Who Is In Charge

Legislators squabbling over whether to vote on de Blasio pre-K tax plan

As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the case yet again in his State of the City speech for a tax to fund his prekindergarten expansion plan, an upstate legislator was vowing not to let the proposal even come up for a vote.

Dean Skelos, a Republican from Nassau County who heads the State Senate, said today that he would not allow his colleagues to consider legislation to raise New York City’s income tax on residents earning more than $500,000 a year. Such a tax could harm the state’s overall health by inducing wealthy earners to move away, taxing their tax dollars with them, he said.

Plus, he said, the city doesn’t need a tax because Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding pre-K across the state using existing funds. (Cuomo’s expansion timeline is longer than de Blasio’s, and state education officials said his proposed budget is not enough to cover the costs.)

Skelos’s comments immediately drew fire from de Blasio and the supporters that his office has been lining up since last year.

“To deny a vote on something as urgently-needed and as widely-supported as funding universal pre-kindergarten is just plain wrong,” de Blasio said in a statement. He added, “Politicians in Albany have failed to meet their commitment to pay for universal pre-K time and time again, which is exactly why New York City must chart its own destiny.”

The strongest challenge to Skelos’s position came from his colleague Jeff Klein, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of senators who are allied with the Republicans, creating a majority. Klein signaled that their alliance could end over the pre-K issue, saying that he would not only push to bring the tax legislation to the floor but also would not sign off on a budget that does not include de Blasio’s pre-K plan.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.