Sunday, April 30, 2023

Why is the Chancellor so unmoved by pleas to not force the students of Edward Reynolds HS out of their building?

A particularly destructive and unjustified proposal is on the PEP agenda for tomorrow night, Monday May 1: to evict the students at the transfer school  Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School from their home of many years to make way for the Young Women's Leadership School (TYWLS) of E. Harlem.  See the article about this heart-breaking proposal in the Daily News   

Instead, the students of West Side High school, many of them under-credited and overage and already at high risk of dropping out, will be displaced to be housed at the current building of TYWLS -- where they will lose their wrap-around services, their GED program, and LYFE center-- a day care center for their young children.  None of these programs or services are likely to be needed or utilized by the relatively-high achieving students at TYWLS .

What's especially striking is how the Educational Impact Statement required by state law fails to discuss any of the profound losses that will be suffered by West Side students if this move is approved by the PEP, in contravention to state law.  These glaring deficiencies are similar to those exhibited by the EIS's that purport to describe the effects of the co-locations of two Success charter schools, in Brooklyn and Queens, as pointed out by the lawsuit filed last month to block them.  In those cases, the EIS's omit any mention of how public school students in the existing schools will lose their science lab, their rooms for special education services, and space to lower class size to the levels set forth in the new state law, if these charter schools are allowed to move into their buildings.

Every elected official that represents the neighborhood in which the West Side transfer school is located from the Manhattan Borough President on down has urged the Chancellor not go forward with this proposal. Here is the letter written by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to the Chancellor. An especially impassioned champion of the school has been Council Member Gale Brewer, who pleaded to Chancellor Banks that the building "needs to be filled with students who need the resources it offers.” And yet none of their entreaties  seem to have moved the determination of the Chancellor or the Mayor to go forward with this proposal.  One wonders why.

Some clues may be found in the fact that TYWLS is a chain of single-sex girl schools for grades 6-12, founded by Ann Tisch, a member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in NYC.   Ann's sister-in-law, Merryl Tisch is the former Board of Regents chancellor and now the SUNY board chair; her niece is Jessica Tisch, the current Sanitation Commissioner.  Andrew Tisch, her husband, is a billionaire and the co-chair of Loews Corporation.  Together with his brother, James S. Tisch, and cousin, Jonathan Tisch, he  runs a holding company involved in hotels, oil, and insurance companies. From 1990 to 1995, he was CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company, and in that capacity testified before Congress that "nicotine is not addictive," and that he didn't believe that smoking causes cancer.  He currently heads the board of the secretive and controversial Police Foundation, which has been called the "Piggybank of the NYPD."

Ann Tisch and her wealthy friends have given millions to the Student Leadership Network, the non-profit that subsidizes her chain of schools, to hire college counselors, trips, and other opportunities for their students. The network recently received $7 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. An investigation by Liz Rosenberg at NYC News service found that from 2006 to 2018, the Tisch Foundation gave nearly $50,000 to the Eagle Academy Foundation,  which supports the single-sex chain of schools for boys started by Chancellor Banks.  

Moreover, this year, the Student Leadership Network paid $12,000 to one of the top lobbyists in the city, Kasirer LLC to lobby Banks and other city officials. Further digging by Daniel Alicea under his twitter handle Educators of NYC  reveals that they have spent over $120,000 on lobbying since 2021.  A look at NYC lobbying reports shows the Network has paid Kasirer $194,000  for lobbying since 2020.  As a result, they have received $250,000 in NYC Council discretionary funding every year since at least 2016.  (I couldn't find any discretionary funding for West Side High School.)

As Diane Ravitch points out, the Network could easily use some of the $7 million given them by Mackensie Scott to obtain a new home for TYWLS, rather than force the West Side students out of their home.  Yet according to a reliable source, when alternative sites were recently proposed to the Chancellor for TYWLS, including the buildings of a nearby charter school that is closing and/or several closing parochial schools, he rejected these options to say that these buildings may be needed to house some of the 14 zombie charter schools that Governor Hochul has now insisted be authorized as part of the state budget, whose rent will be paid for at public expense.

So this is the Darwinian universe that NYC students are subjected to. Schools with wealthy backers, whether charter or public,  can afford to spend thousands of dollars to extract more in government funding, further widening the opportunities and resources offered their students.

