No opting-out of this discussion
For the first time, the state Department of Education will release on Thursday a list of schools statewide that it deems in need of support and improvement. And the opt-out movement is a factor in why some are on the list.
The identified schools will fall into two buckets, those that have specific shortcomings and need targeted assistance and those in need of comprehensive support and improvement, meaning they have across-the-board problems.
On Long Island, 34 schools will be identified, 28 for comprehensive support and improvement and six for targeted support and improvement.
The newly adopted standards by which the designations are made center on student achievement, progress, growth and graduation rates. But they also take into account factors like chronic absenteeism; career, college and civic readiness; and English proficiency among English Language Learners.
And opt-out. Sort of.
Earlier this week the first shots in the battle over this new school ratings system were fired on Long Island when Island Park's school superintendent, Rosmarie Bovino, posted a letter on the district's website advising residents that Lincoln Orens Middle School was in danger of being placed on the state list. Nearly 60 percent of students in that school refused to take last spring's state tests. But that’s not enough to get a school on the list.
Such a school is only identified if, beyond not enough kids taking the tests, the group who does take the tests ranks below the state average in its results.
That prompted Long Island Regent Roger Tilles, in a meeting earlier this week, to argue that state education officials previously gave the impression that schools would not face sanctions because of test boycotts.
The Education Department’s point of view seems to be that it’s not just about opt-out, because if the kids who do take the tests rank at least average in performance they won’t get dinged. And the department is trying to dispel the fear by arguing that these designations have no concrete effect for at least a year, as the new system gets up and running.
But what may not be clear up in Albany is that on property value- and education-obsessed Long Island, having your local schools publicly declared substandard is the most concrete punishment of all.
Suozzi the problem solver
Democratic Rep. Thomas Suozzi and his fellow Problem Solvers tried to live up to the caucus’ name Wednesday, when 14 members of the bipartisan group, seven from each party, went to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. According to the White House, the meeting lasted about 30 minutes.
Their mission was to find a path to reopen the government. Their reception, according to Suozzi, was respectful, and he termed the session “productive.” The meeting came a day after Democrats from districts Trump had won in 2016 declined his invitation. Suozzi said his fellow Democrats cleared their attendance with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Their ask is a version of the latest proposal making the rounds in D.C. about how to end the shutdown: a bipartisan agreement to get the government reopened for a set period of time while both sides work to hammer out a deal on border security, and potentially, the status of Dreamers brought here illegally as children and immigrants who came via government-sanctioned Temporary Protected Status years ago but who are now being told to go home.
“This is having a real effect on people’s lives, the economy, and public safety,” Suozzi said. “I think there’s a path forward, if we can get the government open, to finally make a deal and move forward.”
And the Problem Solvers Caucus would have an achievement that lives up to its name.
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Progressives at an intersection
At the intersection of preparation and opportunity you can find a whole bunch of advocates who have pushed state legislation for years only to run into the wall that had been the Republican-controlled State Senate.
After November’s big blue wave, Democrats now control the chamber along with the Assembly and governor’s mansion, and those advocates feel well-positioned for a payoff on all that work.
Two such umbrella groups — the Long Island Progressive Coalition and NY Renews — visited Newsday’s editorial board Wednesday afternoon to highlight some of their signature proposals.
For the LIPC, it was public campaign financing, and its members were buoyed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal in Tuesday’s budget address for a 6-to-1 match on donations of $175 or less. Cuomo’s embrace means “we’ve won” on selling the concept, Stephan Edel, director of the New York Working Families Project, told The Point, but “negotiations are going to be hard” when it comes to reconciling Cuomo’s bill with measures from the Assembly and Senate.
NY Renews is getting behind two climate change-oriented bills. The headliner was the Climate Change and Protection Act, which would take the state entirely off fossil fuels by mandating a 100 percent cut in human-created emissions by 2050.
“The governor has evolved. Yesterday, he put some cards on the table,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, referring to Cuomo’s budget pitch for the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2040. “It has broad bipartisan support...We’re pretty confident it will come up for a vote.”
The enthusiasm was captured by LIPC director Lisa Tyson, who said simply: “It’s a new state.”
But it’s still Albany, and even with the new party alignment not all the sailing will be smooth.