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Candidate Survey

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

Candidate full name

Rachel Lyn Honig

Website

www.honigfornewyork.com

Staff contact and e-mail

Sara Lind (slhonigfornewyork@gmail.com)

Phone number

646 389 1133 (Sara: 312-804-4867)

Running for what office

City Councilmember for District 4

 

 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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Allowing school based committees or SLTs to select principals

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

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

I believe that a Board of Education should consist of members who can address multiple interests; primarily those of students and parents, but also those of education experts representing the state and city policies. While many cities run effectively with directly elected boards of education (such as Portland and Denver), larger cities (with larger school districts) such as Philadelphia and Chicago often have appointed members. Ideally, the board would be a mix of elected members and experts appointed to represent the City’s interests. I am completely in favor of giving greater voice to the concerns of parents and giving them authority to act on those concerns. However, I think it is wiser to allow the CEC to have recommendation power (rather than final approval) over school closings and co-locations, and furthermore the power to raise an objection to the City Council if the DOE’s decision is against the recommendation.

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? 

Would you support:

Yes

No

  • A teacher evaluation system not linked to test scores

  • 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

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

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?

More specifically would you:

Yes

No

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

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

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

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

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

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 strongly support a well-rounded and equal education for our children. There is overwhelming evidence that including subjects such as art, music and physical education have long-lasting benefits for our students. As Director of Special Projects of the New York State Council on the Arts, Arts and Education was a primary focus for me.  We created arts and technology roundtables and conferences and placed a strong grantmaking focus on the arts in schools. As a City Councilmember, I would work with the CECs and public schools in my district to ensure that they have the support they need.

I also believe this might be an interesting area to explore a public-private partnership to bring more art and music into the public schools. I would seek companies or foundations who might be willing to fund programs in our public schools. This could range from digital music purveyors like Pandora and Spotify to creative art supply providers like 3M or others.

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

Despite reduced enrollment in recent years, Teach for America has created the model for cache of the teaching profession, particularly with its partnerships with marquis employers who defer program acceptance for TFA participants. We need to make teaching attractive to young professionals and mid career change seekers, as well as work on retention.

I believe that creativity is important when tackling these kinds of problems. I would consider various different solutions that have been tried in other cities. I support the Alternative Teacher Preparation program, especially to bring in mid-career professionals to subjects with high demand (such as math and science). I would support increasing the use of this program to attract and bring in even more teachers.

As an overlap with the issue of affordable housing, I would consider housing alternatives for teachers willing to live and teach in neighborhoods that have been traditionally difficult to find teachers for.

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?

Many schools supplement their funding with funds raised by the PTA. However, some schools are able to raise significantly more than others. I would encourage knowledge sharing and best practices to develop a common set of processes used to raise funds in this way. However, I also believe that a more efficient allocation and use of public funds would relieve the need of any public school PTA to do additional fundraising.

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

First we should acknowledge that housing is not the only driver of segregation (as the Mayor claims) - many neighborhoods that have integrated housing patterns still have extremely segregated schools. Pilot experiments with controlled school choice, based on both parent preferences and income levels, could be an innovative way to tackle this problem.

The City should also direct discretionary funds to school districts and even individual schools that demonstrate commitment to increasing diversity through concrete plans and actions taken.

I also believe that gifted and talented programs need to be better tailored to ensure that they create bridges between students, rather than setting up walls between different groups of students.

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?

The stories of parents and students fighting to receive the services they deserve are heartbreaking. While I would never blame the parents, I do believe that increased education and support around the services that are available and the best way to advocate for themselves could prove very effective. As a marketing professional, I would make it one of the goals of my office to better outreach to these parents and give them guidance for navigating these difficult processes.

 

Any other comments on resources and/or equity?

Another important issue is that of students living in transitional housing and the difficulties that bleed over into their education. As one small (but tragic) example, these children often lack a place to do their laundry and schools are trying to find ways to get washing machines into school to help these students. This is another place where perhaps a public-private partnership could be effective.  I’m thinking partnerships with GE and Proctor and Gamble.

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

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

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

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

Do you have any other proposals to address school overcrowding?

At the Community Education Council District 2 meeting on August 7th, I had a chance to hear about the games that are played with our children’s education, particularly as it relates to class sizes. Schools must hire more teachers to bring class sizes down, rather than putting the maximum number of children in each class in order to avoid having to hire another teacher. Furthermore, my platform includes a plan to fight this overcrowding, which I think is a result of overdevelopment, by making legislation that requires developers to contribute to the community infrastructure.

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

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

  • 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

  • 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

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

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

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

  • 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

Any other comments on charters and/or privatization?

There are issues with charter schools and especially with co-location that must be addressed by the City. However, I would never categorically rule out charters. I believe that we need creative solutions to address the issues with our public schools. Charter schools should be constantly evaluated to ensure that they’re serving the public interest and they should always be held accountable for their results.

Open-ended questions 

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

As Director of Special Projects of the New York State Council on the Arts, I used my office to advocate strongly for arts in education.  The use of this discipline in New York City schools was particularly effective in bridging language gaps in areas such as Flushing where as many as 31 different languages are spoken.

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

On the campaign trail I have spoken with countless parents who have expressed concern at the state of public education in this great city. This has been an incredibly educational experience for me, and I have updated my platform to be responsive to issues that my constituents hold so dear. I would continue this pattern once elected. My candidacy is based on the idea of a people over party platform, so I am not beholden to special interests or party orthodoxy. I would work with all stakeholders to understand the issues and find the best solutions.

What would be your top educational priorities if elected?

With an education line that is more than 30% of the city budget, we need to make sure our money is being properly allocated.

I have long lamented the lead in the water in our public schools and I would immediately work to hold the city accountable for remediating that issue.

I also want to ensure that parents are not stuck on waitlists, trying to get their kids into kindergarten, or stuck with long commutes to get to schools outside their neighborhood. I’m also incredibly disheartened by our low graduation rates and the lack of college readiness amongst our graduates. In addition to that I want to work with the parents and teachers and see that their voices are heard in regards to education policy.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

My family are nearly all teachers who have dedicated their lives to education.  From kindergarten teachers to tenured chairs of Education departments at Universities, an appropriate education for our kids and appropriate resources for teachers has been at the forefront of my family’s calling. I look forward to utilizing my voice on the Council to be an equal advocate for education.

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