Be sure to listen to tonight's Talk out of School show with Daniel Alicea on at 7 PM EST, which will feature the voices of West Side High School community, fighting to retain their home.   Tomorrow's PEP meeting at which their fate will be determined starts at 6 PM.  If you want to speak at the meeting, you should sign up starting at 5:30 PM at


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Tell DOE & PEP NO! on cutting 22,000 funded school seats out of the capital plan


Updated 4.18.23

The Panel for Educational Policy will be voting this Wed. night, April 18 on the February proposed amendment to the capital plan which would cut more than $2.2 billion from the plan, completely eliminating more than 11,000 new school seats and moving another 11,000 seats into the category of “funded for design only,” compared to the plan adopted in June 2021.  That’s a cut of 38% in the number of new seats.

These radical cuts make no sense, especially given the fact that more than 300,000 students are enrolled in overcrowded schools, and the new class size law that comes into effect next fall will require more space not less to lower class size.  Instead, the capital plan should be expanded rather than contracted. Amazingly, the capital plan in more than 800 pages never mentions the new state class size law once.

See how many seats are being cut out of your district in the chart here  and below. If your district isn’t mentioned, that means NO NEW seats are planned for your district.

Send a letter today to urge the PEP to vote NO on these massive cuts to the capital plan; deadline to send your letter to be incorporated into the public comment summary is  6:00 p.m. on April 18, 2023.  We suggest you copy the members of the PEP below.  Suggested language is also below; but please change the title and add as much info as you can about the overcrowding in your child’s school or class.

Please also consider speaking at tomorrow’s PEP meeting about the need to expand rather than cut the capital plan; you can mention the crowded conditions at your child’s school and whether they have the space to lower class size. You can sign up to speak starting tomorrow Wed. at 5:30 PM at  


CC:; ;; ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

The Feb. 2023 amendment to the capital plan proposes to cut more than $2.2 billion and 22,000 funded school seats from compared to the plan adopted in June 2021.  This is completely unacceptable, and I urge you to vote no.  If adopted, this will make the challenge of complying with the new state class size law difficult if not impossible to achieve.  There is no mention of the new class size law in the capital plan, an omission which in itself is unacceptable.

The new state law requires NYC to begin reducing class size next fall, and within five years, all classes throughout the city are supposed to adhere to much smaller limits.   More than 300,000 students are currently crammed into overcrowded schools, so if NYC students are to be provided with their right to smaller classes within the time frame established by the law, the capital plan should instead be immediately expanded and accelerated.  It takes about five years to site and build a school in NYC, so there is no time to waste.

Yours sincerely, —-name, address, parent/teacher at what school

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

State & city budget update, and how you can help prevent further cuts to our schools

April 12, 2023

Dear all:

The state budget is now nearly two weeks overdue, with negotiations showing little evident progress so far. As a result, Gov. Hochul’s controversial proposal to raise the NYC charter cap is still up in the air, that the city says would cost another $1.3 billion, over and above $3 billion that charters already subtract from the DOE budget each year.

Charter co-locations also take up increasing space in our public schools, space that is desperately needed to lower class size, as pointed out by a new lawsuit filed on March 28 to block charter co-locations in Brooklyn and Queens. My affidavit in that case, as well as other legal papers are here. A court hearing is scheduled on May 12 before Judge Lyle Frank, who previously ruled for parents and against the DOE by ordering that that this year’s budget cuts to schools be restored, before the Appellate Court reversed his ruling in November.

Speaking of budget cuts, last week the Mayor announced his intention to cut the DOE’s budget by another 3% next year, amounting to more than $400 million . This is in addition to school budget cuts that DOE officials admitted they had already planned during Council hearings last month. Yet the City is expected to have a surplus of more than two billion dollars, and our schools are due to receive an additional $568 million in state Foundation Aid next year. The City Council released a preliminary budget response that allocates more funding for some important school-based programs such as arts and mental health services, but does not clearly oppose any more cuts to schools.

We have drafted a resolution against any further cuts to school budgets and the capital plan, and that urges the Council to restore the cuts already made; please consider forwarding it to your CEC, Presidents Council or other organization to consider.

We are also scheduling briefings for NYC Council Members on these issues and are looking for parents and other constituents who’d be willing to join us. If you’re able and interested, please sign up on this google doc today.

Thanks Leonie

PS The Gates Foundation recently revealed a grant of $6 million to the Fund for Public Schools, NYU, and Amplify, a for-profit ed tech company, “to develop R&D tools and related instructional strategies” in NYC schools.

According to the DOE website, there are 15 Amplify programs that students already use in our schools; and yet they have failed to disclose what personal data these programs collect, how the data is used or how it is protected, as required by law. More on this here, including a sample letter you can send DOE to demand this information for your child.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

New $6M Gates grant to Amplify, DOE and NYU MetroCenter; time to ask what personal data Amplify holds for your child!

