea of participatory budgeting is to see elected office not as a vehicle for one person’s leadership, but as a way to bring people together to take shared responsibility.  The best part of participatory budgeting is how people step up together to act as stewards of the shared public realm – our schools, parks, public transportation, streets, libraries – that makes our life together possible, and sometimes even ennobling. Read more »

Petraeus’s Pay for Part-Time CUNY Job, Criticized at $200,000, Drops to $1

NY Times
07/15/2013

It was supposed to be a feather in the cap for the City University of New York’s ambitious honors college. Or perhaps a careful first step back into public life for a leader sidelined by scandal.

One way or another, the news that David H. Petraeus, the former C.I.A. director and commander of the allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be a visiting professor at the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY this coming academic year was supposed to be great publicity all around. Read more »

David Petraeus, a man used to hostile welcomes, gets another one from NYC

am New York
07/09/2013

To sign the petition calling on CUNY to rescind the $150,000 offer to David Petraeus, click here.

A firestorm of protest has erupted at disgraced ex-CIA head David Petraeus’ $150,000 paycheck to teach a three-hour class once a week for two semesters with help of graduate students. Tuesday, The union representing CUNY faculty and staff Tuesday sent out a statement in protest of Petraeus’ salary, which was first reported by Gawker. Read more »

Our City's budget, and our values

Last week was a busy one at City Hall. We passed two important police reform bills (more on those here), overrode the mayor’s veto of legislation that will guarantee paid sick days for a million more New York workers, and we passed the City’s FY2014 budget, for the fiscal year that begins today (for good measure, we also passed a bill to “save brunch,” which had apparently become threatened due to an outdated law).

In budget negotiations, we were able restore the essential public services proposed for cuts by Mayor Bloomberg. Libraries will keep their full hours. Low-income families will keep their childcare. Our neighborhood firehouses, parks, and pools will remain open. You can access all the details of the City’s FY2014 budget here, and on those areas where the Council focused on restorations and additions here. Read more »

The power of our students’ imagination

With the end of each school year, I am moved by what extraordinary places our public schools are.  To me, there is no better celebration of democracy than a fifth grade graduation: rooted in the idea that every single student has the potential to achieve their goals and has the right to get a real opportunity to try, that equality and diversity matter, and that we get there by organizing ourselves together, in shared, common, public schools. Read more »

DOE to replace PS 146 lights to prevent PCB exposure

Thanks to the activism of parents, New York Communities for Change, and elected officials, DOE has agreed to replace the light fixtures at the Brooklyn New School (PS 146) and MS 448. 

After leaks were discovered in the school's light fixtures last year, parents rallied to have the fixtures replaced. Light fixtures installed decades ago can leak toxic PCBs, a health risk for students. Read more »