Department Of Education

The Brian Lehrer Show

Merryl Tisch Explains the Education Budget

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, talks about what the new system of teacher evaluations will look like under the new NYS budget.

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NYC Officials Try to Calm Concerns Over Ebola in Schools

Monday, October 27, 2014

On the same day a five-year-old child was being tested for possible Ebola infection, city officials issued a letter that outlined the low risk of the disease in the schools. 
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The Brian Lehrer Show

Campus Sexual Assault Policies Are Changing

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines to colleges for handling sexual assault allegations, but advocates argue the resulting changes don't go far enough. 

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The Greene Space

On-Demand Video: WQXR Presents Summer Arts Institute Concert

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New York City public high school students filled The Greene Space with beautiful music on July 24, 2014, playing a free concert with instruments donated in last spring's WQXR Instrument Drive



NYC Summer School '14 in Full Swing

Monday, June 30, 2014

That was a short break. Tens of thousands of students across New York City headed to summer school on July 1.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

The Next DOE

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Beth Fertig, contributing editor for education at WNYC and, talks about the appointment of Carmen Fariña as De Blasio's schools chancellor, and takes calls from parents and teachers.

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Penny Harvest Group Facing Closure

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A popular children's program on the verge of closing said the city's Department of Education is to blame for its financial straits.

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Transportation Nation

Ongoing NYC School Bus Strike Frustrates Special Education Families

Friday, January 25, 2013

A wheelchair-accessible taxi (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Beth Fertig - New York, SchoolBook) A day after New York City said it would pay car companies directly to transport eligible children with special needs to school, parents and teachers say the system, like so much else related to school bus strike, has presented challenges.

“They have to go up to the school to get this voucher form that they have to fill out but now when they call the cab companies in their various neighborhoods the cab companies don’t know anything about it,” said Joseph Williams, president of the Citywide District 75 Council and the father of a son with autism.

The Department of Education announced Wednesday an arrangement with the Taxi and Limousine Commission that allows some families of children with disabilities to avoid having to pay first for car service and then wait for reimbursement. The D.O.E. said it would pay the car services, to ease the hardship for families during the school bus strike

The problem, many families say, is that the car services don’t know about the new payment system.

D.O.E. spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said the T.L.C. lined up the participating livery car companies, which is why families are supposed to fill out a form at school, or at their local committee on special education, to obtain a taxi voucher. They’re then given the name of approved vendors.

But Williams said he heard complaints from two different parents Thursday that word had not spread to the car companies. So he called a couple himself to see what was happening.

“I spoke to the dispatcher, ‘Do you know anything about it?’ I spoke to his boss and he said he hadn’t heard anything about it. And this was two car companies in Brooklyn,” he said, adding that he alerted the superintendent of District 75, which serves thousands of severely disabled students who normally depend on the yellow buses.

Beth Brady, a special education teacher at a District 75 middle school in Washington Heights, P138M, said she has a class of 12 students, most of whom use wheelchairs. But she said only one of them has been making it to school since the strike began because he’s ambulatory and lives closer to the school than the others.

“I was making a lot of phone calls today to share that information with them” she said, of the free taxi vouchers for lower income families. “They were asking which companies take the vouchers and we don’t have a list of that. So we’re still working on what cabs and limos would even take the vouchers. That’s a missing piece.”

Brady also said many parents can’t afford to take time away from work to accompany their children to and from school by either mass transit or a taxi. Her students come from both Manhattan and the Bronx.

Free Yellow Cabs for Children in Wheelchairs

Meanwhile, an umbrella group for some of the small yellow cab companies is offering free wheelchair accessible taxis to disabled children during the strike.

Mark Longo, information director for Taxi Club Management, said: “I’m probably getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 phone calls every hour” from families looking for transportation help.

Longo said Taxi Club Management has about 130 of the city’s 233 wheelchair accessible yellow cabs among its fleets, and that C.E.O. Gene Friedman felt strongly about wanting to help the city’s students.

Longo said families should contact him via email to make arrangements in advance at or call the city’s Accessible Dispatch Service, (646) 599-9999.

However, he said, Taxi Club Management doesn’t have enough cars to meet the demand and services can’t be provided outside the five boroughs. He said he is working to line up alternatives.

Transportation is especially complicated for children with the most serious disabilities because they often travel far from home to get appropriate services.

Michelle Noris’s nine year-old son, Abraham, attends the Henry Viscardi School on Long Island because he has cerebral palsy and a movement disorder called chorea. He has epileptic seizures and uses a wheelchair to get around, and a feeding tube for nourishment. The fourth grader has been taking a small wheelchair-accessible bus to school since first grade, with three other children and a matron.

