Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, October 8, 2015

69% Rate Cuomo Negatively On His Handling Of Common Core

 From News 12:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo got slammed by a new poll regarding his handling of the controversial Common Core curriculum.

In the News 12/Hofstra University poll, nearly 40 percent rated the governor as "poor" on the issue.
A total of 3 ½ percent said "excellent," 17 percent responded "good" and 29 percent rated the governor's performance as "fair."

The way this works is, excellent and good are considered positive reponses, fair and poor considered negative ones.

So 4% and 17% = 21% positive on Cuomo's handling of Common Core.

And 29% and 40% = 69% negative on Cuomo's handling of Common Core.

You can bet he's been polling internally and knows exactly what these numbers are.

That's why the sudden Common Core review announcement right before school started.

But of course since the panel that will conduct the review is rigged to offer a pro-Common Core/pro-Endless Testing regime agenda, these numbers aren't going to change.

We're too long into the Education Reform Era for people to be fooled by tweaks at the edges of the Endless Testing regime and a Common Core name change.

Eva Moskowitz Not Running For Mayor

This is not a surprise:

Eva S. Moskowitz, the outspoken charter school leader who galvanized critics of the de Blasio administration, has signaled to close allies that she is leaning against a bid for mayor of New York in 2017, according to several people told of her discussions.

The prospect of a run by Ms. Moskowitz has been seen as a significant threat to Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat and longtime antagonist, particularly if her candidacy was backed by wealthy donors who support her prominent charter network, Success Academy.

Ms. Moskowitz scheduled a City Hall news conference for Thursday morning to reveal “her political plans.”

According to a person told of her thinking, Ms. Moskowitz has viewed the speculation about her candidacy as a distraction for her charter school network, which is reliant on the city for school space, and for donors who might confuse the schools’ educational mission with the political ambitions of a potential candidate.

According to two people told of Ms. Moskowitz’s thinking, she is unlikely to say on Thursday that she is pursuing a campaign.

She was never a "significant threat" to de Blasio.

She's too polarizing, has a reputation for nastiness and runs a charter school network famed for children who are so afraid to take a break from test prep that they soil themselves - there is no way she could win a race for City Hall.

Rather, a more friendly pro-charter figure without baggage - especially someone of color who could cut into de Blasio's support with black voters - is a significant threat to de Blasio.

These reporters need to stop feeding Eva's ego here - wouldn't matter how much money Eva's Wall Street sugar daddies gave her for the race, she has serious flaws as a citywide candidate and I bet she knows that.

It was said, I think in Eliza Shapiro's Politico NY piece on Eva a while back, that Eva was going to poll before making a decision on whether to run or not.

I bet she's been polling and has discovered that her appeal is low, her favorability rating in the toilet and a clamoring for her to run for mayor non-existent.

But because this is Eva and everything is always about her, she needs to make a grand announcement with all the attendant drama we've gotten here.

What a piece of work she is - self-centered, arrogant, hubristic, and vindictive.

Quite frankly, a perfect fit for a charter school leader.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Eva Moskowitz's City Hall Steps Announcement

From the Daily News:

Charter school maven Eva Moskowitz – and major Mayor de Blasio foe – on Wednesday said she was holding a press conference on the steps of City Hall to make an announcement “concerning her political plans.”

The cryptic announcement contained no other details, but Moskowitz has said she is interested in running for mayor at some point.

"I believe I would have a lot to offer as mayor but the question for me is whether I could contribute more than I am now by running Success Academy," she said in a statement to Politico last month when asked about her mayoral plans.

Moskowitz, the head of the sprawling Success Academy Charter School network, has experience in politics.

She was a City Councilwoman for two terms, and chaired the education committee.

She also ran for Manhattan Borough President in 2005, but lost in a primary to Scott Stringer.
A spokesman for Moskowitz declined to say what Thursday’s announcement is about.

Only a totally insane person (see here) would announce a run for mayor for
November of 2017 in October of 2015, so let's assume that Eva, insane but not THAT insane, is making some other announcement.

My guess is, she's announcing that she will NOT run for mayor but is in process of putting together some grand scheme to help rid the city of the evil Bill de Blasio.

There's simply little chance for her to beat de Blasio in a primary or win as a Republican - not with her nasty temperament and reputation, not with the political demographics greatly favoring Dems.

A person of color without the baggage has the best shot to beat de Blasio in 2017 for the charter school shills.

That's either Hakeem Jeffries or Ruben Diaz Jr. 

As for how that plays out, well, Jeffries is the charter sector's best bet because Diaz comes from a corrupt family and I am not so sure he can survive the scrutiny of a city-wide campaign.

But we'll see - you never know with Eva.

Maybe she's got a beer hall putsch planned for tomorrow and wants the cameras there for her victory speech.

Cuomo Says He Hasn't Been Subpoenaed In Corruption Probe

From the "Dean Skelos Said The Same Thing" file:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday insisted that he had neither been issued a subpoena or questioned by federal investigators in the ongoing investigation into the Buffalo Billion economic development program.


The Buffalo Billion economic development program was formed by the Cuomo administration as a way to boost the economy of western New York, long considered a laggard compared to the rest of the state.

