Education Updates

Press Release
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Geographic Diversity Tracking Bill Passes Vote in Education Committee
 Legislation Aims to Measure Diversity in NYC Public Schools
  New York, NY – Today the City Council’s Education Committee passed legislation that would measure the number of children from each neighborhood who apply to attend a particular school, the number of seats available at each school, how many offers of admission were made, and total enrollment in all public schools. The bill introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos will also require the Department of Education (DOE) to issue reports on the number of individuals who applied for, received offers for, and enrolled in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade in DOE schools. 

The reporting required under the legislation will show the current geographic diversity in NYC schools, whether there are sufficient numbers of school seats in each neighborhood, and how many children are being turned away from the public school system because the City lacks the capacity to allow children to attend school in the neighborhood in which they live. The information would be reported by community school district and by individual school. The information would be disaggregated by grade level, community school district of residence of individuals, primary home language of individuals, and zip code of individuals.

“The fact is we need more school seats and we need more transparency from the Department of Education. We have a growing city and the more useful data we can get the better our children will be served,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “The Mayor’s promise of ‘Pre-Kindergarten for All’ must include enough seats in every neighborhood, including the Upper East Side. Parents in my district are giving up on our public schools and with it our government and parents who can’t afford private school are being forced out."
According to records obtained by Council Member Kallos in 2015, 54% of would-be pre-kindergarteners on the Upper East Side were not offered school seats in their zip codes. For the 2017-2018 school year, more than 900 four-year-olds applied for a total of 596 seats available for this school year. A decrease of 22 seats from the previous school year. This means that at least one in three four-year-olds will not be offered a seat in their neighborhood.

In 2016, in School District 2, which spans from the Financial District to the Upper East Side, 1,696 preschoolers took the Gifted and Talented exam, 838 of whom were deemed eligible for the program, and 652 applied. However, according to Department of Education, only 346 received offers, leaving 47% of applicants, a total of 306 preschoolers, without access to the coveted program.

The aforementioned data for these two programs indicates a larger problem which extends to general enrollment. This legislation seeks the data from the DOE needed to enact changes in order to give the City Council the ability to do so.  

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In addition to serving the Spence School’s athletics programs, the new facility would provide gym space for physical education classes from P.S. 151 and P.S. 527 under the terms of a proposed, but yet-to-be-finalized agreement between the schools. The two schools are each located near the proposed site of the new Spence facility and have limited space for physical activities. Students at P.S. 151, located at 421 East 88th St., use two converted classrooms for recreational space, while those at P.S. 527, located at 323 East 91st St., use an auditorium with a sloped floor and low ceiling, said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who described the gym-sharing proposal last week at a public hearing on the project at the Board of Standards and Appeals.

According to Kallos, by the time the new building opens for the 2019-2020 school year, Spence and the Department of Education will enter into an agreement allowing the public schools to use the Spence gymnasium for physical education classes during school hours, at no cost to the schools.

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Press Release
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I am pleased that the Spence School, the principals of P.S. 151 and P.S. 527, and the Department of Education have agreed in principal to the common goal of opening a state of the art recreational facility to our local public-school students, and to the stated timeline for doing so.

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Press Release
Monday, October 30, 2017

New York, NY- What is for breakfast lunch, and dinner along with how many children actually eat it is on the menu and passing the City Council thanks to legislation authored by Council Member Kallos. The Department of Education will now report on all school meals for 1.1 million public school children and on planning measures to increase participation in programs like Breakfast After the Bell and the newly announced Universal Free Lunch.
                                                                                      
"No public school child should go hungry in one of the wealthiest cities in the world," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "With the addition of universal lunch, New York City offers a number of options for meals to our students. But we must make sure our kids and families are participating and the food they are served is nutritious.”

"Intro 773-B enables us to ensure that the Free School Lunch for All and Breakfast After the Bell initiatives reach their full potential.  Given the extraordinarily high cost of living in New York City many families are struggling to make ends meet and school meals guarantee that students have the fuel they need to thrive in school." said Liz Accles, Executive Director, Community Food Advocates.

