Capital: Council to introduce Rikers Island package

By Gloria Pazmino

The City Council is introducing a package of bills on Tuesday to require the city’s Department of Correction to provide detailed reports on inmates’ demographic information and the department’s use-of-force policy, and to create a crisis intervention plan at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.

In total, the Council will introduce eight bills, with a majority of them being co-sponsored by Councilmen Dan Garodnick and Danny Dromm, Democrats of Manhattan and Queens.

One of the bills would require the department to provide quarterly reports on the jail’s inmate demographics and include specific information such as their gang affiliation and their level of education.

Currently, the department compiles demographic reports, but only on a yearly basis, which council members said does not provide timely information about the inmate population given the high rate of turn over.

“Knowing their age, race, and gender will help us understand who specifically is staying at Rikers Island,” Dromm told Capital.

A second proposal, sponsored by Garodnick, Dromm and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, would require D.O.C. to publish its specific policies on use of force on a city website and make them readily available to the public.

The document would outline specific circumstances that would warrant use of force on an inmate, as well as how the department responds when there is an inmate disturbance.

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Queens Courier: Queens parents decide to ‘opt out’ kids from state testing

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

By Angy Altamirano

Parents across the city are coming together this week to stand against standardized testing and the effects it has on their children.

Starting Tuesday and running through Thursday, students are scheduled to have to take the English Language Arts (ELA) test at schools throughout the state. The following week, students are scheduled to take the math standardized test.

Parents and education advocates have spoken against the tests, saying it brings too much pressure onto students and is not being properly used to evaluate the students, but rather to assess teachers. This has led some parents to forbid their children from taking the tests, and the schools have been prohibited from taking any action against those parents.

“I’m here as the chair of the [City Council] Education Committee to call into question the validity of these tests and the reason these tests are being given, and actually question why they are being used the way they are being used,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who on Tuesday stood with parents who have decided to have their children opt out of taking the tests. “These tests actually are not tests to show our children’s strength, they’ve become tests to make our children look like failures.”

Having served as a teacher for 25 years, Dromm added that he is not opposed to tests being used as “one piece of a child’s overall evaluation” but he believes that too much time is spent on taking and preparing for these tests.

“We have heard stories about children who have collapsed under the pressure, who get sick from the pressure, who wet their pants from the pressure of these tests. This is not what education should be about,” Dromm said. “I do not believe that our students should be used as guinea pigs in the governor’s battle against teachers.”

Danny Katch, whose daughter is a fourth-grader at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, decided to have her opt out of the exams last year and believed the decision served as an educational experience for his daughter because it showed her about standing up for what you believe in.

Katch also said he is not opposed to tests, but the standardized tests do not come from the teachers or schools. Instead, they are being used as a form to evaluate teachers rather than assessing the students.

“If you tell teachers that 50 percent of their evaluation is going to be based on two standardized tests, then you are going to believe that most of what the kids are going to be doing all year is preparing for those standardized tests,” Katch said. “If you want to improve our schools it’s not about shoving more tests down their throats, it’s about improving the resources that they need and they deserve.”

Read more here.

Times Ledger: Dromm urges Albany to give $2.6B to city schools

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By Sadef Ali Kully

The Community Education Council for District 28 hosted a legislative networking event last Friday where principals, parents, school superintendents, and elected leaders met in Jamaica to present resources and address the state education budget.

The state education budget proposal, a $1.1 billion increase, includes raising tenure to five years and increase in the state’s role in teacher’s evaluations. Cuomo also wants to raise the charter school cap by 100 schools, put $100 million towards tax credit for private school, and establish a state-takeover model that could affect teachers working in more than 90 of the city’s lowest-performing schools. Cuomo’s overhaul of the education system has led to aggressive actions such as threatening to withhold funding from the budget.

“It is essential that we reach out and seek whatever we need for our schools,” said Dr. Vera Daniels, president of the CEC for District 28, which covers schools in Jamaica, Forest Hills, Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.

The keynote speaker for the event was Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who was a teacher in the public education system for about 25 years before he joined the City Council.

“I survived my experience with the Department of Education and I am hear to speak about it,” said Dromm, jokingly. “One thing that I learned as soon as I walked into those doors was when the principal said to me to get the parents as your allies. I have to say parents were always there for me.”

Dromm, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Education, addressed concerns that parents, principals, and teachers have had across the city.

“The total education budget oversight is a little over $38.5 billion. Almost half of the city’s budget goes to education. That is a tremendous amount of money – that’s more than some countries,” Dromm said. “But we still desperately need the $2.6 billion from Albany.”