But the spending — which has included large-scale construction projects in Buffalo and the western New York region in order to entice high-tech companies to settle there — has come under scrutiny from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office, which is reviewing the contracting process by SUNY Nanotech, as well as the request for proposal process performed for construction firm LP Ciminelli.


Cuomo also denied he had been issued a subpoena in the case, though he seemingly left the door open to his staff having been questioned in the case.

“He asked me if I have received a subpoena, I said no,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi later clarified in a statement, saying neither the governor nor his staff have been questioned or issued subpoenas in the investigation.

“To be clear, neither the Governor, nor his staff has been questioned or subpoenaed on the Buffalo Billion project,” he said. “Going forward any questions should be referred to the U.S. Attorney.”

Back in late January, three months or so before Dean Skelos was charged with corruption by the US attorney, here was a Skelos spokesman responding to reports that the US attorney was looking into him:

Skelos’ office issued a statement Friday calling the TV report “irresponsible” — and refusing further comment.

“Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As such, we won’t be commenting further,” said Skelos spokeswoman Kelly Cummings.

Then in May, this:

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos repeatedly used his official position as part of an expansive scheme to personally enrich his 32-year-old son, federal prosecutors alleged Monday in a six-count criminal complaint.

Using information gleaned from wiretaps, emails and search warrants, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara accused Skelos, 67, of backing certain bills and infrastructure projects supported by a real estate developer and a connected environmental company. In exchange, prosecutors say the companies provided his son, Adam, with jobs and payments exceeding $200,000 since 2010.

The 43-page complaint from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office marked the latest in a string of scandals that have shaken the state Capitol and threatened to throw the remaining two months of the legislative session into disarray.

Skelos, R-Nassau County, turned himself in Monday morning and appeared in federal court later in the day. He said he is innocent of the six felony counts he faces, including extortion, bribery and conspiracy charges.

So Cuomo saying he hasn't been subpoenaed in the Buffalo Billion probe and his flak saying no one else on his staff has either, well, that doesn't mean much.

If either Cuomo or people close to him are the targets of an investigation, they'll be the last guys to get contacted by the feds - kinda the way Skelos was.

There were 150 subpoenas and 80 witnesses interviewed in the Skelos case, but Dean and son Adam were, you know, last on the contact list.

But thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject, Sheriff Andy.

Cuomo Insists He Never Said Government Should Be Shut Down - But He Did

Scott Waldman at Politico NY:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted on Tuesday that he did not explicitly call for Democrats to shut down the federal government if Republicans continue to resist gun-control legislation.

“Just to clarify, I didn't call for a government shutdown," Cuomo told WNYC's Brian Lehrer. "I said the Republicans are very good at making their priorities known and they’re basically saying if we don’t get a tax cut for the rich, then we’ll shut down the government. The Democrats should say, well our top priority is gun control. They should put it up at the top of the agenda and threaten Republicans right back on gun control.”

Last week, however, Cuomo seemed to be more direct in calling for a shutdown in response to the killing of nine people at a community college in Oregon.

“I’d love to see the Democrats stand up and say we’re going to shut down the government or threaten to shut down the government if we don’t get real gun control legislation,” Cuomo told NY1. “It should be that high a priority.”

If you look up "full of shit" in the dictionary, you find a photo of Andrew Cuomo.

Just own up to it, Andy, or better yet, own up to it and say you were speaking emotionally but want to clarify your statements.

Instead he denies he ever said it even though the evidence exists to show he said it.

Business As Usual In Albany

Meet the new pork process, pretty much the same as the old pork process:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted legislative earmarks during campaigns, investigated them as attorney general and promised in 2012 that he would banish them from the state budget.
Now, he's approving them.

In the last week, leaders of the state Legislature publicly disclosed lists of earmarks they secured under the State and Municipal Facilities Program, which fiscal analysts have likened to the old “member item” program that let legislators direct money to local groups and projects at their discretion.

But unlike the past, agencies that report to Cuomo are reviewing — and signing off on — the projects before the money is released. According to critics, that means the Democratic governor is approving “pork” spending that skews to support powerful incumbents: Republicans in the state Senate and Democrats in the Assembly — even after railing against spending for “pet projects” earlier this year.

“Governors Paterson and Cuomo put the final nails in the coffin of the member item process as we knew it. But what they've created is a zombie member item process, which is different but has many of the same characteristics of the old one,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Read the whole Vielkind piece at Politico NY - it's well worth if if you want to see how Cuomo went from decrying the pork process and riding "reform" to the governor's mansion to embracing the pork process in order to garner allies in the legislature - and doing it with as much secrecy as possible:

Lawmakers approved $385 million for the program in the 2013-14 budget, offering support for capital projects — not one-time operating subsidies, as member items often were — for a broad variety of purposes like “preserving and protecting infrastructure” or to support “economic development projects … that will create or retain jobs in New York State.” In 2014 and 2015 it was amended and broadened to allow for the purchase of cars and to make investments in parks.

The spending is funneled through the Cuomo-controlled Dormitory Authority (DASNY), which did not release details about the $187 million in pending projects (as of August) until the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, filed a Freedom of Information Law request. Projects can be selected by individual legislators — something not specified in the state budget, or spelled out by any official — as well as the governor himself. It took officials in the Assembly and Senate over a month to release details about who secured which projects.

