Reports Take Aim at City for Student Busing and Pre-K

It is a day of audits and reports from two elected officials who have been critical of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's education policies, and are both considering a run for mayor: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Comptroller John C. Liu.

On Friday, The Daily News published a report from Mr. de Blasio's office that condemns many of the school busing companies the city uses for subjecting students to very long commutes. While the City Department of Education's spending on busing students has increased by $150 million since 2007, the report claims that service has become worse and that many of the complaints have come from the parents of students who receive special education services.

In a separate article, The News highlights the case of a 15-year-old with cerebral palsy who had to endure two-hour bus rides to school. At the same time that costs are going up, the city has also eliminated busing for seventh and eighth graders.

The report claims that because the city does not require bus companies to rebid their contracts, there is no way for education officials to force them to improve service. Education Department officials called the report, inaccurate they but did not detail how.

And in another audit from Mr. Liu's office aimed at the Education Department, the comptroller accused the city of returning $133 million in state funds for prekindergarten since 2007.

That money has been left unused because city education officials have not worked hard enough to find and finance pre-k programs. Officials at the Education Department said there was not much demand for state-financed pre-K programs because the state pays for only a half day, which does not appeal to working parents. And it called the report "deliberately and stubbornly myopic."

In other news:

Chicago is planning to open as many as five new schools modeled from New York City's Pathways in Technology Early College High School, which opened this fall in Brooklyn. Like P-Tech, the Chicago schools will have a partnership with I.B.M., and their graduates will be given preference for entry-level jobs there.

A New Jersey high school teacher's anti-gay comments on her personal Facebook page have landed her in the middle of public controversy and an investigation by the Union Township superintendent. The teacher, Vicki Knox, whose field is special education, posted complaints about a school display recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History month. Homosexuality, she wrote, is "against the nature and character of God."

And financial aid fraud is growing as the world of online higher education institutions expands. In South Carolina, a prison inmate repeatedly applied and filed for financial aid to Webster University's distance-learning program. Before she was caught, the woman had amassed nearly $500,000.

A more complete roundup of news can be found in GothamSchools’ Rise and Shine post.

Here is what is going on this weekend:

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Brooklyn 45, a cable television program, is hosting a Community Youth Mentoring Symposium in the auditorium at Flatbush-Tompkins Congregational Church, 424 East 19th Street. The symposium is an opportunity to connect middle and high school students in the East Flatbush area with mentoring opportunities.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., a group called the Coalition for Public Education is holding a "trial" of the Bloomberg administration's education policies. That will take place at the District Council 37 office at 125 Barclay Street in Manhattan.