Last month, the Gates Foundation awarded a $6 million grant to the DOE’s Fund for Public Schools, Amplify, and the NYU MetroCenter “to develop R&D tools and related instructional strategies.”

I wonder why Amplify is involved; are they supposed help develop these R&D tools? And how much money are each of these organizations receiving? The grant notice does not say.

It is amazing how many different Amplify products are being used in NYC schools that collect and use personal student data – with little information made available at about which student personally identifiable information (PII) is being collected, how that data is being shared and how it will be protected.  

New York Ed Law 2-D and its authorizing regulations require rigorous transparency and disclosure to parents about the protection and use of their children’s personal data, through a Parent Bills of Rights for each vendor agreement; and each of these PBORs are mandated to be posted on the district’s website.

There is no mention of either Amplify or NYU MetroCenter on the page disclosing agreements with researchers that have access to personal data. On the vendor page, the requisite Amplify Parent Bill of Rights agreement says this about which types of personally identifiable information (PII) the company  is provided access to "Type of PII that the Entity will  receive/access: Student PII."   

Which says nothing.

As to which of Amplify’s products and programs access student PII, it says the following: Amplify Education Inc. (“Amplify”) provides core curriculum and supplemental programs and services in ELA, math, and science, and formative assessment products in early reading and math….”

The page goes on to list at least 15 different Amplify products in every subject but social studies.  

One of them is described this way: Amplify Math for grades 6–8 and Algebra 1 is a 100% blended core program based on Illustrative Mathematics IM K–12 Math. Chalkbeat recently reported that DOE intends to roll out a "standardized algebra curriculum from Illustrative Mathematics in at least 150 high schools" next year.

Instead of describing how the data will be secured, instead the webpage says the following

Describe the administrative technical and/or physical safeguards to ensure PII will be protected and how the Entity will mitigate data privacy and security risks.  [DOE comment: In its agreement, Amplify outlines in detail how it meets the COSO principles. Please contact if you would like a copy of this information.]

FYI, COSO stands for “Committee of Sponsoring Organizations” which is not fully congruent, as far as I understand it, with the process and procedures required by the law.

I urge parents to ask DOE exactly how Amplify is protecting your child's data, as well as what data elements they currently hold for your child, which is also your right under the law, as the webpage says:

“In accordance with N.Y. Education Law 2-d, parents, students, eligible students, teachers, or principals may seek copies of their PII, or seek to challenge the accuracy of PII in the custody or control of the Entity. Typically, they can do so by contacting the NYC DOE using the email address or mailing address below.”  []

We drafted a sample email you can send to DOE, which is below. According to Ed Law 2-D, parents have  the right to receive this information within a “reasonable period, but not more than 45 calendar days.”  So please keep track.

Once you receive the data from DOE and/or Amplify,  you also have the right to challenge it if you think its inaccurate. In any event, you should also ask that all the data that Amplify holds for your child be deleted at the end of the school year.  The posted Amplify Parent Bill of Rights says that the data will be deleted under the following conditions:

  • whenever requested by the DOE
  • whenever the entity no longer needs the PII to provide services to the DOE
  • whenever a DOE school or office ceases use of a product or service of the entity, for the PII that pertains to that school or office
  • no later than upon termination of this Agreement

The agreement, however, doesn’t say when it terminates, contrary to the law and the regs which require that  the contract’s expiration date” be disclosed. 

The Amplify PBOR adds the following:  to the extent practicable, it will not retain PII for more than one school year after the school year in which the data was received” without explaining what would make deletion practicable or not.

A little history regarding Gates Foundation’s decade-long involvement with Amplify, for those who may be interested:

Founded as Wireless Generation, Amplify was acquired by Rupert Murdoch for News Corporation for $360 million in cash in 2010.  At  the same time, he appointed former DOE Chancellor Joel Klein as  its CEO.  Murdoch invested $1 billion in the company, and in 2011, it was revealed that Wireless/Amplify was supposed to build the NY State student data system through a $27 million no-bid contract awarded by then- NYSED Commissioner John King. As part of its supposed qualifications to create this system,  NYSED wrote the NY State Comptroller that Wireless had created the $80 million NYC student data system called ARIS, which is rather funny because by that point, ARIS was widely acknowledged to have been an useless if expensive boondoggle.

When advocates like CSM, along with NYSUT and many others,  protested this agreement because of privacy concerns, amplified by reports of News Corp involvement in the UK phone hacking scandal, NYS Comptroller DiNapoli announced he was cancelling the contract on August 27, 2011.