“These are arguably worse than member items because at least with member items, there was some transparency on how the money was being divvied up in Albany and which members were directing it. We only have that after two and a half years,” said Ken Girardin, an analyst at the Empire Center. “It's difficult to reconcile someone who wanted to do away with a corruption-prone process only to usher in a larger process with even less transparency and a mechanism to give money directly to private businesses.”

So much for the Preet Bharara influence so far, eh?

NY Times Shills For Common Core

At the end of a Motoko Rich NY Times piece on how states are manipulating Common Core test scores comes this bit of shillery:

Despite the pushback, teachers here continue to infuse their lessons with Common Core principles.
In a seventh-grade English class at Berwick recently, Rashaun James had posted this thought, paraphrased from the Common Core: “Gather relevant information from multiple sources and draw conclusions.”

Her teaching methods were more creative than the dry standard suggested. Cordoning off a large space in the middle of the classroom with yellow caution tape, she had faked a crime scene, strewing dirt and gravel from the school garden across a large piece of butcher paper on which she had drawn outlines of two bodies and stamped footprints of shoes dipped in red paint.

Ms. James urged the students to analyze the clues and come up with possible victims, suspects and motives for an ultimate assignment of writing a narrative about the crime.

She was not too concerned how the assignment would affect test performance. In 10 years of teaching, she said, tests changed and policies came and went. The Common Core could “go away tomorrow,” she said.

“But does it make a difference in terms of whether I have a crime scene in my classroom?” she added. “There will always be a crime scene in my classroom.”

How is this lesson "infused" with Common Core principles?

Students were never asked to analyze clues before the advent of Common Core?

Students were never asked to "gather relevant evidence from multiple sources and draw conclusions" before the advent of Common Core?

Also would note, what is "Common Core" about asking students to "write a narrative"?

Students were never asked to write narratives before the Common Core Era?

Actually, given how much emphasis is put on argumentative writing these days, having students write a narrative seems like a pre-Common Core lesson to me.

I've tried to get out of the educator reporter-bashing business the past few years, having realized it's mostly counterproductive, but I have to say that the NY Times education coverage is awful.

Rich pieces in particular tend toward offering conventional education reform wisdom framed as reporting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Preet Bharara Accuses United Nations Official With Taking Bribes

Albany is not the only cesspool of corruption in this state:

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Tuesday charged a jailed billionaire from Macau and others with bribing a top United Nations official who used the money to buy a Rolex, pay for his BMW and build a private basketball court at his Westchester County home.

Real estate tycoon Ng Lap Seng, 67, jailed for two weeks on charges of lying about $4.5 million in cash he brought into the United States, allegedly paid more than $500,000 in bribes to John Ashe, a former UN delegate from Antigua and president of the General Assembly.

Ashe was accused of taking the money from Ng to support a UN conference center in Macau, and also getting $800,000 from other, unnamed Chinese businessmen to support business deals in Antigua -- bribes he allegedly shared with Antigua's ex-prime minister.

"The cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "... United in greed, the defendants allegedly formed a corrupt alliance of business and government, converting the UN into a platform for profit."

Bharara said the investigation was continuing, with the UN joining Albany in the crosshairs of his corruption probe.

"We will be asking the question, 'Is bribery, business as usual at the UN?' " he asked.

More thoughts on the Albany corruption stuff here.

More here.

David Bloomfield: Time For Merryl Tisch To Be Held Accountable By Her Own Standards

David Bloomfield in the Daily News:

Tisch was appointed to the Board of Regents, which presides over the state Education Department, on April 1, 1996 — almost 20 years ago. She became vice chancellor in 2007, then chancellor in 2009, serving in that position ever since.

Upon taking the Regents helm, Tisch promised, “We will embrace innovation with a data-driven approach . . . to raise test scores, raise graduation rates, and finally close the achievement gap.”

By her own measures — and she’s had plenty of time to prove the wisdom of her approach — Tisch has fallen far short. Last month, statewide test scores showed a mere 31.3% of students proficient in English Language Arts and 38.1% in math on the tough, relatively new Common Core-aligned tests.
In June 2012, Tisch bemoaned that “nearly a quarter of our students still don’t graduate after four years.” That is still the case. For students taking up to five years to complete high school, the 2010 graduation rate stood at 77%. Today it is 76.4%.

Meantime, the achievement gap persists. Four-year graduation rates for 2010 and 2014 — one of the best apples-to-apples indicators we have — show exactly the same 25 percentage point difference between black and Hispanic students compared to white students.

Beyond the data-driven items, there is also this critique:

Less appreciated, but perhaps more important, Tisch’s unsuccessful focus on standards and testing has distracted the department from another major function, district oversight. The crisis in East Ramapo — where the school board has long plundered district funds to provide services to students attending yeshivas — is only beginning to be met with effective action.

Also for years, districts have denied adequate services to immigrant children and English Language Learners, yet sanctions were routinely delayed and sporadic.  
In New York City, state requirements for school librarians, physical education and more have been ignored. Of greatest consequence, the rampant racial and income segregation of the state's schools has been met with mere lip service from the person who should be New York’s leading voice and change agent on the issue.

Bloomfield concludes:

Tisch vehemently believes that poor performance should lead to firings and school closures. She argued that position in a letter to the governor’s office last December, stating in no uncertain terms that “if these schools cannot be made to perform, they must be closed and replaced.” She recently repeated the prescription, asking rhetorically, “How long do you stick with a failing school?”

