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Candidate Survey

Please return by August 15, 2017 to info@nyckidspac.org

Candidate full name

Henry Butler

Website

http://henrybutler41stcouncil.com/

Staff contact and e-mail

Jenna Klaus: jayayklaus@gmail.com

Phone number

(203) 215-8687

Running for what office

City Council District 41

 

 Governance

Many New York City parents feel disenfranchised by the current system of mayoral control over public education and feel there are insufficient checks and balances. About two thirds of voters agree, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.  Would you support changes to the system to give parents more voice in decision-making and/or provide checks and balances to the current system?

Yes, I would support changes that amplify the voices of parents in my community and give them more power over their children’s education. While I support the idea of mayoral control, I do not support the current lack of power held by parents. I advocate that our Community Education Councils should have decision-making authority over issues that directly impact their neighborhood schools, like hiring, budgetary issues and school closures.

Which of the following changes to what is now called the Panel for Education Policy (the de facto Board of Education) would you support?   Please check as many as you like.

Yes

No

  • A directly elected Board of Education

x

  • A reconstituted Board of Education with a majority not appointed by the Mayor

x

  • Community Education Councils (CECs) selecting parent representatives to the Board of Education

x

  • Board of Education members with set terms, who cannot be fired at will by the mayor

x

  • The City Council having checks and balances over DOE policies as they do with other city agencies (municipal control)

x

Which of the following measures to ensure that parents and community members have a voice in their children’s schools would you support? Check as many as you like.

Yes

No

  • Expanding the powers of Community Education Councils, including the approval over school closings and co-locations

x

  • Restoring the authority of School Leadership Teams (SLTs) to develop school based budgets

x

  • Allowing school based committees or SLTs to select principals

x

  • Supporting the hiring of a DOE Ombudsperson to investigate and settle parent complaints

x

Do you have other proposals to provide a stronger parent voice and/or checks and balances in school governance?

The city should run a series of parent workshops, multiple times during the year, in which they are taught about the politics of the school system and trained on how they can make their voices heard. Parents should be trained on how to identify problems in their schools, access publicly available information, form strategies for change, write mission statements and effectively lobby for their cause.

Testing

Another important issue is standardized testing, test prep, and the use of test scores to evaluate schools, students, and teachers. What is your position on this matter? 

I believe that we must use test scores as one aspect of school, student and teacher evaluations, but it cannot be the only measure of performance. There are several things to consider when evaluating a teacher, but in addition to student performance, there must be classroom observations, analysis of lesson plans, and feedback from parents.

Would you support:

Yes

No

  • A teacher evaluation system not linked to test scores

x

  • Requiring that the Chancellor communicate to parents that they have a right to opt their children out of standardized testing without penalties to the students or their schools

x

  • Making admissions to all public schools based on more than test scores, including Gifted programs and the specialized high schools

x

Resources and equity

NYC schools have never received their fair share of funding from the state and many are still struggling with budgets below their Fair Student funding levels, despite surpluses at the state and city levels.  Class sizes have risen sharply, particularly in the early grades, where they remain at among the highest levels in more than 15 years.  At the same time, the NYC Chancellor has said that her main concern is that class sizes can be too small. A legal complaint has now been filed against the DOE with the state about its failure to reduce class size and comply with the Contracts for Excellence law. How would you go about guaranteeing the rights of all students and providing them with an equitable opportunity to learn?

The average class size in my district is higher than the city average, and I believe that lowering class size is a key component of stopping the school to prison pipeline. Smaller classes mean that our kids will have more individual attention, be less likely to drop out and less likely to be disciplined. Teachers that are struggling to contain overcrowded classrooms are far more likely to be disciplinarians than nurturers. I support the lawsuit against the DOE and if elected to City Council, I would introduce legislation to address the school to prison pipeline, and the issue of classroom size would be included.

More specifically would you:

Yes

No

  • Support full funding of schools at originally agreed upon CFE levels

x

  • Ensure that DOE comply with its original Contracts for Excellence class size reduction plan, to reduce class size in all grades

x

  • Require that NYC reduce class size, particularly in struggling schools

x

  • Support the creation of an office dedicated to school integration with a Deputy Chancellor whose sole responsibility is school desegregation and integration

Neutral

  • Re-evaluate the school budgeting process, including Fair Student Funding formula, so that resources are distributed equitably and sufficiently among our schools

x

How would you ensure that children are provided with a well-rounded education, including art, music, science, and physical education, and how would you fund this?

I will dedicate discretionary funding to ensuring that our kids get the well-rounded education they deserve. I also believe that afterschool programs can provide much needed exposure to art, music, science and other subjects that provide other necessary areas of instruction. Specifically, I will use my position as a City Councilmember to open 2 additional Beacon Centers in our district and secure funding from local and national foundations.

How would you go about developing and supporting measures to attract and retain experienced and high-quality teachers?

We must give pay incentives to recruit and retain more experienced and high-quality teachers. I will always support pay raises for teachers, especially if it means more effective teachers can be assigned to low-income areas. In addition, I believe that once hired, our teachers must be supported and encouraged to grow with professional development opportunities. Teachers must have wide open channels of communication with administrators, and be able to give and receive feedback at any moment.

How would you ensure equitable distribution of resources so that every school has what it needs to provide a high quality education to all its students?

If elected, I will call on the DOE to conduct a resource review of our schools and use the findings of inequitable distributions to push for immediate remedies. I will also advocate for needs-based funding.

