"A memorable change must be made in the system of education and knowledge must become so general as to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher. The education of a nation instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the formation of the many." - John Adams
Proposed Education Governance Structure for Inclusion in
the New York City Charter
The League of Women Voters of the City of New York believes that the Department of Education belongs in the City Charter. The governance structure of the agency charged with educating more than one million city school children is nowhere to be found in the Charter, and we believe it belongs there.
Chapter 20 of the Charter, titled ‘Education’, doesn’t discuss or describe the Department of Education which accounts for approximately 20% of the city’s expenditures. The Department of Education has been operating the city’s schools for the last 8 years and will continue to be in charge of the system until the State deems otherwise. The Charter chapter on education in its current form is incomplete and misleading.
We understand that it is state legislation which first authorized Mayoral control of the schools in 2002. Authorizations can be time- limited in perpetuity -- first six years, followed by seven, and then another six or seven until we have a temporary governance structure in place for twenty or twenty-five years. This is neither accountable nor transparent to the people it is intended to serve. Most recently in 2016, the State Senate authorized a one year extension.
All laws are subject to change, whether they are in the City Charter or enacted by the state. In fact, state legislation can amend our City Charter. As a Mayoral agency, the Department of Education is a city agency created by the state and as such belongs in the City Charter. If changes are made in the 2017 authorization, those changes can be reflected in the Charter through the action of the state.
New Yorkers should have easy access to information on the structure of their education system. Rather than have to plow through the voluminous pages of New York State Education Law, city residents, parents, teachers and members of the City Council should be able to turn to Chapter 20 in the City Charter and learn about the basic functions and responsibilities of the Department of Education as delineated in Article 52-A, Section 2590 of the Laws of New York.
The Charter education section should include, among other state-authorized governance provisions, the following:
- There is a chancellor who is superintendent and chief executive officer of the city district who is appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and is an ex-officio member of the Panel on Educational Policy (PEP).
- Description of the Chancellor’s powers and responsibilities.
- The city board (Panel on Educational Policy) consists of 13 appointed members, one appointed by each borough president and eight appointed by the mayor, All of the borough presidents’ appointees and two of the mayor’s must be parents of children attending public schools. All of the members serve at the pleasure of the person who appointed them.
- Description of the PEP’s powers and responsibilities.
- There are 32 Community Education Councils (CEC’s), each consisting of 12 members, 9 of whom are parents selected through a parent association voting process; 2 appointed by the Borough President and one student selected by the community superintendent.
- Description of the CEC’s powers and responsibilities.
- There is a Citywide High School Council, a Citywide Council on Special Education and a Citywide Council on English Language Learners, each with nine to eleven voting members, one or two appointed by the Public Advocate.
- The Mayor proposes and the City Council adopts the budget for the Department of Education
- The Comptroller of the City of New York can conduct operational and programmatic audits, in addition to financial audits, of the city district to the same extent that the comptroller has such authority over agencies of the city of New York.
- The New York City Independent Budget Office is authorized to provide analysis and issue public reports on such matters as: student graduation and drop out rates; student enrollment projections; school utilization, class sizes and pupil-to-teacher ratios; the delivery of services to students who are bi-lingual or in ESL classes; the delivery of services to students with disabilities; the utilization of Federal funds directed at parent involvement and matters relating to city district finances.
Our proposal is limited to the governance structure and does not apply to educational standards or pedagogical requirements.
The department educates 1.1 million of our city’s children and affects the lives of millions more. We believe it is time to include it in the City Charter. We acknowledge that state legislative approval may be needed to add this section to the Charter or to make subsequent changes. However, since an established process exists to submit home rule requests, we do not consider this an insurmountable obstacle that stops the dialogue before it even begins.
Letter to Members of the NYS Legislature Opposing “Education Investment Incentives Act”(A. 2551)
Dear Assembly Member _________________,
We are writing on behalf of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York to urge you to oppose “The Education Investment Incentives ACT (A. 2551, S.1976A).
We believe that this proposal, which would enable a contributor to a “state-sanctioned educational enterprise” to get a tax credit of 75% of a donation not exceeding one million dollars, is not in the best interest of public school students and high needs districts. Casting this as a tax credit and not a charitable deduction favors wealthy donors at significant cost to the state. The legislation provides for $150 million in the first year climbing to $300 million in year three, and every year thereafter.
By offering these credits for contributions to any “state sanctioned educational enterprise’, the bill is encouraging donations to private, parochial and charter schools at great expense to the state. New York State has never met the court-ordered obligation to fully fund its public schools. Under these circumstances we believe it is unacceptable to divert public funds to assist private and parochial schools.
The League believes that this bill is inconsistent with our position in favor of progressive taxation as a means of financing public education because the taxpayer dollars could be used more efficiently. Tax policy as a means of encouraging giving for educational purposes should be limited to the availability of charitable deductions, not tax credits.
Thank you for your consideration.