It is time for Tisch to take the medicine she has advised for others. How long, indeed.

For too long, the "accountability" has only gone one way - that's downward-driven, aimed at schools and educators.

The policymakers, the educrats and the nonprofits all skirt accountability no matter how often they fail.

Just look at John King and Joel Klein as primary examples of that.

So indeed, it is time for Tisch to go and with her benefactor Shelly Silver facing criminal trial and out of the speaker's office, I suspect she will.

Alas, she should take some of the blame for the mess that is New York's education system along with her because she has been around for many of the problems - from the test inflation to the CCSS mess.

Wiretaps On Cuomo?

This is from the Buffalo Chronicle, a not-exactly reliable source of news, so take this with a huge pile of salt:

Political operatives from both parties expect that Governor Andrew Cuomo will be indicted by the US Attorney’s office on January 2nd of next year. Preet Bharara is said to have “hundreds of hours” of wire taps probing the Governor, his operatives, and some of his largest campaign contributors. He has enough evidence relating to wire fraud, theft of honest services, and conspiracy to commit fraud “to hand down a dozen indictments tomorrow.”

But Bharara, sources say, is waiting for the opening of the next legislative session for strategic reasons. Such a jaw dropping political development would paralyze Albany and — in the event that Cuomo refuses to immediately resign — would kill any legislative movement out of fear of those negotiations being scrutinized and the uncertainty around the governor’s ability to deliver on any deal.

I wouldn't doubt that there are wiretaps of some of the players in the Buffalo Billion Project - here is a story from DNAinfo back in May that reported the Silver investigation prompted new wiretaps on potential targets:

NEW YORK — Federal investigators have begun wiretapping a new set of potential targets as a result of the probe that led to the indictment off former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, DNAinfo has learned.

Investigators in the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI obtained court authorization to eavesdrop on an ever-expanding group of possible corrupt government officials and those who do business with them, including lawyers, lobbyists and contractors, sources said.

The targets came to light during the two-year investigation of the powerful state Assembly leader — during which federal corruption fighters found “numerous new tentacles” to pursue, sources said. 
The feds did not utilize wiretaps on Silver as part of the investigation that led to the indictment of the 72-year-old Manhattan lawmaker.

But federal authorities were "already listening to numerous people in various places" on unrelated investigations before looking into Silver, and his "case provided a bunch of new places to wiretap,” a law enforcement source told "On The Inside."

The revelation that there is a new wave of federal eavesdropping from the speaker’s probe is certain to rattle an already-anxious Albany, where dozens of lawmakers have been convicted on corruption charges, many of them secretly caught on tape.

In recent years, secret recordings and wiretaps have helped nail lawmakers on corruption-related charges including state Sen. Malcolm Smith, Councilman Daniel Halloran, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson and Assemblyman Nelson Castro.

“Stay tuned,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara warned state legislators after announcing Silver’s indictment in February.

Two of the targets of those new wiretaps?

Federal prosecutors Monday revealed that they had a wiretap on the cellphone of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for 2 1/2 months during their corruption probe of the Republican power broker and his son, Adam.

The government also said that it tapped one Adam Skelos cellphone for four months and another for one month, and secretly gathered 2,400 audio files from father and son.

I'm dubious that Cuomo himself was wiretapped, but I could see Ciminelli or some of the other contractors in the Buffalo Billion case being wiretapped - same goes for employees at SUNY Polytechnic, especially Alain Kaloyeros.

And what got picked up on those wiretaps, well, that's anybody's guess.

In the past, a story about there being "hundreds of hours" of wiretaps of the governor, his operatives and his contractors wouldn't have been in the least believable, but these days. you can't dismiss it totally.

So while I'm dubious of the validity of the Chronicle story about Cuomo, I do think the idea that there were wiretaps on some of the other players involved in state contracting bears watching.

After all, after the Silver indictment, they "obtained court authorization to eavesdrop on an ever-expanding group of possible corrupt government officials and those who do business with them, including lawyers, lobbyists and contractors" - and that sounds exactly like what we're looking at with SUNY Polytechnic and the Kaloyeros business.

Ruben Diaz Jr. Declares Himself Pro-Charter, Looks To Use Issue For Mayoral Run

The pro-charter mayoral possibilities just keep coming.

So far we have Hakeem Jeffries and Eva Moskowitz on the list of potential mayoral candidates.

With this move, we can add Ruben Diaz Jr:

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who has stayed out of the war over charter schools, has agreed to speak at a massive pro-charter event where he will defend the schools and declare, “Charters are here to stay.”

Although he heads a borough with 59 charter schools, Diaz has not been outspoken in the battles that have pitted charter-school operators against Mayor de Blasio and the teachers union.

That will change Wednesday when the six-year leader of The Bronx will speak at City Hall, where thousands of charter-school supporters are expected to converge following a rally at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn and a march over the Brooklyn Bridge

“I support charter schools. I always have,” Diaz told The Post in an interview. “Charters schools are part of the public-school system. We need to offer all the support we can give them.”

The politics behind this are obvious:

Diaz dismissed talk that his role in the pro-charter rally is tied to a possible mayoral run in 2017.

