Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis Sept. 6 announced her plan to improve the city schools, but one education expert called her agenda “a disconnected collection of political views.”
She began the press conference, which took place outside of Tweed Courthouse, by listing the education initiatives and policies she has supported as a State Assemblywoman, including universal Pre-K, lifting charter caps and legislation that requires schools to test for lead in their water supply.
Cites Mayor’s Failures
Her focus quickly shifted to a criticism of the state of education under the de Blasio administration. “When we look at the future of education in New York City, it’s very important to point to the dismal fact that 62 percent of students in grades 3-8 are failing math,” she said. “Eighty percent of our students who graduate high school and go on to college are required to take remedial math, reading and writing. But the Mayor is claiming this is a victory for our students.”
Ms. Malliotakis cited problems with the Department of Education’s contracts with outside vendors, as well as the high price of school construction, including the conversion of a Bay Ridge store into a small pre-K that cost $6.5 million and a building expansion in Queens that nearly doubled its budget at almost $100 million.
“We still have children being taught in trailers in the city. That money could be used to give these kids a classroom,” she said.
She also pointed to renewal schools, which have not delivered the positive results the Mayor promised while receiving $800 million in funding over the past three years.
‘Special Patrolmen’ Plan
Ms. Malliotakis said she would propose that retired cops be deployed as armed “special patrolmen” standing guard outside of schools to heighten safety, and that there should be a three-year review of mayoral control over schools to ensure accountability.
“I know that’s surprising coming from a mayoral candidate,” she said.
Gregory Floyd, President of Teamsters Local 237, which represents School Safety Agents, raised several concerns about the plan, including the idea of the employees being armed. “You’re going to put patrolmen outside of more than 1,000 schools. How much is that going to cost?”
He also said he wondered if she’d consulted with anyone who deals with protecting schools on a daily basis.
And some education experts said that her plan comes up short.
“I don’t think this is a platform to improve education. I think it’s a disconnected collection of political views,” said Eric Nadelstern, Professor of Educational Leadership at Columbia University’s Teachers College and a Deputy Schools Chancellor under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
He pointed out that though Ms. Malliotakis’s concern about contracts is “laudable,” even if the DOE cut wasteful spending, “it doesn’t mean that money is going back into the classroom.”
‘A Lot Missing’
“There’s a lot that’s missing from her education agenda,” Mr. Nadelstern said, citing examples he believed were important. “Does she believe in Common Core? Has she thought about how to attract better Teachers and Principals? What does she think about tenure and standardized testing?”
Judith Kafka, Associate Professor of Educational Policy at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs, agreed.
“There’s nothing in her plan about segregation in schools, which is one of the main things Mayor de Blasio has been criticized for,” she said. “She supports lifting the charter cap but she doesn’t have a vision around school choice like Bloomberg did.”
Ms. Kafka also mentioned that though Assemblywoman Malliotakis criticized renewal schools, she didn’t say what she would do with them.
“This is a critique of the de Blasio administration in areas that are known controversies. But she doesn’t really offer solutions,” Ms. Kafka said.