He addressed conflicts with charter schools, LGBT students, guidance counselors for college preparation, state funding, school trailers, school networks, and the celebrated return of arts program in public school

In attendance were Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest); Frank Guilluscio, district manager for Community Board 6; Adrienne Adam, chair of Community Board 12; state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach); and state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica).

Read more here.

WSJ: New York City Schools Plagued by Overcrowding

New York City Schools Superintendent Carmen Fariña visits students at M.S. 354 in Brooklyn. The City Council’s education committee held a hearing Tuesday on overcrowding in city schools.

By Leslie Brody

Classes in locker rooms. Students spilling into hallways to change clothes for gym. High school stairwells so packed with teenagers trying to rush to class that if anyone trips it might cause a stampede.

These complaints about severe overcrowding in New York City schools were among many aired by students, parents and advocates at a City Council Committee on Education hearing on the chronic problem Tuesday.

Some warned the space crunch will get worse with projected enrollment increases, the expansion of preschools and the growth of charter schools in regular public-school buildings.

Department of Education officials acknowledged that 575 school buildings, or 44% of the total, are overcrowded. In some cases, that is due to population surges in certain neighborhoods, such as in District 20 in Brooklyn. In others, officials attributed the squeeze to their efforts to let as many students as possible attend popular options such as Townsend Harris High School in Queens and the Bronx High School of Science.

Elizabeth Rose, an acting deputy chancellor, said the department’s proposed $13.5 billion five-year capital plan reflects a need for 49,000 new seats, and includes funding to create about 33,000 of them. She said the plan allocates money to phase out the use of trailers for classrooms and to reduce class sizes.

But critics said the department’s data underestimated the degree of the problem in the sprawling system for 1.1 million children. Leonie Haimson, head of Class Size Matters, a group that advocates for smaller classes, said her analysis found the city will need more than 100,000 new seats in by 2021.

“The current capital plan doesn’t nearly meet the needs of the system,” she said.

Ms. Haimson said Mayor Bill de Blasio ’s plan to build 160,000 additional market-rate housing units over the next decade, as well as more affordable housing, will add even more demand for school space.

Some advocates said there is no room to allow for a big jump in charter schools seeking space in traditional public school buildings, and argued against Gov. Andrew Cuomo ’s call to expand charters.

The governor says he wants to give families more choice and havens from failing schools, and so is pushing to raise the cap on charters by 100, to 560, and to remove the regional limits on their allocation. New York City is almost at its maximum, with 197 charter schools

Hiroko Suzuki, a parent, said her eighth-grade son begged her to tell the council about the lack of space in Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in Manhattan.

Ms. Suzuki said a prospective student touring the school asked him to point out the art room, music room and library.

“Unfortunately we don’t have any of that,” she said.

Daniel Dromm, who heads the council’s education committee, expressed concern about the impact on both students and teachers. “How do you evaluate teachers who have to teach in a locker room?” he asked.

While some areas face severe overcrowding, such as Districts 24, 25 and 26 in Queens, some buildings have idle classrooms.

A report from the Independent Budget Office found 156,000 empty seats citywide last year, and encouraged education officials to create attractive programs to draw students to underused sites.

Read more here.

New York Daily News: NYPD still uses typewriters, but City Councilman proposes bill to switch to computers

By Erin Durkin

Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens was shocked when he learned the NYPD still uses typewriters for creating police reports.

A Queens City Councilman wants to drag the NYPD into the digital age — leaving typewriters behind.

Danny Dromm (D-Queens) will introduce a bill Thursday to require cops to scrap their old-school typewriters by 2016, as part of a technology report they’d have to submit.

Dromm said he was floored when constituents started to complain to him that they had trouble getting copies of police reports, because they were prepared by hand on typewriters.

“I can’t believe that the police department is still using typewriters for these types of things,” he said. “We live in a computer age…I don’t even know where they get parts for these typewriters anymore.”

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Currently, some forms are still required to be typed, so we do still have typewriters, but the vast majority of Department forms are now digitized,” Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a state Senate hearing earlier this month.

Read more here.

New York Daily News: (EXCLUSIVE) City lawmaker demands that charter schools show how they use tax money

Councilman Daniel Dromm noted that charter schools 'receive over a billion dollars in taxpayer funds and we don’t know what’s going on.'

By Ben Chapman and Lisa Colangelo

A lawmaker is asking the city’s charter schools to hand over paperwork showing how they use millions of dollars in tax money. And they have five days to do it.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who chairs the Education Committee, said he is troubled by the “lack of transparency and accountability” of charter schools.