“The education of children in The Bronx and the city of New York is way more important than anyone’s politics,” he said.

Political consultant George Arzt said Diaz’s decision to take such a high-profile role backing charters could distinguish him from rival Democrats down the road.

“People will view him from a different perspective,” Arzt said. “It definitely shows Ruben as a person who disagrees with the incumbent mayor. It show him as independent.”

While the borough president has stayed out of the limelight on the charter issue until now, his father, Bronx state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., has been a vocal and longtime charter-school booster.

Sure his role at the pro-charter rally has nothing to do with a potential run for mayor in 2017.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Where The Buffalo Billion Investigation Is Likely To Head

Capital Tonight held a very informative reporter roundtable on Friday.

Jim Heaney joined Liz Benjamin, Nick Reisman and Jimmy Vielkind to talk corruption and the US attorney's investigation into the Buffalo Billion project.

You can see that roundtable discussion here.

The takeaway I got from it was this:

The investigation into SUNY Polytechnic's handling of the Buffalo Billion contracts has already had an effect:

Questions continue about economic development practices by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, including the proposed sale of valuable piece of land from one state agency to another state entity for a dollar.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is reported to be probing contracts awarded as part of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion project, with questions over the timing of campaign contributions to the governor, as well as criteria used to choose the vendors.

The investigation has led to new scrutiny of a deal that would allow the state’s energy agency to transfer a nearly 300 acre parcel of land in Saratoga County, in a high tech park, for $1 to the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute, using a third party entity known as Fuller Road Management. The market value of the land is estimated at $9 million.

As first reported in Politico New York, some of the board members of the New York State Energy Development Authority, or NYSERDA, objected. Board member Kenneth Daley, who is the head of the utility company National Grid, said he’d like an independent legal opinion before signing off on the deal.

“Given the sensitivity of having a $9 million valued asset that will be transferred with no economic benefit back to NYERDA, and given some on going audits in, let’s just call it, the business, not related to NYSERDA, is it worth having an independent opinion on this particular issue?” Daley asked fellow board members. “I don’t have a view, but I think it’s a fair question that we should ask.”
The audits Daley is referring to are the ongoing federal probe of the Buffalo Billion contracts. Daley says he completely agrees with the strategy to further high tech economic development, but says the transfer raises a red flag.  

Heaney said on Capitol Tonight that while it's hard to know if Bharara will find a smoking gun in the Buffalo Billion investigation, if the US attorney drills down into what Kaloyeros has been doing in Albany, it is potentially "explosive."

Kaloyeros has been close to Sheldon Silver, Cuomo hasn't thrown him personally under the bus yet - at least for now.

It will be interesting to see where all of this goes.

Only 8% Of School Districts Have Vaunted New Cuomo APPR Evaluation Plan In Place

Keshia Clukey at Politico NY:

ALBANY — The vast majority of school districts and teachers' unions seem to be having difficulty coming to an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

As of the end of last week, only 12 plans had been approved, with another 47 submitted for review, according to the state education department. There are 674 districts statewide.

The new evaluation system was put into place last session. It puts more emphasis on students' state test scores, and has been met with criticism, including from the state Board of Regents, which put in place a waiver system to delay the implementation.

The districts have until Nov. 15 to have their plans in and approved by the state or risk losing state aid. Those that believe they can't meet the deadline can instead apply for a waiver, which can extend the deadline up to September 2016.

Little over a month to go, more than 90% of districts do not have plans approved and in place yet.

There are still some that are in with the state awaiting approval, but even if all 47 of those are approved, that leaves over 600 districts without plans in place.

Can't wait to hear Cuomo's statement when the deadline comes and hundreds of districts are looking for waivers.

Cuomo Reneges On Another Promise

Gee, here's a surprise:

Senate Democrats are fearful that Cuomo is reneging on his pledge to help elect his handpicked candidate to the seat of former Sen. Tom Libous of Binghamton.

Cuomo’s choice in the November special election is Barbara Fiala, his former motor-vehicles commissioner, and his summertime pledge to support her was supposed to signal a change-of-heart for a governor who has been accused by Democrats of favoring continued GOP control of the Senate.

But Cuomo has done nothing to raise significant cash or mobilize Democrats and independents on Fiala’ s behalf, Democratic insiders say.

Fiala ran an awful attack ad against her opponent (going after him for wearing a beard in the past - no, seriously...) and she's down significantly in a poll taken recently.

Quite frankly, she looks like a terrible candidate to me, but Cuomo touted her almost immediately after the Libous conviction.

Now he takes no actions to help her, not raising any money for her, not trying to roust up dome support for her.

Same old same old from Cuomo.

And this time, he's reneged with someone who worked in his cabinet for four years.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Democracy Prep Charter School Horror Show

An awful story involving Bronx Preparatory Charter School, managed by Democracy Prep:

Last fall, a 19-year-old high school senior was taken away in handcuffs and charged with sexually abusing a 15-year-old sophomore inside an empty classroom of a Bronx charter school.
This allegedly happened during school hours, with students and teachers just a few doors down.
Serious questions have emerged about how the Bronx Preparatory Charter School handled this outrageous incident and its aftermath.
The mother of the victim has come forward to the Daily News to allege the school had inadequate security and took several hours to notify police.
And the school told her daughter she’d have to return to the school where the incident took place, or reenter a lottery to try for another charter school.
The mother, whose name The News is withholding, said the school was more interested in protecting its own reputation than in her daughter’s well-being.
“The school wants to look good and my daughter makes them look bad. So they don’t want her,” she said.

