News Briefs Thursday, March 15, 2012

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NYC Councilwoman Letitia James
DOE surveys students, parents and teachers
The city’s Department of Education (DOE) announced the agency’s sixth annual New York City School Survey of public school students, parents, and teachers.

The survey captures a more complete picture of each school’s learning environment by quantifying community feedback on academic expectations, communication, engagement and safety.
“We place a lot of value on the feedback from school communities, so I encourage all of our parents, teachers and students to make their voices heard and fill out the survey by April 5th,” said Chancellor Walcott.

Parents of students in all grades have begun to receive surveys in bright green envelopes via their children’s backpacks or at school events. Parents can also complete their surveys online or by mail. Students in grades 6 through 12 will receive and complete their surveys in school while teachers will complete their surveys online.

Participants may also take the survey online at www.nycschoolsurvey.org.
Surveys must be completed and returned by April 5th.
Survey results will be published at the end of the school year, and represent 10 to 15 percent of each schools’ Progress Report grade.

Council passes bill to monitor private contracts
The City Council this week passed a bill requiring all city agencies to report cost overruns on large private contacts.
“In the last five years, contract costs have increased at nearly twice the rate of overall budget spending, reaching over ten billion in spent public funds,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James, who introduced the bill.

“The vast majority of these expenditures go towards personnel and professional service contracts, and there has been considerable evidence that some of these contracts are poorly managed and lack needed oversight,” she added.

Specifically, the bill would require the mayor to notify the City Council at two points in time— when there is an initial request for a cost increase and when additional contract extensions or modifications that result in a 10% cost increase above the revised contract value.
The bill follows several instances where private contracts were let out by the Bloomberg Administration that resulted in millions of dollars in overrun costs.

Crime up in Bed-Stuy
Felony crime is up dramatically for the year in the two police precincts covering Bedford-Stuyvesant, according NYPD statistics.
In the 79th Precinct, felony crime is up more than 32 percent as compared to this time last year. This includes reported robbery, which is up nearly 44 percent with 82 incidents as compared to 57 at this time in 2011.

Felony assault is up nearly 45 percent with 84 reported incidents so far in 2012 as compared to 58 at this time last year.
Also up measurably is grand larceny and auto theft.
In the 81st Precinct, overall felony crime is up a little more than 20 percent. The biggest percentage rise was in murder.

Thus far this year there have been five murders as compared to one at this time last year.
Robbery, burglary and grand larceny is also up measurably, while there has been decreases in felony assault and auto theft.

Black youths face harsher school discipline
Black students, especially boys, in New York City have been disciplined more harshly than other students, according to new data from the federal Department of Education.

The Civil Rights Data Collection, a national survey of 7,000 school districts taken during the 2009-10 school year, found that minority students were disproportionally punished in school, and were less likely to be exposed to high-level curriculums and experienced teachers.

The information included 1,530 New York City schools, ranging from elementary to high school grades, but did not cover charter schools.

Black students make up about 30 percent of those enrolled in city public schools, but they accounted for roughly half of all in-school suspensions, which are given for lesser offenses like cursing or horseplay. Additionally, they receive more than half of all out-of-school suspensions.

The federal data also showed that New York City black and Hispanic students were underrepresented in gifted and talented classes, middle school Algebra I classes and calculus courses.

“Education is the civil rights of our generation,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told reporters in a telephone briefing. “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.”

The department began gathering data on civil rights and education in 1968, but the project was suspended by the Bush Administration in 2006. It has been reinstated and expanded to examine a broader range of information including, for the first time, referrals to law enforcement, an area of increasing concern to civil rights advocates who see the emergence of a school-to-prison pipeline for a growing number of students of color.

Property assessment challenge deadline
Homeowners who believe their property assessment and resulting property tax bill is incorrect must file a challenge with the city Tax Commission prior to the rapidly-approaching deadline of 5 p.m., Monday, March 19.

The deadline applies to most residential properties of three units or less and most condominiums in buildings of three or fewer floors.

In addition to challenging assessments, there are also a number of abatements and exemptions available to many New York City residential property owners.

For example, exemptions are available for a property owned by clergy members, disabled homeowners, and crime victims or good Samaritans who suffered a disability.

The city Tax Commission must receive all property tax assessment challenges by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 19.
For details on the available exemptions or the process to challenge assessments, call City Councilman David Greenfield’s district office at (718) 853-2704 or visit the city Tax Commission’s website at www.nyc.gov/html/taxcomm.

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