Now, Noris said, she and her husband are splitting transportation duties each morning, taking Abraham to Long Island in their minivan and getting their other child to his neighborhood elementary school. She said they’re reimbursed 55 cents for every mile they travel with Abraham in their car which means return trips aren’t covered.

“It’s a 19.1 mile trip each way,” she explained. “We do it twice a day. So that works out to about $21 a day in reimbursement which just about covers the gasoline.”

These trips consume four hours each day, and since she’s paid by the hour as a professional engineer that means she’s making less money.

“They’ve offered that they would pay for car service but again, the car service they only pay while he’s in the car and of course we have to go with him, no one lets a nine-year-old child into a car service,” she said. “So that would be even more difficult financially because then I would be in Albertson, Long Island, and how would I get home?”

Noris and other families worry about the children with special needs who aren’t making it to school because of these complications. In addition to lost school time, many are also missing out on related services such as speech and occupational therapy.

Waiting on the Labor Board

The city is trying to get more school buses on the road by encouraging companies that employ drivers who aren’t striking to take a CPR course and four-hour training program. This way, they can cover for striking escorts.

Some of those bus companies employ escorts in the striking union, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Other bus companies are picking up more students than normal. And some are training replacement workers.

Meanwhile, the head of the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office, James Paulsen, said he has finished his investigation of the bus companies’ complaints against Local 1181 and their request for an injunction to stop the strike. But Paulsen said he could not make his recommendations public. They were sent to the NLRB’s Division of Advice in Washington, D.C., where lawyers will consider the matter.

A decision is likely next week, he said.

If the NLRB sides with the bus companies, it will go to federal district court in Brooklyn to seek an injunction.

Beth Fertig is a senior reporter at WNYC. Follow her on Twitter

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Teacher Evals Missed Deadline

Friday, January 18, 2013

Beth Fertig, WNYC's education reporter and contributor to SchoolBook, and Yasmeen Khan, WNYC associate news producer covering education and politics, update us on the apparent failure of negotiations between the teachers' union and the DOE, resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid.

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VIDEO: Forum on School Leadership

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Schoolbook carried video coverage of a WNET-sponsored forum on school leadership moderated by SchoolBook's own Beth Fertig. School principals, experts and Tweed officials weighed in on what it takes to lead a successful school.

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We're Fighting For the Same Thing: Better Schools

Friday, September 21, 2012

The father of two boys attending public school struggles to reconcile his support for a Queens charter school with the sympathy he felt for Chicago's teachers when they went on strike.

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Using Summer to Narrow Achievement Gap

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

There's a growing body of research that shows that what students do over the summer affects their academic careers -- and whether or not they will be likely to graduate and go on to college. And since lower-income students are more likely to lose academic skills than their peers from higher-income families, New York City has begun a pilot program to help keep these students on track during the summer months.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Special Education Changes

Monday, July 30, 2012

Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer of the New York City Department of Education, talks about how NYC public schools are moving to a system for "inclusion" of special needs kids in regular classrooms.

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Composting In City Schools Catches On

Monday, July 02, 2012


A handful of public schools have been so successful in slashing the amount of cafeteria garbage they created through composting that the program is being expanded by the Bloomberg administration.

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New Tactics on Reading at Middle Schools

Friday, February 10, 2012

To bolster student performance at some of the city’s lowest-performing middle schools, New York City is concentrating on boosting students’ reading and writing skills.The Education Department and City Council have embarked on a plan to train teachers in literacy instruction for adolescents who read at a third- or fourth-grade level.

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In Last-Minute Reprieve, 2 Failing Schools Are Spared

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

After three exhaustive weeks of public hearings and protests, the Department of Education has reversed course on two of the 25 schools it had proposed to close or shrink. Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Harlem, will retain its middle grades. Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VII in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, will be spared from closing. The vote on the closings is Thursday.

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On Keeping Church and Schools Separate

Thursday, February 02, 2012

After a long legal fight, some 160 religious congregations in New York City have until Feb. 12 to stop using schools as houses of worship, even though some religious leaders are still trying to win over local legislators to change the rules. The writer, a civil liberties lawyer, says the Department of Education is right to erect a wall between religious worship and schools.

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Unlike New York, Some Districts Embrace Social Media

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The New York City schools limit the use of some sites on the Internet, while other schools have embraced it, using social media as a learning tool, according to a student journalist on Staten Island.

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Former Schools Official Is Fined for Ethics Violation

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The former chief financial officer for the Department of Education has agreed to pay a $6,500 fine to the city’s Conflict of Interest Board for using his public e-mail account to promote a personal business and plot his exit into a private-sector job.

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Tweed Protesters Denounce 'Privatization' of Schools

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Protesters convened at Tweed to present a list of grievances against the Department of Education and said they would continue to press their case against what they called privatization of education, at the expense of children..

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