New York City

Treyger’s take on school aid, the charter cap and the SHSAT

New York City Council member Mark Treyger talked to City & State about the first year under a new public schools chancellor, his thoughts on the city and state budgets, and why he isn’t tackling the specialized high school admission test.

New York City Council member Mark Treyger.

New York City Council member Mark Treyger. New York City Council/Flickr

When Mark Treyger was first elected to the New York City Council in November 2013, his history students at New Utrecht High School were hopeful that he’d quit and they’d be able coast through the end of the semester. But Treyger kept on teaching until the end of the semester, just weeks before he started at City Hall.

Now, after eight years as a teacher and union delegate, and two decades attending New York City public schools from pre-K through graduate school, Treyger chairs the City Council’s Education Committee, overseeing the largest portion of the city budget. Treyger talked to City & State about the first year under a new public schools chancellor, his thoughts on the city and state budgets, and why he isn’t tackling the specialized high school admission test.

Richard Carranza has been New York City schools chancellor for a year now. What changes have you seen?

He instituted some significant structural changes over at Tweed (Courthouse, the Department of Education headquarters) as far as leadership is concerned. He reduced the number of deputy chancellors. He created the positions of executive superintendents to oversee community school districts. The rationale behind it was to create a clearer sense of accountability and a clearer chain of command in the system. And I think in some respects, that might be working. I meet with the chancellor on a quarterly basis, and to his credit, he’s been accessible to me when I raise concerns and issues.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is saying there isn’t enough transparency in local school funding. Is he just looking for a reason to not give the full funding?

He makes these charges that “the state spends a lot of money on education, but where’s the money going?” At the same time, New York state under his watch has mandated that the city of New York pick up increasing costs for charter school space. He has passed certain unfunded mandates down to the city, which will eat up a lot of education costs. There is fat to be cut from the DOE budget at times. There is an overreliance on certain consultants and other things. So I have been trying to get commitments from the city that, as we’re fighting for more money for the city school system, we need to make a commitment that the money reaches school budgets. So if there’s an increase to (Fair Student Funding), it goes directly to schools. You bypass the bureaucracy of Tweed.

When the governor makes the claim that we’re not transparent, or we don’t account for the needs of poor children, respectfully I point to the school allocation memo, which shows the breakdown of the school budgets. But there’s no question we need to do a better job of meeting the needs of our children.

How do you feel about New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget, which mandated some education cuts?

I am not happy that there was a cut – actually, a complete wipeout – of all the funds that we just put in place in the past year for social workers to meet the needs of students in temporary housing. There are over 100,000 students in temporary housing, over 30,000 students who are in shelters, a significant number of children who are forced to double up in homes. This is a student population we see falling behind, chronically absent. And there’s no follow-up. You need dedicated, licensed personnel to meet their needs. And we fought very hard to set an increase last year of 20 additional bridging-the-gap social workers to get the number over 70 when we need actually over 150 in my opinion, even more. And (de Blasio) took all that money out in this preliminary budget! Here we go again, this classic budget dance, which to me is outrageous. Because you cannot play politics with students – and especially our most vulnerable students. They need help and support! Their families need guidance from people that know what they’re doing. There’s a reason why many of these kids fall through the cracks.We don’t supply licensed and credentialed personnel to meet them and support them and get them the help that they need. Right now, it’s a disconnected system. The fact that he took that out really upsets me.

He did say, at the same time, that they found some areas of waste in the DOE budget to the tune of $23 million in consulting contracts. OK! I think there’s room for that to be cut. But don’t play with our kids. They need social workers. They need more guidance counselors. That’s what our school communities are asking for.

New York City is about to hit the state-mandated cap for operating charter schools. Should more charter schools be allowed to open?

No. It cannot just be a simple conversation or debate about what the number should be. The question should be what impact have (charter schools) had. We still have great disparities and inequity in our school system. Is this the conversation we need to have at the eleventh hour of every budget deal in Albany? I am not in favor of raising the cap. I am in favor of getting every school 100 percent of what they’re entitled to.

The mayor unveiled a plan last summer to get rid of the Specialized High School Admissions Test – the entrance exam for the city’s elite high schools – but things have been quiet since then. Would the City Council do anything here?

I was very disappointed in how the mayor rolled this out. Not one person from DOE or the mayor’s office met with me to say, “Councilman Treyger, we need to work on the specialized high school issue.” This was all thrown out at the eleventh hour right before Albany session ended in June and I learned that a number of critical stakeholders were not consulted or given a heads-up. The DOE has its own diversity advisory group. They were not consulted!

There is probably more agreement that we have a problem with how specialized high schools are currently structured. But there’s not agreement on how to best support it and deal with it. One test does not fully capture the abilities of a student. At the same time, abolishing one test is not going to be the game-changer that some folks are talking about. I think if they’re very serious with dealing with the foundational issues here, then we need to start at the elementary school level and work our way up.

I am the proud product of a nonspecialized high school, Edward R. Murrow. I taught at New Utrecht. I take issues with politicians who say that these eight schools are the best of the best. I will challenge that and say our kids are great. They just deserve better. And if we provide them with the resources and opportunities to excel, they will excel.

So are you making any moves, or is this up to the mayor?

The state would be required to make the change. In my conversations so far with state counterparts, they have a lot of pressing priorities, and they’re not sure where this falls in line. They were also somewhat surprised and disappointed that there was not greater collaboration and discussion last year, and that has created division and divisiveness in this conversation. So quite frankly, the state has to act if there are to be changes.

NEXT STORY: Lyft’s New York problem

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.