NYC is one of the most segregated school systems in the nation.  What are your plans for integrating our schools? Please be specific.

While I believe that there are benefits to integration and diversity in our schools, I am far more concerned with the inequality that our black and brown children face in our schools, such as the obscenely high rate of suspensions in comparison to white children. Before I demand plans for integration, I will demand the same level of resources for my district that are afforded to higher-income, white districts. I believe that if given adequate levels of investment, our minority-majority schools, like those in my district, will thrive on their own, instead of thriving once white children are introduced to their classrooms.

DOE data reveal that more than 40 percent of special needs students in NYC are not receiving their full services or only partially receiving their mandated services or appropriate classroom placements.

How would you ensure that all students with disabilities receive their services more promptly?

I would support legislation to make it mandatory that 100% of students with disabilities to receive their full services.

 

Any other comments on resources and/or equity?

Funding for our schools is made even more inequitable when you consider how much additional money is raised by parents in affluent districts. Parents in high-income areas of the city, can afford to donate money to make improvements to their kids’ schools or buy new technology. This is not the case for low-income districts like in my community. I propose starting a program in which high-income schools of the city get “partnered up” with low-income schools, and when the parents of the wealthier school donate money, half of the funds would go to the poorer school. I believe that if the two schools come together through field trips or other events, the wealthier parents will have more buy-in, and care about the success of their “partner” school.

School facilities

Overcrowding is a chronic and ever-worsening problem in NYC schools.  The city has underinvested in school facilities, resulting in most students attending schools in overcrowded and/or substandard conditions.  Expanded Pre-K, eliminating trailers, reducing class size, and implementing community schools with wrap-around services all require even more space. The Mayor’s plan to create hundreds of thousands of new market-rate and affordable housing will likely contribute to even more overcrowding. And yet the current capital plan does not have enough new seats to keep up with future enrollment growth, not to mention reducing class size according to DOE’s own estimates.  

 

Do you support any of the following measures?  Please check all that apply.

Yes

No

  • Mandate that the city annually release transparent needs assessments for new school capacity that take into account current overcrowding, loss of seats through TCU removal and lapsed leases, and enrollment projections

x

  • Require that developers provide space for schools in overcrowded areas or pay “impact” fees into a fund for school construction.

x

  • Reform the zoning laws so that schools must be built along with new housing.

x

  • Fully fund the capital plan so that all the projected need for seats is funded

x

Do you have any other proposals to address school overcrowding?

Charter Schools and Privatization

Charter schools are growing fast and now take more than $1 billion from the DOE’s budget and an increasing amount of space in our schools. There are also serious questions about whether they are complying with the law when it comes to providing due process for suspensions and students with disabilities, and enrolling and retaining equal numbers of high needs students.  

Would you:

Yes

No

  • Support the continued expansion of charter schools

x

  • Advocate for repealing the law requiring that NYC pay for charter school facilities or provide them with space inside DOE buildings

x

  • Enforce the provisions in the 2010 charter law that before charters are renewed or allowed to replicate, they must show they’ve enrolled equal numbers of high needs students, i.e. ELLs, SWDs and free lunch students

x

  • Support measures that require that the State Education Department and/or SUNY post statistics on every charter school’s suspension, enrollment and attrition rates, including for students in each of the high-needs categories

x

  • Support measures that require that charter schools be more transparent and post their board meeting times, board minutes, budgets etc.  

x

  • Oppose the Education Investment Tax Credit bill, which would award tax credits to wealthy donors who give to private and parochial schools  

x

There is also growing concern about the lack of transparency and number of contracts provided to for-profit vendors, and contracts awarded vendors with a history of corruption, abuse and/or mismanagement.

 

Would you:

Yes

No

  • Have the NYC Comptroller or his staff provide comments on contracts before they are approved by the PEP

x

  • Require more transparency for each proposed contract including the release of detailed information about each at least a month before the vote of the PEP

x

Any other comments on charters and/or privatization?

The reason I support charter schools, is because I have listened to the voices of the parents in my district, and I know that thousands of parents want the option of sending their kid to a charter schools. I believe in providing choices to parents and would not deny anyone living in my community the option of a charter school.

That being said, I only support non-profit, high-performing charter schools, and believe that any charter school that is failing, should be shut down. I also do not believe that any for-profit charter school should exist in this city. I am in favor of demanding more transparency from the city’s charter schools, including CEO and administrative salaries and student performance data.

My first priority and focus is fixing the problems in our traditional public schools. I only support co-location in school buildings that are underutilized. The length of wait-lists for charter schools shows the high demand of parents, and meeting that demand means that charters must expand, quickly and cost-effectively. If elected, I would propose legislation that would require any co-locating charter school to adhere to a community benefits agreement, in which the school district will draw up a contract that ensures the charter school contributes to the overall betterment of the community.  

Open-ended questions 

Please summarize your record in public education as an individual, advocate or policymaker.

As the former chair and current District Manager of Community Board 3, I’ve constantly advocated for increased funding for schools in my district through the budget process.

Please describe the ways in which you have demonstrated responsiveness to parental or community concerns

As former chair and current District Manager of Community Board 3, I’m always addressing the concerns of parents throughout the district, whether its pertaining to our schools or any other concerns they may have about the community.

What would be your top educational priorities if elected?

My top priority is closing the school to prison pipeline. I have written an entire policy paper on how I plan to address this terrible problem. I have attached the policy paper in my submission of this questionnaire.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.