The school appears to have done its best to keep this under wraps:

During Period 5, the girl was supposed to meet her math teacher in the empty classroom for tutoring.
The teacher never showed. While she was waiting, she says, an older classmate entered the room and raped her on a school desk while classes were in session down the hall.

The older student was arrested that day, and when the girl was questioned by prosecutors with the Bronx district attorney’s office, she told them this wasn’t the only incident.

According to a complaint filed in court, the victim said she’d been sexually molested previously by this same older student on as many as five occasions in empty classrooms.

The girl says all of the incidents took place inside the school, during the school day.

The suspect, Kevin Simpson, was arrested and is facing sexual misconduct charges. The girl’s mother says her daughter is traumatized and no longer attends school.

The mother questions many aspects of the school’s handling of the incident.

For example, it appears there was a significant delay between when a school employee was first told of the occurrence and when police were summoned, the mother says.

The girl’s mother says she arrived at the charter shortly after getting a call from the school, and her daughter was in a room being questioned by school officials. She says police did not arrive until several hours later.

An NYPD spokesman said there was nothing in its paperwork to indicate when cops were called and when they got there.

Prospective parents would have a tough time knowing why any of this was going on. That’s because the minutes of board meetings posted online make no reference to the incident or the resultant security changes.
Nancy Garvey, the board’s chairwoman until June, declined to discuss why that happened or anything else involving the school. She referred The News to Democracy Prep.

The school's motto is "No Excuses!" - and that's pretty much how they've treated the student who has alleged she was sexually assaulted multiple times at the school, treating the victim of the alleged crimes as the problem:

Bronx Preparatory Charter School is managed by Democracy Prep, a national outfit that runs 18 charter schools across the country, including four high schools in the city.

Democracy Prep quickly found a spot for her daughter at another one of its charter schools, in Harlem. But soon her daughter began failing classes.

At the end of the school year, the mother says, Democracy Prep told her that her daughter would have to return to the school where she was assaulted.

“They wanted her to go back where this incident took place,” the mother said. She said her daughter told her, “‘Everybody knows. The students know. I don’t want to go back.’”

Furious, the mother refused, and since June, the girl has not attended school.

“They didn’t give me no help. The ‘help’ . . . is to tell me to take her back? No,” the mom said.

One final piece of information about Bronx Preparatory Charter School:

In the 2013-14 school year preceding the incident, 36 of 67 teachers left the school.

Gives you a sense of the kind of atmosphere they have at Bronx Preparatory that the turnover rate for teachers is almost 54%.

A horror show all around.

Democracy Prep spokesperson defended the school by saying this is a "turnaround" effort and those are notoriously difficult.

Democracy Prep spokeswoman Maggin said, “Anyone who engages in the work of turnaround does so to provide better educational outcomes for students in persistently low-performing schools. It involves changing culture for students, teachers and families and instilling academic discipline and rigor.

“Turnaround is exceptionally hard work that requires urgency and sustained effort.”

Indeed they are.

But let us imagine similar events took place at Boys and Girls or Automotive High School, two of the more infamous "turnaround" public schools.

What would the charter people be saying about that?

Would it be cool if a student alleged multiple incidents of sexual abuse on school grounds and the school acted so casually in response?

Bharara Looking To Redefine What Cuomo Says Is No Problem

Fred LeBrun in the Times Union:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has a federal grand jury looking for corruption in the awarding of contracts and related dealings associated with the so-called Buffalo Billion, and on its face, there's a lot to look at.


A billion taxpayer dollars being handed out to spur economic development in the typical manner the Cuomo administration does business, with as little public disclosure of the nitty-gritty as they can get away with. There was a single applicant for the centerpiece development deal worth $750 million, a solar panel manufacturing plant for SolarCity. The single applicant was LPCiminelli, owned by Louis Ciminelli. He gave the governor nearly $100,000 in campaign donations over two terms. There was no competitive bidding on key subcontracts for building the SolarCity complex, instead, these subcontractors were hand-picked by LPCiminelli — with state approval.

Three months after another developer, McGuire Development, received a contract for a different major Buffalo Billion project, the Cuomo campaign got a $25,000 contribution from the developer.

All contract approvals, funds dispersal, and fiscal oversight of the Buffalo Billion family of projects are the exclusive domain of the Empire State Development Corporation, tightly controlled by the governor's office, with approval of the governor's Division of the Budget. In effect, the governor and a coterie of his closest advisors run it all.

The governor, a particularly astute fundraiser, amassed a reported $47 million in campaign contributions during the last election cycle, much of it from those who in some fashion have done or will do business with the state.

Eye-opening stuff, yet not necessarily even improper by past standards. In fact, much of it is business as usual.


As for the governor's political fundraising, the governor himself has repeatedly said there is no connection between contributions and expectations of any reward, between pay and play. He said donors in western New York can see his commitment to the region and would contribute out of general support and encouragement.

It's a system that "hasn't been a problem for the past 100 years, so I don't know why it would be today."

