New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Daily News

New York Daily News Open textbooks, in more ways than one: Save money and increase educational diversity with high-quality, up-to-date, learning options by By BEN KALLOS and CLAYTON BANKS

Open textbooks, in more ways than one: Save money and increase educational diversity with high-quality, up-to-date, learning options

Facing $800 million in proposed cuts to public schools, New York City is slated to continue spending $84 million a year on textbooks. That number is staggering, especially given that many of the textbooks are older than the teachers using themlargely Eurocentric and in some cases dictated by partisan politics. We can make these learning materials more reflective of New York City’s diversity and put limited resources to better use by adopting open textbooks.

More commonly known as “open educational resources” (OER), open textbooks are free for educators to use, customize to their students’ needs and backgrounds and share with others. Open textbooks are freely available from nonprofit groups like CK12OER Commons and OpenStax, and many are peer-reviewed and vetted for quality.

New York Daily News NYC may fire 22,000 city workers to make up for massive revenue shortfall: Mayor de Blasio by Shant Shahrigian

NYC may fire 22,000 city workers to make up for massive revenue shortfall: Mayor de Blasio

The city may fire as many as 22,000 employees in order to make up for staggering revenue shortfalls, Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday.

“We have to talk about the last resort. The last resort would be layoffs and furloughs,” he said at a press conference.

“The last resort would be the thing I don’t want to do and none of us should want to see happen — taking away the jobs of city workers,” he continued, “who we depend on, and their families depend on them for their livelihood, but we are running out of options here.”

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Councilman Ben Kallos, who recently outlined billions of dollars in cuts to pork spending, rejected the mayor’s proposal to fire city workers.

“It is outrageous to fire dedicated city employees who make next to nothing just so we can keep bloated contracts with big corporations,” the Manhattan Dem told the Daily News.

New York Daily News With NYC in budget crisis, Manhattan pol wants to cut pork, free up nearly $1B for vital services by Shant Shahrigian

With NYC in budget crisis, Manhattan pol wants to cut pork, free up nearly $1B for vital services

With New York in a budget crisis the likes of which it hasn’t seen in decades, a City Council leader says now is the time to open the books, eliminate wasteful spending and save some serious cash for schools and other causes.

The city should end billions of dollars in tax exemptions and other funding for developers and cancel huge contracts with big firms doing vague jobs, Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts, wrote Mayor de Blasio on Monday night.

He identified up to $15 billion in possible cuts and savings, saying nearly $1 billion of that could go to schools, social services and other causes that are facing steep cuts in the wretched economic climate.

New York Daily News New Yorker voters overwhelmingly request mail-in ballots to NYC Board of Elections ahead of primary by SHANT SHAHRIGIAN

New Yorker voters overwhelmingly request mail-in ballots to NYC Board of Elections ahead of primary

To qualify for a mail-in ballot, voters were encouraged to indicate they have a “temporary illness” even if they’re just afraid of catching coronavirus.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) said the state should dispense with the requirement.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with coronavirus and instead of having this temporary illness checkoff that a lot of residents have objected to because they're not sick, we need to go to full vote by mail,” he said.

Early voting runs through Sunday, June 21. While the last day to request a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, June 16, voters have until Tuesday, June 23 to put their ballot in the mail.

New York Daily News How the coronavirus is exacerbating the education opportunity gap by Kirsten John Foy, Tai Abrams

How the coronavirus is exacerbating the education opportunity gap

As students, parents and teachers across New York City have had to adjust to remote learning as never before, there is a palpable sense of anxiety over whether students are being given the best opportunity for success under the current circumstances.

Particularly for low-income students and those who do not have access to technology or reliable wi-fi, remote learning can be a significant challenge. Given the historic inequities in our public school system and with likely school closures for the rest of the year sure to cause major academic disruptions, now is the time for the city to enact systemic changes to ensure disadvantaged students do not fall even further behind.

One area that requires specific attention is the city’s specialized high schools. These elite institutions can provide an answer to the setbacks many students face this academic year. But they also remain out of reach for many students of color.

We’ve heard the de Blasio administration say that the best long-term way to increase diversity in NYC’s specialized high schools is by entirely eliminating the entrance exam known as the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).

But students tutored by the Education Equity Campaign (EEC) during this admissions cycle proved that theory to be flawed. There is indeed another way to help students achieve educational success: comprehensive tutoring prep that focuses on raising skill level and increasing students’ confidence.

As two people of color who graduated from specialized high schools, we have dedicated our careers to social justice and education.

We believed the mayor’s original approach did little to actually help our children meet the standards for which they are capable. That’s why, alongside EEC founders Ronald S. Lauder and Richard Parsons, we embarked on a pilot program to offer free test prep to prepare disadvantaged students who otherwise would not have access to the extracurricular support necessary for success on the SHSAT.

The results speak for themselves.

This year, 12,422 Black and Latino students sat for the SHSAT. Of those, 470, or 3.8% were offered admission. In contrast, of the 197 students enrolled in EEC’s 7-week programs, 31 were accepted into a specialized high school. That’s 15.7%. Put another way. students of color in EEC programs were more than four times more likely to secure admission than their peers citywide.