Catherine Gray & Doris Welch
Federal Role in Public Education Position
The LWVUS Board approved a new Education position at its March 2012 meeting. The position is based on responses received from the 377 Leagues across the country that participated in the Education Study. The position states that "the League of Women Voters believes that the federal government shares with other levels of government the responsibility to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children pre-K through grade 12. A quality public education is essential for a strong, viable and sustainable democratic society and is a civil right." Thanks to the many local and state Leagues and ILOs that held meetings, involved their communities, and worked to reach consensus on this critical issue of importance to all Americans. Committee Chairs Peggy Hill (TX) and Joanne Leavitt (CA) and their Committee: Pat Aaron ( IL), Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins (CO), Patricia Libutti (NJ), Sanford Ostroy (MA), Jean Pierce (IL) and Janelle Rivers (SC) are to be commended for their excellent work and leadership.
Click here to read the complete position statement.
New League Study of Education
At the 2010 convention of the League of Women Voters of the United States, delegates approved a new study entitled The Role of Federal Government in Public Education, pre-K through grade 12. The study has been organized to provide historical perspectives and then to engage members in the discussion of 1) Common Core Standards and Assessments and 2) Funding and Equity issues in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. After months of delving into a vast amount of resource material and after numerous challenging and heated discussions among ourselves, the LWVNYC Education Committee is ready to lead the membership in two meetings where we will present background information for a series of questions on which we hope to reach consensus.
What is consensus?
Consensus is not the outcome of a vote; it is based on mutual agreement arrived at through discussion in which everyone has an opportunity to express her views and the subject is examined from all sides. It represents an overall sense of the group in relation to specific questions which will then be analyzed to provide the basis for the organization's positions on the issue.
Our consensus meetings will be held on two Wednesdays, October 19 and November 16.
In October we will deal with questions related to Core Standards and Assessments.
Our November meeting will cover Funding and Equity.
Call or write the League office if you would like a paper copy of the material.
Ideally, a consensus is the result of give and take at a membership meeting and we hope members will attend and participate in the discussions. We also recognize that many members who wish to participate in this study will be unable to attend daytime meetings.
If you cannot be present in person, we hope you will read the background information and give careful consideration to each of the questions. Please call or email the LWVNYC office if you are unable to attend and would like to respond via postal mail. If you return your completed form to the LWVNYC office before November 15, your responses can be incorporated into our overall response.
National Education Standards, Curriculum and Assessment
Based on an article by Mary Hughes
National standards In English Language Arts and Mathematics were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, not by federal government mandate, and have been adopted by 41 states. They are intended to provide a common educational framework for use in all schools in all states and are designed to prepare all students for college or a career and to have the skills needed to compete effectively in a global market. Schools that adopt the national standards will be teaching the same rigorous content in literacy and mathematics at every grade level from kindergarten to 12.
Should standards be mandated for states to obtain federal funding?
- Clear consistent research-based expectations and benchmarks In ELA and Math for all students on each grade level.
- All students, no matter where they live, learn the same content and skills in ELA and Math, needed to prepare them for college and the workforce and to succeed in the global economy.
- Teachers organizations were given a critical voice in the development of the standards.
- During this economic downturn, can we afford to implement new standards throughout the nation? If we pilot a program for two years in several states to assess the efficacy of the core, this would allow time to fine-tune the standards.
- Are we encouraging more "teaching to the test" by endorsing new standards? Will more classroom time be spent preparing students for tests than in learning new material?
Will this ensure higher dropout rates as lower-achieving students face one-size-fits-all standards? What needs to be done so that these students don't fall through the cracks?
Establishing core standards will not address other issues that result in poor student achievement, such as poor design of schools, lack of qualified teachers, and instability of families and communities. We need to decide how to get the most bang for our buck.
Currently, core standards are required only for states applying for the federal grant program "Race to the Top."
Should there be a national assessment aligned with the common core standards?
- Will enable cross-state comparisons.
- Will track student progress toward college and career readiness standards.
Who would fund the costs of a common assessment?
Will results be skewed by some states so that they do not reflect a true consistent assessment of students' skills/knowledge?
If states use different assessments, can data be used for comparison across students, schools, states?
There might be too much "teaching to the test."
Should national standards lead to a national curriculum?
A curriculum specifies the topics and methods that students will use to master the standards. Some educators believe that the standards alone are not enough to bring improvement. Others believe that a national curriculum would bring unnecessary constraints that stifle creativity and innovation. Both reading skills and math can be taught in many ways.
If we have a national assessment, what information is most important to be reported to parents, teachers, students and the community?
Individual student scores can be interpreted by:
Rank ordering of student scores (norm-referenced); this is designed to rank individual students In comparison to a sample (local, state, national).
Reporting whether students meet predetermined standards (criterion-ferenced); this is designed to determine how well individual students have mastered objectives.
Cut scores, which provide information about whether or not students have mastered specified criteria.