Then again, how naive is it to suggest contributors don't often want a tangible return on investment, or a way of saying thanks? So just maybe what the governor shrugs off as no problem is in fact at the heart of the so-called corrupt Albany political culture. If so, Bharara may well be about to try to redefine what is a problem.

That's good news for the public. Not so much for the governor.

One thing to amend in LeBrun's account - Ciminelli actually gave Cuomo $123,000, not $100,000.

Late last week, we learned that Shelly Silver's defense team plans to call nearly every power broker and politician in Albany as witnesses in his corruption trial.

Cuomo himself made the witness list.

Silver's defense in his corruption trial is essentially "Hey, this is the way Albany operates.  People give to get, they pay to play.  It may be unseemly, it may be ethically-challenged, but it is not illegal."

This is essentially Cuomo's argument too - it "hasn't been a problem for the past 100 years, so I don't know why it would be today."

Bharara has meant business so far in his investigations of two of the infamous "three men in a room" who rule the state.

Just last week we learned that Bharara got 150 subpoenas in his investigation of Dean Skelos, interviewing over 80 witnesses.

The break in the Skelos corruption case came from something Bharara learned from the Shelly Silver investigation, though the US attorney's office had already been investigating Skelos for a month before that new lead came.

Given the seriousness with which Bharara's office pursued both Silver and Skelos, there's little reason to think they aren't given the same breadth, scope and seriousness to the investigation into Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Project.

We know subpoenas went out to SUNY Polytech and the Empire State Development Corporation.

We know the feds are looking very closely at Cuomo's man at SUNY Polytech, the flamboyant Alain Kaloyeros, who has dubbed himself as "Dr. Nano" and makes over $800,000 a year as a state employee.

We know that the feds are looking closely at the contractors in the Buffalo Billion case as well and can be pretty sure they are the same contractors who donated to Cuomo's campaign concurrent to when they were receiving state contracts that looked rigged just for them.

Now maybe Bharara doesn't find any "smoking gun" in all of this and it gets swept away as "business as usual," the kind of stuff that has been going on for a 100 years, as Cuomo himself said.


But as LeBrun wrote in his Times-Union piece today, Bharara appears to be trying to redefine what is "business as usual" in Albany and what is corruption.

He undoubtedly has his own reasons for doing so, since he hasn't taken the same route with Wall Street and the financiers and con men there - cynics among us (including myself) think he's got his own political ambitions and taking out every member of the infamous "three men in a room" club in Albany would certainly serve him politically if he wants to, say, run for governor or something.

That said, his motivations don't detract from the practical effects of his actions.

He's already gotten two of the three men in the room criminally charged and awaiting trial - whether he can successfully get convictions of both is another matter.

And whether he can nail the third man in a room and take him down too, that's even harder to gauge at this point.

But I do think this much is true - he appears to aiming to do just that and given how hard he worked to take out both Silver and Skelos, you can bet he's working very hard at that too.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

NEA Endorses Hillary Clinton

As many others jump off the Clinton bandwagon, the NEA jumps on:

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union, endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

“We recommended Hillary Clinton on the incredible and lengthy track record she has, that is just wrapped around children, working families and education, from preschool to graduate school,” NEA president Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a said.

Seventy-five percent of the union’s 170-member board backed Clinton.

The nod from the NEA gives Clinton a much-needed boost, after the International Association of Firefighters earlier this week backed away from plans to endorse her.

Not unexpected, of course, but nonetheless inexplicable.

As Clinton sinks in polls and under the weight of an email controversy she still hasn't shown she can put to rest, concurrent to another union pulling back from an endorsement announcement, the NEA endorses Clinton.

Makes little sense politically at this point - but that didn't stop the leadership from doing what it wanted to do anyway.

Albany Catholic Schools Reject Common Core, Return To Student-Centered learning

The rejection of Common Core continues:

Catholic elementary and middle schools in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany are stepping back from the Common Core-New York State Assessments and shifting instead to a more student-focused approach to standardized testing, the diocesan Catholic Schools Office announced Oct. 2 at a news conference at St. Madeleine Sophie School in Schenectady.

"Long before the advent of Common Core, Catholic schools in this diocese were known for their high academic standards, and today’s announcement signals a recommitment to and recognition of what we have always done best: educating the whole child – body, mind, and spirit,” said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger.

At the news conference, Catholic Schools Superintendent Michael Pizzingrillo explained that over the past two years, the Catholic Schools Office along with a variety of stakeholders have evaluated participation in the New York State Assessments and found that although its schools have used test results appropriately, the negative perception of its potential use did not allow parents and teachers the ability to benefit from its participation in all grades.

“The end result is a stepping back from the New York State Assessments coupled with a stepping forward with an achievement-based assessment we have chosen for ourselves,” Pizzingrillo said. “Although the standards of the Common Core itself are good, the collateral pieces have caused great strife for families and teachers alike. It’s time to put a renewed focus back on our students where it belongs.”

They're still going to administer state tests, but only three times from K-8:

Beginning this year, diocesan Catholic elementary and middle schools will administer the New York State Assessments only in grades 3, 5, and 7, meaning the tests will not serve as annual evaluations of student performance, but rather as benchmarks of longitudinal student progress over a set number of years. Catholic schools will administer the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (recently renamed the Iowa Assessments), a nationally normed multiple-choice assessment, to all students in grades 3 through 8 in November.