“They receive over a billion dollars in taxpayer funds and we don’t know what’s going on,” Dromm, a Queens Democrat, told the Daily News on Monday.

Dromm sent a letter to all 197 charter schools in the city asking them for copies of their committee board minutes and fraud prevention policies. He also asked if they would voluntarily submit to the city Conflict of Interest Board to examine relationships between school board members and developers.

Dromm’s action comes after The News reported in November that an analysis by the Center for Popular Democracy found more than $28 million in questionable spending and probable financial mismanagement in 95% of the charter schools examined by state auditors since 2002.

James Merriman, CEO of the New York Charter School Center, dismissed Dromm as an “attack dog” for the United Federation of Teachers, which is opposed to charter schools.

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Queens Gazette: Dromm Honors Civil Rights Worker

 

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Councilmember Daniel Dromm honored Karen Korematsu, daughter of the late Fred Korematsu, with a City Council Proclamation on February 7 at the United Federation of Teachers’ 55th Annual Greater Metropolitan New York Social Studies conference.

Fred Korematsu at the age of 23 refused to enter an incarceration camp set up for Japanese Americans living on the West Coast following World War II. He was later arrested for defying the government, an arrest he appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court. However in 1944, the Supreme Court ruled against him, saying that incarceration for Japanese Americans was a military necessity.

In 1983, Professor Peter Irons, a legal historian, found legal documents hidden from the Supreme Court in 1944. A pro bono team took on the case and later that year a federal court in San Francisco overturned Korematsu’s case.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton presented Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2010, the state of California passed the Fred Korematsu Day bill, making January 30 the first day in the United States named after an Asian American. Korematsu continued advocating for civil rights until his death in 2005, at the age of 86.

Karen Korematsu is an advocate for civil rights and education. In 2009 she cofounded the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

Irish Central: De Blasio set to boycott NY St. Patrick’s Day Parade, say insiders

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By Debbie McGoldrick and Cahir O’Doherty

It appears New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will again boycott this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue because of the lack of an Irish gay group in the line of march, multiple sources have told the Irish Voice. A non-Irish gay group from NBC, OUT@NBCUniversal, will march.

On Tuesday, City Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens confirmed to the Irish Voice that a majority of council members, including Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, will not take part in the parade. The council formally boycotted and withdrew its banner from last year’s march in protest, and plans on doing the same for 2015, Dromm confirmed.

“I won’t march until an Irish gay group can march,” Dromm told the Irish Voice.

“And there will be no council banner in this year’s parade – of course there won’t,” he added.

The decision by the parade committee to allow a gay group to march next month for the first time – OUT@NBCUniversal – came about for corporate reasons only, Dromm said.

“It’s not acceptable to us,” Dromm added. “We’ve been struggling for 25 years to have an Irish gay group in the march and they still won’t allow us to march.”

When asked if de Blasio should march on Fifth Avenue next month, Dromm was adamant.

“No,” he said. “I hope no elected official takes part in the march until an Irish gay group is allowed.”

Read more here.

New York Observer: Mark-Viverito and Queens Officials Hail Obama Immigration Action

By Will Bredderman

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito addresses the crowd as Councilman Daniel Dromm and State Senator Jose Peralta look on (Photo: Will Bredderman).

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito addresses the crowd as Councilman Daniel Dromm and State Senator Jose Peralta look on (Photo: Will Bredderman).

Dozens of Hispanic New Yorkers, many still dressed in work clothes, packed into the Jackson Heights, Queens headquarters of activist group Make the Road New York this evening to watch President Barack Obama’s announcement of his executive order for immigration reform on a single flatscreen TV.

Before the president spoke, a succession of local speakers and elected officials addressed the crowd in Spanish, repeatedly using the phrase “noche histórico”–”historic night”–to describe to the occasion: the declaration of Mr. Obama’s plan to allow some four million undocumented immigrants who have resided in the United States for five years to register to avoid deportation and work legally in the country, permitted they have no criminal record. Chants like “Obama, eschucha: estamos en la lucha,” and “sí, se puede”–”Obama, listen: we are in the fight,” and “yes, we can”–broke out several times among the audience.

Local Councilman Daniel Dromm was the first elected official to arrive, and spoke to the crowd in Spanish. He praised the president’s action on the issue over the resistance of the Republican-controlled Congress, but said that it was necessary to provide full amnesty to all of the foreign nationals living in the country.

Read more here.