Archive for December, 2004

31st December
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, December 31, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

Contrary to popular belief, the greatest impediment to the reform of public education in New York was not the old Board of Education bureaucracy, nor is it the teachers union contract. Far more damaging is the power that educrats have themselves ceded through the settlement of various lawsuits going back generations.This practice is emerging as an underestimated crisis.

These consent decrees are the reason why tens of thousands of New York’s most at-risk children are lured into the linguistic ghetto of the bilingual education program. A settlement of a prior lawsuit is the reason why a disproportionate amount of education funding goes to special education programs that generate more jobs than positive outcomes. Consent decrees are the reason why misbehaving, even dangerous, students can avoid the discipline necessary to maintain order in our most troubled schools.

Rather than fight these crippling mandates, the Bloomberg administration has agreed to even more restrictive settlements. These, like the others, undermine his ability to reform the system. (more…)

24th December
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, December 24, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

The other day I discovered a shocking bit of news — that Arthur Levine, president of Columbia University Teachers College, was a classmate of mine at the Bronx High School of Science, and, I believe, at Creston Junior High, also known as J.H.S. 79. How could a product of the successful pedagogy practiced by those institutions have become a leading advocate of tearing down the very programs responsible for his own success?

Readers of this column know that I believe in the type of traditional education I — and Mr. Levine — received during these “golden days” of the New York City Public Schools back in the 1950s and 1960s.

We learned how to read using basal readers like “Fun with Dick and Jane.” We memorized multiplication tables. Our teachers used a timetested method I have since learned is called “teacher-directed instruction.” Teachers typically stood in the front of the classroom, lectured, and scribbled notes on the blackboard to illustrate their points. (more…)

17th December
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, December 17, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

Mayor Bloomberg recently fumed about the hiring of Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez as a consultant to Cablevision, charging,of all things,politics.Cablevision,which owns Madison Square Garden, Gotham’s largest venue for indoor events, wants to keep that status. The mayor is eager to build a new football stadium for the Jets within shouting distance of the Garden, and Cablevision is bent on stopping him.

Ms. Cortes-Vazquez was hired, the mayor and I both suspect, not because she is some supreme strategist, but due to her connections with New York’s most powerful Hispanic politicos, most notably the former president of the Bronx, Fernando Ferrer.Mr.Ferrer is,by all accounts,gearing up for his third try at Gracie Mansion,and some polls show him actually beating the mayor. Pulling the strings is Mr. Ferrer’s consultant — some might say alter-ego — former assemblyman and Bronx County Democratic boss, Roberto Ramirez. (more…)

10th December
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, December 10, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

NewYork City residents wondering where the money will come from to finance the court order to increase school funding don’t have to search far.They simply have to find the nearest mirror and take a long hard look.

When the Campaign for Fiscal Equity first filed its lawsuit, many believed that it was based upon the premise that the state school-funding formula was short-changing New York City students. But the judges ultimately found that the overall level of spending for city schools is not adequate to meet the constitutional guarantee of a “sound basic education,” despite the fact that New York State already leads the nation in per pupil expenditures. (more…)

3rd December
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, December 3, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

This has been a bad year for New York State’s Republican Party, and it could still get worse. Nobody expected President Bush to turn the state from blue to red, and no effort was made toward that end.This is a result of strategic winner-take-all politics that limits national campaign efforts to just a handful of “swing” states.

The Republican effort to defeat Senator Schumer was an embarrassment.This was a seat held by Republicans for generations. The least that the Grand Old Party owed New Yorkers was to try to run a competitive race.But the worst losses came to the Republicans in the State Senate. And those losses were largely self-inflicted. (more…)