A few weeks earlier,  Vicki Phillips, then director of education for the Gates Foundation, had announced on the Gates website the creation of an "amazing" new software program that resembled a "huge app store … with the Netflix and Facebook capabilities we love the most."  She revealed that Wireless Generation was the vendor chosen for this Gates project, which at the time was called the Shared Learning Collaborative.  She wrote that Wireless  would “build the open software that will allow states to access a shared, performance-driven marketplace of free and premium tools and content.

Shortly after this, I wrote the first blog post criticizing this venture, pointing out the controversy then raging concerning the proposed Wireless contract  to build NY student data system.

In the months that followed, the Gates Foundation invested $100 million in the massive data project, called the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), and boasted that nine states and districts had agreed to share their personal student data with them, including NY State and NYC, with more to come.  

 In February 2013, the SLC was spun off into a separate corporation called InBloom Inc., with Amplify as its prime contractor, which would collect, sort and systematize a massive amount of personally identifiable student data, so that inBloom could deliver it in an easily digestible form to companies, to help them build their tools  around the data and accelerate the expansion and development of the ed tech market.  

Yet within a year, nearly every state and district that had planned to share data with Gates and inBloom had pulled out, after parents rebelled against the whole notion of a private company holding so much of their children's personal data.  Their anger was especially provoked by the provision in the Gates-drafted agreements that neither the Gates Foundation nor inBloom would have any legal responsibility if the data was breached either in storage or transmission. 

 NY State was the last state to pull out of inBloom, and it took an act of the State Legislature to do so, which finally happened as part of the state budget agreement in March 2014.  At the same time,  the Legislature passed the comprehensive student privacy bill, Education Law 2-d.  As NY State was its last customer, inBloom shut its doors in April 2014. A more detailed timeline of these events is here.

As to Amplify, the company kept losing money. In 2013, I had an amusing interchange with Murdoch on Twitter when it was reported that the company had already lost $80 million.  I pointed this fact out to him and said it was certain to lose more, to which he responded, saying  “@amplify not losing money. Not even in business yet.”   

Yet in 2015, it was revealed that Amplify lost an additional $371M.  That year, Murdoch sold it at a huge loss to a “team of 11 Amplify executives” that included Joel Klein.  This group later sold the business to Laurene Powell Jobs at an undisclosed price, though “the company’s top management...picked up a minority position in the Brooklyn-based company as part of the deal.” So, it’s possible that Klein still owns a piece of the business.

How much Amplify was counting on inBloom to keep it solvent one can only guess, but it suffered other disasters over this period as well. With great fanfare, the company produced an educational tablet to be used in schools, preloaded with various curriculum and programs that were supposed to revolutionize education.  Instead, the tablets’ screens easily cracked and their chargers overheated and melted.

Here is a sample letter to you can send to DOE, asking what data Amplify holds for your child, and how it is being protected.  Please let me know if you do, and if you get a response by emailing me at thanks!  Leonie .



To whom it may concern,

My name is [name], and I am the parent of [name] who attends [x grade] in [what school], at this address [address].

As stated on the DOE webpage concerning the agreement with Amplify, and in accordance with Ed Law 2-D, I am requesting information on whichadministrative, technical and/or physical safeguards to ensure PII will be protected” are being employed by the company for each of its products, and how Amplify will “mitigate data privacy and security risks.”

I also demand that you provide me with copies of all of the personal information that Amplify holds for my child through the use of any of its products, as is also my right under Ed Law 2-D and its regulations. According to §121.12 (e),  “Educational agencies shall comply with a request for access to records within a reasonable period, but not more than 45 calendar days after receipt of a request.”

Thank you,

Your name, address, phone no., and email.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Why Gov. Hochul's proposal to earmark state funding for tutoring is a bad idea; and Michael Duffy's post-Bloomberg career

While Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposal to raise the charter cap in NYC has received a lot of attention, little scrutiny has been given to her other education proposal: to require that districts set aside $250 million of their state Foundation Aid on tutoring programs. Neither the Assembly nor the State Senate included that proposal in their one-house budgets, which is opposed by many of the education associations and advocacy groups around the state.. 

Nevertheless, her proposal has been hailed by some in the media and the corporate reform groups as the answer to the drop in student achievement caused by the pandemic.  An article in The 74 quotes one supporter of the idea:  

Michael Duffy is the president of the GO Foundation, a New York-based organization that brings tutors into public school classrooms for one-on-one or small-group lessons. The legislature’s recent rejection of the governor’s tutoring proposal is a “missed opportunity,” he said.

“I think that those dollars would have been a really important way to help level the playing field,” Duffy said, explaining that the private market typically renders one-on-one tutoring accessible only to the well-off. 