Putting a renewed focus back on the students instead of rote teaching/learning and standardized testing...

Imagine that.

Andrew Cuomo Makes Shelly Silver's Witness List

John Riley in Newsday:

Defense lawyers for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have listed a virtual who's who of Albany politics, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as potential witnesses or subjects of testimony at Silver's upcoming federal corruption trial.

Also included on a list of 62 names to ask prospective jurors if they knew are indicted Sen. Dean Skelos, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, lobbyists Pat Lynch and Brian Meara, and high-profile real estate figures such as Larry Silverstein, Leonard Litwin, Steve Spinola and Jack Rudin.

Silver is due to go to trial next month on charges that he did legislative favors for developers and a doctor to generate $4 million in referral fees from two law firms he was affiliated with.


The defense list, however, provided a taste of how deeply testimony at the trial is likely to delve into some of the inner workings of the Capitol and its power structure.

In addition to big-name lobbyists and real estate moguls, it included current and former Assembly members, suchas Vito Lopez of Brooklyn, Herman "Denny" Farrell and Keith Wright of Manhattan, and Audrey Pheffer of Queens.
Chris Bragg at the Times Union has been sleuthing out the names - you can see a partial list below.

Jonathan Taub: Robert Taub’s son, whom Silver allegedly helped find a job at a Brooklyn social services group.

Arthur Luxenberg: Partner at Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver served as “of counsel.”

Perry Weitz: Partner at Weitz & Luxenberg.

“Lenny Litwin”: Head of Glenwood Management, which allegedly hired a small law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, from which Silver then got fees. The first time we’ve seen his name rendered as “Lenny.”

Brian Meara: Top Albany lobbyist close to Silver who is said to have cooperated with federal authorities.

Charlie Dorego: Top Glenwood Management official, cooperating witness in case against ex-Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Silver.

Dean Fuleihan: New York City budget director, former longtime top aide to Silver.

Dean Skelos: Long Island senator, federally indicted Republican former Senate Majority Leader.

Herman (Denny) Farrell: Manhattan assemblyman and chariman of the Ways & Means Committee.

Jack Rudin: may be the chairman Rudin Management Company, a major New York City developer.

Jonathan Lippman: Chief Judge of New York Court of Appeals, childhood friend of Silver. Retiring from bench at end of the year.

Joseph Strasberg: president, Rent Stabilization Association.

Judy Rapfogel: longtime top Silver aide, wife of William Rapfogel.
Keith Wright: Manhattan Assemblyman, chair of housing committee, candidate for Congress.
Larry Silverstein: Owner of major development firm Silverstein Properties.
Solly Assa: A person of this name is a New York City real estate developer.

Steven Spinola: The recently retired president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

Victor Franco: A person of this name has been deputy Budget Director for the Assembly.

Vito Lopez: Formerly powerful Brooklyn assemblyman. Silver faced criticism for a secret settlement regarding sexual harassment claims against Lopez.

Rubin (Ruby) Schron: New York City real estate investor and landlord.

Pat Lynch: Top Albany lobbyist known to be close to Silver.

A commenter at Newsday writes the following:

Any testimony by Jonathan Lippman could get nuclear as it would expose the Cuomo-Silver-Schwartz scammery in open court. It also could show Bharara knows the deal about how Cuomo was operating until just very recently.
I wonder what the average Joe is going to think of Albany democrat progressives now when they see who turned the entire state of NY into Detroit and why. I also wonder what the average scuz NY politician will think when they realize the new technology brought to bear on the Three Men in a Room and how clearly it shows the connections.

Expect sunlight.

We'll see if we indeed get sunlight.

Make no mistake, given the names on the list, it looks like Silver plans to put the whole system on trial, to say, "Hey, if I'm guilty of crimes, so is the whole system and everybody in it."

Should be fun if Shelly actually goes to trial.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Is John King A Double Agent?

What John King will bring to the nation as Arne Duncan's replacement:

ALBANY — Almost exactly two years ago, John King stood on stage in an auditorium in Poughkeepsie, NY, trying to quiet angry parents while they booed, screamed and hurled personal insults at him.

Today, on a national stage, President Barack Obama tapped King to lead the U.S. Department of Education.

The fall of 2013 was arguably the most difficult period of King’s three-and-a-half year tenure as education commissioner in New York, where, as the state’s first black and first Latino schools chief, he led the implementation of the Common Core standards, controversial state exams aligned to the more difficult material, and teacher performance evaluations based partially on the tests.

After the Oct. 10, 2013, assembly devolved into chaos, King canceled (and subsequently rescheduled under pressure) the rest of his planned statewide tour, accusing “special interests” of co-opting the raucous crowd.

Teachers’ unions, parent groups and some state lawmakers called for King’s resignation. The state’s powerful teachers’ union later held a no-confidence vote to make official their feelings about him. A parent-led and union-boosted testing boycott movement began under his leadership, and subsequently exploded.

You would almost think, from his track record, that he's double agent against ed reform.

Seriously, few have done so much to damage reform as purported education reformer John King.

Would the opt out movement be as big as it is in New York if King hadn't fanned the flames?

Would the polling on Common Core, testing and the like be as negative as it is for reformers in New York without John King's aid (see here and here)?

Heckuva job this King does.