“It is good to be back in Brooklyn.”
President Barack Obama, who lived in the borough back in the 1980s but had yet to make an official stop as president, according to Borough President Marty Markowitz, returned to the borough today to visit a tech-focused high school in Crown Heights.
Joe Lhota has a suggestion for the president.
Barack Obama is visiting a Brooklyn school today, where he will be joined by Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee in the mayor’s race, and a host of elected officials. But Mr. Lhota, the Republican Party’s pick, thinks they should have a debate as well.
Parks and Wreck
Brooklynites may have to find a new place to picnic Friday afternoon.
President Barack Obama’s visit to a high school in the borough will result in the closure of Prospect Park for six hours, between according to the park’s website.
After praising a Brooklyn high school in his State of the Union speech earlier this year, President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit in person later this week.
Mr. Obama will drop by the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) Friday “to discuss the importance of ensuring that the next generation of middle class American workers and entrepreneurs has the skills they need to compete and win in a global economy,” a White House official said, according to the Daily News.
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg of using school closures to skirt union rules and fudging test scores ahead of his 2005 re-election bid during a conversation on education policy this morning that represented a rare reprieve from relentless questions about his latest sexing scandal.
Still trying to shift the conversation away from revelations that have engulfed his fledgling mayoral campaign in recent weeks, Mr. Weiner spent nearly an hour discussing everything from test scores to classroom diversity during a CUNY Institute of Education Policy Breakfast at Hunter College.
Student loan debt may be crippling everyone from recent college grads to senior citizens, but now New York parents will be able to start piling on the educational debt when their children are mere toddlers (the inverse, we assume, of saving for college?).
Today, City Council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn announced an initiative to offer middle and upper-middle class parents subsidized loans for daycare and pre-school with her council colleague and candidate for Manhattan borough president Jessica Lappin.
A New Yorker in China
One night after my Cantonese class, a fellow student approached me to let off some steam. Like me, Jean-Baptiste was struggling mightily with the tonal language. “These evenings,” he said in a thick French accent, “would be much more enjoyable if I stayed at home and was a potato couch.”
I couldn’t have with him more agreed. Our instructor, a 60-something former “office creature,” is decidedly old-school. She follows the textbook to a T, and asks us to repeat after her. It’s immensely boring.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, among those vying to succeed Mayor Bloomberg, may not be so eager to challenge the status quo as the incumbent has shown time and time again, preferring instead to keep interest groups and parochial neighborhood politicians happy and content. And if his recent pronouncement on taxes is any indication, Mr. Bloomberg would be right to worry about the priorities of the next administration.
Mr. de Blasio wants to expand access to full-day pre-kindergarten in the city. That’s pretty ambitious—and pretty expensive. No problem—the public advocate has a plan for that. He says he wants to fund the pre-K program by raising taxes on those who earn more than $500,000 a year. That would raise $500 million, he said, and that would be sufficient to fund pre-K classrooms and instructors for about 68,000 children.
There’s no question that pre-K programs help to prepare young children for primary school. That’s why Mr. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott recently announced the addition of 4,000 new full-day pre-K slots beginning next fall.
The question is how best to pay for this vast expansion of the city’s school system. Raising taxes on the rich—a move that would require state approval—is the wrong answer on so many levels.
Won’t Back Down, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as a parent and teacher struggling to turn around a failing school, is a movie that clearly wants to say something, even if The Observer had a hard time hearing what they were saying because of chanting protestors.
The eyes of school reformers—and their opponents—are fixed on Chicago, where the teachers’ union has picked a fight with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. If nothing else, this shows that New York’s teachers’ union has no monopoly on foolishness. Some politicians pretend to be rough-and-tumble characters. Mr. Emanuel is the real deal, as the teachers in Chicago are discovering.
The teachers’ strike has moved into its second week, although there are signs that the dispute may end as early as late Tuesday afternoon, after press time. If it doesn’t, the mayor plans to go to court to force the teachers back into the classroom. As well he should, because the strike was an affront to the city and, of course, to Chicago’s 350,000 students. Before they walked out, the teachers managed to water down some needed reforms—the city agreed, for example, to hire back some laid-off teachers regardless of their past performance in the classroom—and extracted an additional $74 million per year in salary hikes. Mr. Emanuel, for his part, insists on including standardized tests scores as part of teacher performance evaluations. The union, of course, hates this. Like their counterparts in New York’s schools, union leaders in Chicago oppose anything that even hints at accountability.
New York most definitely has a dog in this fight—his name is Rahm.