dear de blasio

Flanagan blasts de Blasio on ‘transparency’ as mayoral control fight heats up

PHOTO: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

New York City’s now-annual fight over who should control the nation’s largest school system is officially underway.

On the same day the state Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control, the Senate Majority Leader threw down the gauntlet. In a letter sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, John Flanagan wrote that the way New York City released its school budget information “does not satisfy the law” and does not allow a “meaningful analysis” of an extension of mayoral control.

“A fundamental shortcoming of this administration has been a lack of transparency and response to requests for information,” the letter reads. “The lack of detail on how New York City spends the almost $9 billion provided to it by the state has been one of the key determining factors in a short-term extension of mayoral control.”

City officials said the information Flanagan requested would be available online by the end of the week. Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, addressed Flanagan’s letter directly. “Senator Flanagan received the information required by law and more,” she wrote in a statement. “It’s time for the Senate Republicans to stop playing games and let the city get on with the work of educating our 1.1 million kids.”

Flanagan and his fellow Senate Republicans have been the main opponents of New York City’s mayor in his quest to secure a long-term extension of mayoral control. For the past two years, de Blasio has been granted only one-year extensions, even though he asked in 2015 for mayoral control to be made permanent, and in 2017 for a “multi-year” renewal.

This year, it briefly appeared that a one-year extension might be slipped quietly into the budget deal, but that did not come to pass. Now, the issue will likely be resolved this summer, leaving plenty of time for another back-and-forth between Senate Republicans and de Blasio.

State lawmakers have capitalized on that opportunity in the past. After de Blasio’s hearing last year, Flanagan said de Blasio displayed a “disturbing lack of personal knowledge about city schools.” De Blasio then skipped the next hearing, which allowed lawmakers another round of critiques.

You can read the full letter here.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from the mayor’s office.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”