That name rang a bell to me.  Michael Duffy was the head of the NYC DOE charter office under Bloomberg/Klein, and like his bosses, was an aggressive proponent of expanding charter schools.   

I recall one of the early charter hearings where the vast majority of parents and community members opposed a charter school's authorization.  Yet Duffy, who was running the meeting, was not taking any notes; nor was the hearing being taped, despite the fact that his office was in charge of transmitting the community's views to its potential authorizer, whether the Regents or SUNY.  I asked Duffy why he wasn't taking any notes and why the meeting wasn’t taped.  He responded that transcribing the public's comments would take too much time and money. 

Here is an excerpt from a 2010 interview with Duffy published in the publication, The LoDown, about his dismissive attitude towards public input during these charter hearings, in this case about the proposed expansion of Girls Prep charter school in District 1:

I think, for my part, in a couple of hours of comments, I didn’t hear anything new from the public that wasn’t already known prior to the start of the hearing. I know it’s important that people have a chance to speak their mind, but I don’t think there’s anything that wasn’t known to the Department prior to the proposal for the expansion of Girls Prep.

It was recently announced that this same Girls Prep charter school will close at the end of the 2023-2024 school year, due to lack of enrollment.

Duffy  left the DOE in July 2010 to join Victory, a for-profit charter management organization founded by the private equity operator Steven B. Klinsky, that started at least 16 charter schools in NYC, Philadelphia and Chicago, and had charged high fees to these charters despite low performance.  Many of these charter schools later closed.

Shortly after Duffy joined the company, Victory converted to a for-profit company called Victory Education Partners that would  “contract” with charter schools to provide services – in an apparent attempt to exploit a loophole in the NY charter law, which at that point banned new charters operated by for-profit companies.  

At about the same time, Duffy started his own chain of charter schools, called Great Oaks Charters, which now runs schools in several districts including Newark NJ, Bridgeport CT, Wilmington DE, and NYC. These schools hire recent college grads as low-cost tutors whose salaries and housing stipends are paid for through the Americorps program.  

Recently, the Great Oaks Wilmington charter school was in danger of being closed because its enrollment had fallen to 236 students from its authorized enrollment of 325 students.  In February, the NYC charter school received authorization from the Board of Regents to revise their enrollment from 573 students to 375 students - which they say reflects a delay in expanding to high school grades.

Duffy subsequently started the Go Foundation, for Great Oaks Foundation, which according to its website, aims to “recruit, train, and support a corps of young adults who are placed in partner schools where they intensively tutor students as a part of a year of service through the federal AmeriCorps program.”  The schools shown on their website   are exclusively charter schools.

The GO Foundation 2022 annual report boasts of funding from Bloomberg, the Walton Family Foundation, Steven Klinsky, and others, and says “their plan is to increase the number of Fellows deployed each year to 335 and to expand the program into new partner schools in Washington, DC beginning in fall 2023. 

In August, the GO Foundation announced they had leased a former parochial school in Greenwich Village from the Catholic Diocese to be able to expand through high school,  and will spend five million dollars in renovating the building, with financing provided by BlueHub Capital, a financing organization based in Boston. No doubt they will be charging their charter school a hefty sum for the rent, which will then turn to DOE to cover costs of that lease. Currently, they are receiving  $1.3 million per year from DOE to cover the cost of their lease in a building on Delancey Street.

Despite Duffy's praise, Hochul's  proposal that districts be mandated to use $250 million in state funds for tutoring has serious drawbacks. Many tutoring programs have shown inconclusive results, and the ones that appear to have worked at all have very specific requirements: tutoring sessions should be held more than three days a week and during the school day, which is hard for many schools to schedule.  The group to be tutored should be kept very small – less than three or four students per group.  A USC report adds the following recommendation: the tutoring should be “delivered by teachers or well-trained professional tutors rather than volunteers, peers, or parents.” 

As the USC report concludes: “Finding qualified tutors, navigating students’ schedules, reaching the volume of students who need extra time, communicating with families, even just motivating students to attend –these barriers continue to interfere with the delivery of services that we know will help students.”

Sure enough, even Michael Duffy admitted in his organization’s Annual Report that it has been challenging for his organization to recruit tutors: “ Our team struggled to enlist enough AmeriCorps Fellows to meet the rising demand from students who are eager for the individualized attention provided by our tutor/mentors.”  

Robert Lowry of the New York Council of School Superintendents explained to The 74 reporter why his organization, among others, oppose the tutoring requirement put forward by the Governor:

“It was not a well-thought-out proposal,” he said, explaining that many school leaders support tutoring and other academic recovery efforts, but fear they might face staffing challenges that could leave funds unspent if too narrowly earmarked.”