Fallout from vote to reject gifted and talented test contract

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Good morning and welcome to the Monday edition of the New York Education newsletter. We take a look at the week ahead and a look back at the past week.

Reaction is beginning to trickle in following a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy, the Department of Education’s governing body, to reject a testing contract for the admissions test administered to 4-year-old children for the city’s gifted and talented programs.

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo removed his appointee, Peter Calandrella, from the PEP following the vote to reject the testing contract on the grounds that his “no” vote went against what he, Calandrella and his staff had agreed to the night before the vote. Other PEP members asked for him to be reinstated.

Despite the rejection — which was sealed by a vote of 8 to 7 — Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained last week that families will still have the opportunity to apply for the programs this year, insisting the city would work on developing the right methodology and “announce it soon.”

Mayoral candidates seem to be largely against relying on a test for 4-year-olds to gain admissions into gifted and talented programs. At “The NYC Black Educators Coalition Mayoral Forum” on Sunday, mayoral candidate Scott Stringer called the vote “courageous” and says it shows the city isn’t engaging families and other stakeholders. Another candidate, Maya Wiley, said the PEP “did the right thing.” Mayoral candidate Dianne Morales said all students are gifted and talented and that “racist screens and testing does not support that process.”

Here’s what else we’re paying attention to:

— Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing opposition from critics over his reliance on federal stimulus money to fund key education budget items.

— The Biden administration plans give millions of low-income households with children more help buying groceries during the pandemic.

— Mayoral candidates are divided on how to tackle the Specialized High School Admissions Test.

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New York City public schools as well as Learning Bridges (free childcare), after-school programs, adult education and food distribution sites are closed today due to severe weather conditions. Instruction will continue remotely. Staff in grades 6-12 and 9-12 will have a professional development day so those students will have a non-instructional day.

CUNY campuses will also be closed today due to the weather. There will be no in-person classes. Only essential personnel have to report to work in conjunction with their supervisors. Online classes will continue as scheduled.

The state Legislature’s budget hearing on higher education will stream on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

UNION HEAD LEADS BUFFALO TEACHERS AGAINST REOPENING — Buffalo News’ Stephen T. Watson: “When Phil Rumore doesn’t want his teachers to do something, he fights. The longtime president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation takes a tough bargaining position in contract negotiations and isn’t afraid to turn to the courts to try to block a school district policy the union opposes. The lawsuit the BTF filed late Friday that seeks to delay Monday’s planned, partial reopening of Buffalo schools is only the latest example of many during Rumore’s 40 years at the helm of the union.”

— “For some, there are first-day jitters. Others are anxious to see old friends or new classmates. But there is also a wariness about returning to school amid Covid-19 and an uncertainty over the drama still playing out in the courts, where the Buffalo Teachers Federation awaits a court date on its lawsuit filed Friday to prevent in-person instruction from resuming during the pandemic. Those are some of the sentiments expressed by students and families in the Buffalo Public Schools, as the district begins to phase thousands of students into the classroom Monday. It is the first time students will be back in school since March.” — Buffalo News’ Jay Rey

SOTOMAYOR REJECTS PARENTS’ BID FOR VACCINATION RELIEF — Education Week’s Mark Walsh: “A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Friday denied an emergency injunction to a group of parents in New York state who have sought to have their children participate in remote public school instruction despite their refusal to receive required school vaccinations. The parents say their children have medically fragile conditions and have doctor’s exemptions from vaccines that would harm them.”

PUSH TO SUSPEND HUNTER COLLEGE HS ENTRANCE EXAM — Daily News’ Michael Elsen-Rooney: “More than 30 city elected officials are calling on the prestigious Hunter College High School to suspend its entrance exam this year amid the pandemic — and permanently revamp the admissions system to increase diversity at the Upper East Side school, the Daily News has learned. ‘We write today to express our deep concern about the racial and economic segregation at Hunter College High School — and to urge Hunter and CUNY to develop and implement an alternative, pro-diversity admissions system,’ a coalition of politicians including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a Friday letter to Hunter and CUNY officials.”

A look at whether the next mayor will address segregation in the city’s public school system, via New York Times’ Eliza Shapiro.

— “New York City public schools that lost students after families moved or pulled out because of the Covid-19 pandemic now must prepare to return to the city some funding due to enrollment drops.” — Wall Street Journal’s Lee Hawkins

— “A federal judge on Thursday approved what’s known as a ‘special master’ to ensure that the city quickly complies with legal orders to provide special education services after parents win them through an administrative hearing process.” — Chalkbeat’s Alex Zimmerman


A CALL TO REMOVE APPOINTEES WHO VOTED DOWN G&T TEST — Daily News Editorial Board: “Kathy Park Price, Lori Podvesker, Shannon Waite, Vanessa Leung and Gary Linnen may seem like reasonable people, but the quintet is delusional. They think they make educational policy for New York City’s public schools. But as appointees of Mayor de Blasio on the Panel for Educational Policy, their sole charge is to carry out the directives of the duly elected mayor and his chancellor, Richard Carranza.”

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER UNDER FIRE — Chalkbeat’s Patrick Wall: “Some community members are condemning a disparaging remark that the Newark school board president made during a public meeting Thursday. ‘Here goes the bullshit,’ Board President Josephine Garcia said during the virtual meeting. She made the comment just before members of the public were set to speak. A clip of the remark quickly began circulating among advocates and parents of children in the Newark school system, which the board oversees.”

BIDEN’S REOPENING PUSH MAY LEAVE MILLIONS BEHIND — Associated Press’ Geoff Mulvihill, Adrian Sainz and Michael Kunzelman: “President Joe Biden says he wants most schools serving kindergarten through eighth grade to reopen by late April, but even if that happens, it is likely to leave out millions of students, many of them minorities in urban areas. ‘We’re going to see kids fall further and further behind, particularly low-income students of color,’ said Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform. ‘There’s potentially a generational level of harm that students have suffered from being out of school for so long.'”

PRESSURE MOUNTS ON BIDEN TO OUST DEVOS STUDENT LOAN CHIEF — POLITICO’s Michael Stratford: Progressives are ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to replace the federal official who oversees the nation’s $1.5 trillion student loan portfolio, calling for new leadership to carry out many of the sweeping student debt policy changes they’re seeking. The current head of the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, Mark A. Brown, was appointed by former Secretary Betsy DeVos for a three-year term that expires in March 2022 with the option for an additional extension.

A SoulCycle instructor said she got the vaccine because of her role as an “educator.”

D’Youville College’s plans to offer associate degree programs is being met with opposition from three other Buffalo-area colleges.

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