And the EEC program only ran for seven weeks. If 31 students were able to achieve success after only a seven-week program, imagine the results if the city directed this support to more students of color.

Let’s be clear. Much more needs to be done. The demographic diversity of students offered acceptances this year is consistent with the dismal numbers of years past. It’s unacceptable that African American students made up only 4.5% of the total acceptances offered and Latino students received 6.6% of the acceptance pool for next year.

However, systemic problems require systemic solutions. That is why we are continuing our advocacy campaign by supporting a coalition of city and state lawmakers who are introducing legislation to bring programs like EEC’s to scale so that all students have access to the best educational opportunities.

For instance, state Sen. Leroy Comrie is sponsoring a bill that would create 10 new specialized high schools to remedy the fact that there are now only 15,000 spots available for 360,000 high school students. The bill would also establish a pipeline for success by expanding gifted and talented programs in communities so that students have access to quality education from the moment they enter the public-school system.

Complementing the state effort, we have also partnered with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and City Councilmen Ben Kallos and Robert Cornegy to require the Department of Education to come up with a plan to provide every middle school student with free test preparation and to automatically enroll students in the SHSAT.

New York Daily News Protect health-care whistleblowers: Shield doctors and nurses who report problems from retaliation by Brad Lander

Protect health-care whistleblowers: Shield doctors and nurses who report problems from retaliation

At Mount Sinai, nurses blew the whistle on PPE shortages by posting pictures of themselves in garbage bags. Afterwards, along with protective gowns, they received warning notices about their jobs as well.

Health-care workers are already risking their health to save lives. They should not also have to risk their jobs when they tell the truth.

Together with my colleagues Mark Levine, Carlina Rivera, Ben Kallos and Adrienne Adams in the City Council, and a wide coalition of health-care unions and worker advocates, we are proposing legislation to protect health-care workers from being fired for speaking out.

At a time when the very lives of our hospital and health-care workers are on the line, it is unconscionable that they would be fired for ringing the alarm bell about health and safety issues. Our bill would prevent doctors and nurses from losing their jobs if they speak publicly about conditions in their hospitals.

New York Daily News Not enough NYC municipal workers work from home, says union head by Michael Gartland

Not enough NYC municipal workers work from home, says union head

The highest hurdle to telecommuting is securing sensitive city data, said Garrido, who complained the problem has been foreseeable for years and evidenced in the city’s failure to adopt telecommuting rules he’s been pushing for more than a decade.

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who has worked as a software developer, said telecommuting and data security are “very easy to set up.”

“Every corporation in America does this. Doctors do this. It is very easy and normal to do,” he said. “I’m concerned about city workers who could be working from home and are being forced to come in.”

New York Daily News NYC lawmakers push to expand specialized high school exam to combat low black, Latino enrollment by By MICHAEL ELSEN-ROONEY

NYC lawmakers push to expand specialized high school exam to combat low black, Latino enrollment

A group of lawmakers wants all city eighth-graders to be automatically registered for the entrance exam for specialized high schools and get free after-school test prep in order to boost the enrollment of black and Latino students at the prestigious schools, the Daily News has learned.

A bill co-authored by City Council Members Ben Kallos (D—Manhattan) and Justin Brannan (D—Brooklyn), and supported by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, urges the Education Department to make the test opt-out rather than opt-in, and extend after-school test preparation to every eighth-grader planning to take the exam.

The proposal comes as city officials announced that only 11% of students admitted to specialized schools this year were black or Latino, compared to 70% of all city students — a figure virtually unchanged from years past.

New York Daily News New York leaders grapple with economic impact of coronavirus by Denis Slattery, SHANT SHAHRIGIAN

New York leaders grapple with economic impact of coronavirus

With coronavirus wreaking havoc on the economy as the city and state are working on their budgets, leaders are starting to prepare for a major downturn.

Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday he’s asked the state comptroller to evaluate the outbreak’s impact on the state budget.

“You know what’s going on in the stock market. You also have what’s going on the economy overall, right? Conventions are being stopped, tourism is down, hotel bookings are down, restaurants are down,” Cuomo said in Albany. “So we just did the budget projection estimates. The world then changed since then, so I asked him for any advice that he might have."

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s spokesman acknowledged the request from Cuomo, saying, “the outlook has changed dramatically since the release of the consensus revenue forecast by the governor and the legislature.”

Earlier this year, Cuomo unveiled a proposed $178 billion budget. A projected deficit of $6 billion, blamed on runaway Medicaid spending, already posed a huge problem for lawmakers. But they had no way of predicting the coronavirus, too.

The deadly disease on Monday caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to incur its worst drop since the financial crash of 2008, among other economic woes, raising fears of a recession.

New York Daily News NYC Council bill seeks to make free summer camp available to all city students by Michael Elsen-Rooney

NYC Council bill seeks to make free summer camp available to all city students

“This Universal Summer Youth Programs legislation will finally put an end to the budget dance and put our city on a path to guarantee every child a place to enjoy their summer,” said Kallos.

The push to expand summer programs comes on the heels of a City Council hearing that explored the possibility of universal after school programs