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Inside graduation rates
Graduation rates for New York students who started high school in 2013 are in. For one Long Island district that has been a focus of the Newsday editorial board’s attention, the results are simply shocking.
In the very troubled Hempstead school district, 36.7 percent of its students graduated on time in 2017. That’s a rate down almost 11 points from 2016’s 47.6 percent. And it’s a failure rate absolutely dwarfed by the Island’s other most challenged districts: Roosevelt’s graduation rate improved by 1 percentage point, but is the second-worst on the Island, at 63 percent. Wyandanch, the third-worst, tumbled from 70.1 percent to 64 percent.
In a conference call with editorial boards Wednesday before the school-specific data were released, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia shared the state numbers, which showed some small gains from 2016.
Asked later by email what can be done about Hempstead, her response was predictably measured:
“Improving graduation rates is a critical part of the work we’re doing right now with the district’s Distinguished Educator,” said Elia.
Elia and her staff, of course, have been trying to help troubled Hempstead for quite some time as it cycles through board leaders, superintendents, high school principals and improvement plans. But Wednesday’s numbers make it clear they haven’t got it figured out.
London rail isn’t falling down
It’s not news that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access project is massively delayed and massively over budget.
But to provide context to just how overpriced the extension of the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal is, the Regional Plan Association looked across the pond — to London.
There, a project called Crossrail will connect regional and national rail networks, add a tunnel under the city and provide increased track capacity. It began in 2009 and is expected to open later this year. (East Side Access, begun in 2000, was originally supposed to be done in 2009. Its completion date is now set at 2022.)
In a report released this week, the RPA stuck the two projects side by side. The findings are stark.
Tunneling and track work per mile:
East Side Access: $261 million.
Crossrail: $107 million.
Signaling, communications, power and systems work per mile:
East Side Access: $100 million.
Crossrail $6 million.
Reason No. 1, perhaps unsurprisingly, lies in the cost of labor, the RPA said. Both projects use union labor, but London’s got national health care — so benefits costs aren’t part of the project costs. Pension costs, too, are handled differently.
But East Side Access’ problems go far beyond the cost of benefits. It’s the “start-and-stop nature” of East Side Access, particularly at Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, that’s made it impossible for East Side Access to stay on time and on budget, the RPA said.
Internal difficulties in decision-making, space-sharing, and equipment needs, even between the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, haven’t helped, either, the RPA found.
MTA officials have noted that East Side Access has been making progress in recent months.
But progress is clearly a relative term.
Randi F. Marshall
So will Don Lemon become a Suffolk County voter?
“CNN Tonight” host Don Lemon claimed Rep. Lee Zeldin as his congressman at the end of Tuesday night’s show. Closing out the interview, Lemon said, “And by the way, you are my congressman out in Long Island.”
“Yes, sir,” Zeldin replied.
To which the show host responded, “So I’m going to be holding your feet to the fire there at the voting booth as well.”
Lemon does own a home in Amagansett, which is in Zeldin’s 1st Congressional District. However, voting records show that Lemon fills out his ballot in Manhattan’s 13th Congressional District, where he owns a home on Eighth Avenue. That would make Lemon a constituent of Rep. Adriano Espaillat.
Perhaps Lemon will be switching his voter registration address. He has until Oct. 17 to make the change to cast a ballot for — or against — Zeldin in November.