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Press Coverage
Forbes
Saturday, October 28, 2017

VIPs from corporate business, politics, VC and academia spoke and were honored during the program, among them Sanford Weill, Andrew Tisch, Ronald Lauder, Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Benchmark venture partner Scott Belsky and NYC Council Member Ben Kallos (who coined the term Silicon Island for the new campus overlooking central Manhattan and Long Island City).

Now all it takes is critical mass for the new campus to take off and really become a Silicon Island!

At Cornell Tech (a joining of Cornell University and Technion in an initiative led by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to create the campus as a springboard by NYC tech), the focus was on how the institution's focus on research, entrepreneurship and intellectual rigor will have an economic impact on New York City. 

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Press Coverage
CNBC
Saturday, September 30, 2017

Free lunch for all from CNBC.

Giving out lunch based on this criterion has led to what some observers have branded as "lunch shaming." As a result, many kids chose to skip lunch to avoid bullying.

New York City Council member Ben Kallos knows that effect all too well. He grew up in the Upper East Side section of Manhattan, which is known to be very wealthy, and attended the Bronx High School of Science. However, he stood out among his classmates.

"Not only did I come from a single parent household, but a multi-generational household, which meant I was eligible for free or reduced lunch," Ben Kallos, NYC Council member told CNBC's "On the Money."

He added that every day his friends would go out and buy lunch instead of staying in the cafeteria. So he had to make a choice between friends and food.

"I would tell them I wasn't hungry, when the truth is, I was starving," Kallos said.

"Every single child will be treated the same. No one will have to worry if their family can afford it…and we'll actually be giving kids an even start to life," said Kallos.

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Press Coverage
AM New York
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dozens of young students learned a real-life civics lesson Tuesday, performing a skit in front of the City Council’s Committee on Health and advocating for a bill that would ban more pesticides from being used in city parks and public spaces.

The children, from PS 290 on the Upper East Side, got to see firsthand how grassroots legislation can come to be — the bill, Intro 0800, started in 2014 when they were learning about pesticides in school and were visited by a local City Council member.

“To me, this is the essence of education,” Paula Rogovin, a kindergarten teacher at PS 290, said. “This started with a study about tomatoes and watermelon in our school ... the only thing we can do is to get them to be proactive, to get them to do something about it.

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Press Coverage
NBC News 4 New York
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Children at one New York City school testified in City Council chambers against the use of pesticides in parks. Roseanne Colletti reports.

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Press Coverage
CBS New York
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It was first introduced in May 2015. Council Member Ben Kallos was one of its sponsors, and some of the children have been in the chambers advocating before.

“We protested a little bit,” Savann Basen said.

Kallos said his goal is to use only biological pesticides that come from natural materials instead of synthetic materials. He said what’s most concerning is the herbicide spray called Roundup.

“The World Health Organization found that it was a carcinogen, so we introduced legislation right away,” he said.

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Press Coverage
Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It’s really hard to get parents to come to community-board meetings,” he said in a phone interview. “Along with that comes a lack of diversity in the people I see involved in government and politics.”

There isn’t yet a cost estimate for the legislation, Mr. Kallos said. The measure would require the city to provide child care upon request through the Administration for Children’s Services, the child-welfare agency.

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Press Coverage
WNYC: New York Public Radio
Friday, September 8, 2017

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced this week that the city's 1.1 million public school students will receive free lunch. This program comes as the city changed the way it reports its data to the Washington, making it eligible for the lunch expansion at no additional cost to taxpayers.

While individual families are set to save roughly $300 a year on school lunches, the issue touches on much more than cost. Incidents of "food shaming" have been reported at schools around the country, as students are often targeted on the lunch line for their family's inability to pay off their meal debt.

Could this new program serve as a model to districts around the country? New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents New Yorkers in the Upper West Side and Roosevelt Island, joins The Takeaway to discuss the importance of ensuring that every student receives lunch at school.

This segment is hosted by Todd Zwillich.

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Press Release
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Upper East Side, NY – 40 more 4-year-olds will have free pre-kindergarten seats on the Upper East Side starting with today’s first day of school. Council Member Ben Kallos joined Principal Doreen Esposito to cut the ribbon on the 40 new pre-kindergarten seats at P.S. 290, The Manhattan New School on 82nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. 

