New York

Rivals Moskowitz and Weingarten will debate this week on NY1

Eva Moskowitz and Randi Weingarten will debate this week on NY1. GothamSchools
Eva Moskowitz and Randi Weingarten will debate this week on NY1’s evening news talk show. (GothamSchoolsFlickr.)

Two education leaders who have been dueling via press releases, bristling statements to reporters, and dueling events in Harlem will come face-to-face this week, in a debate broadcast on NY1, the local TV news channel, spokespeople for both leaders have confirmed. The debate is scheduled for this Thursday night.

Randi Weingarten, the leader of the politically powerful teachers union, is preparing to debate Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member-turned-charter school operator, on Dominic Carter’s evening talk show, “The Road to City Hall.”

The teachers union spokesman, Brian Gibbons, said that NY1 contacted Weingarten and asked her to appear on the show with Moskowitz. Weingarten said yes.

The crux of the disagreement between the women is Moskowitz’s contention that the teachers union prevents progress in educating children by opposing innovations like charter schools. The union has opposed the growth of charter schools and filed a lawsuit recently meant to block charter schools from replacing traditional public schools. Members of Weingarten’s union say that these efforts are necessary to counter people like Moskowitz, who they say alienate and vilify teachers and seek to bust unions. They also criticize charter schools as divisive because they sometimes have lower portions of needy students, such as those who receive special education students and those who haven’t yet mastered English.

Most recently, the union moved against Moskowitz by throwing a parade in Harlem on Saturday meant to showcase all schools there — not just charter schools. Moskowitz has organized several of her own events in Harlem promoting charter schools and urging political leaders to expand their number.

A vice president of the teachers union, Carmen Alvarez, said Saturday at a panel on school governance that I moderated that the parade was meant to counter negative statements about traditional public schools in Harlem. Governor David Paterson was among those who marched in the parade.

The beef began with Moskowitz’s career as chair of the City Council’s education committee, where she took on everything from the Bloomberg administration’s claims about rising test scores to the role that union-negotiated contracts play in constricting school leaders. When Moskowitz lost her battle to Scott Stringer to become the borough president of Manhattan, she said that the election outcome was a result of union’s vociferous campaign against her.

Weingarten reprised the rivalry recently by filing a lawsuit against the Department of Education over its decision to replace traditional public schools with charter schools, including one run by Moskowitz. Charter schools are publicly funded but operate outside the traditional district framework, so their teachers and staff are often not represented by unions. The lawsuit prompted the city to reverse course and keep the district-run school open.

Then, at a recent City Council hearing on charter schools, Moskowitz declared that a “union-political complex” is holding back the city’s progress on education. Moskowitz’s accusation gained steam as we reported that the union that day had handed out scripted questions to Council members. Weingarten shot back, accusing Moskowitz of hypocrisy, and then Moskowitz shot back, demanding an apology.

UPDATE: The original version of this post did not include a statement from Moskowitz’s spokeswoman, who had not then returned my requests for comment.

UPDATE 2: I confirmed that the debate is scheduled for this Thursday night.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.