 

Watch the Ribbon Cutting.

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Press Coverage
New York Times
Thursday, September 7, 2017

Breakfast had already been free systemwide, school officials said, and the city’s stand-alone middle schools had a universal free-lunch pilot in place since 2014 that fed an additional 10,000 children who would not necessarily have qualified for free or discounted lunches, officials said.

Among the parade of speakers at Wednesday’s announcement was City Councilman Ben Kallos, who recounted his own experience with the stigma of subsidized school meals.

He grew up on the Upper East Side and, like many of his neighbors, attended Bronx High School of Science. But his mother’s income in his single-parent household was low enough that he qualified for reduced-price lunches — a fact he tried to hide from his peers by not eating.

“I had to choose between friends and food,” Mr. Kallos said. “I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did.”

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Press Coverage
Food and Wine
Friday, September 8, 2017

The New York City Council has been a vocal supporter of enacting the free lunch program; many members cited stories of students who would rather skip lunch than admit to their fellow students that they couldn’t afford to buy it, including Councilman Ben Kallos, who recounted his past struggles as a student at Bronx High School of Science.

“I had to choose between friends and food,” he said. “I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did.”

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Press Release
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

NEW YORK — Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James today announced that lunch is now free for every student at every public school across New York City. Free School Lunch for All will provide over 200,000 more students with free lunch starting this school year. Last school year, 75% of students were eligible for free lunch and starting this school year, 100% of families will be eligible to receive free lunch.

New York City has sought all forms of funding for meal reimbursement and is now eligible to receive the highest reimbursement from the federal government through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This federal program allows school districts to provide meals free of charge to all enrolled students. The Free School Lunch for All initiative will benefit all families regardless of where they live or attend school.

“There is now such thing as a free lunch in New York City public schools,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “When I was a child attending City public schools, I often went without food, because going hungry was better than getting picked on for receiving free or reduced school lunch. I've been fighting alongside Public Advocate Letitia James and Education Chair Danny Dromm at hearing after hearing for four years so that no child has to make the same unfortunate choice I did years ago, to go hungry. Our families should be able to trust that when they send their kids to public school, they won't come home hungry. Thank you to Speaker Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate James, Education Chair Dromm, Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Community Food Advocates Executive Director Liz Accles for their advocacy, and Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña for making universal school lunch a reality.”

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Press Coverage
United Press International UPI
Thursday, September 7, 2017

However, many schools still enact an array of measures to get students to pay for their lunch. In Alabama last year, a third-grader who couldn't pay a lunch bill was given a stamp on his arm that said, "I need lunch money," reported AL.com.

New York City councilman Ben Kallos said he remembers the stigma he felt as a child when he couldn't afford lunch.

"I had to choose between friends and food," Kallos said. "I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did."

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Press Coverage
New York Post
Monday, June 19, 2017

Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, a mayoral ally on education, countered that “charter schools shouldn’t be playing politics with children as pawns."

“Holding the public-school system hostage for charter-school expansion isn’t right,” said Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side. “Parents in my district aren’t asking for more charter school seats. They’re asking for more seats in traditional public schools.”

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Thursday, June 8, 2017

With their school’s support, Neil and his schoolmate Katerina Corr, who are leaders in the MSLC, testified in support of GSAs during the city’s Committee on Education on Oct. 19, 2016.

After that hearing, the MSLC met with Councilmen Danny Dromm, who is the chair of the council’s education committee, and Ben Kallos to work on the new legislation.

“The rise of hate crimes nationally and in the city means it is more important than ever that the City supports our LGBTQ youth through these student-run clubs,” Kallos said. New York City has always been a leader on LGBTQ issues and that includes supporting our students.”

Dromm said GSAs are vital to the physical and mental-well being of LGBTQ students.

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Press Coverage
New York Daily News
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

They originally conceived of a requirement that every school set up a group to help gays but learned the Council doesn’t have the authority to mandate that. Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) introduced the legislation on their behalf Tuesday. “The rise of hate crimes nationally and in the city means it is more important than ever that the city supports our LGBTQ youth through these student-run clubs,” he said.

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