Editorial roundup: New York

Editorial: NY Board of Regents attacks educational standards again

In its latest education standards strike, the State Board of Regents this week set the bar for passing the once-prestigious Regents exams at just 50% for another year. The excuse is that these kids haven’t gotten the education they should have gotten during COVID – but the impact is to make a Regents high school diploma less meaningful.

It’s no coincidence that this will lessen parents’ fury over lost learning as schools close during COVID.

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We strongly suspect this is why the state Department of Education, which responds to the regents, is keeping the full state exam results from last year’s grades 3 through 8 secret: in previous years, school-level results were now publicly available, but the SED has ordered that the data be kept secret with no specific timeline for when parents can learn the truth.

As the Empire Center’s Ian Kingsbury notes, the news is likely to be grim as national exams show massive learning loss from COVID. Still, New Yorkers must “be armed with a full picture of the current state of education in the Empire State” before casting their ballots in November.

Notably, the results of the 2019 regents exams helped justify the regents’ vote to crack down on yeshivas that don’t try to teach basic English and math skills, but collect the money anyway. taxpayers.

The missing information may well suggest that many mainstream public schools that claim to teach are nonetheless failing children just as badly. The dossier suggests that the Regents and the SED want to hide this grim news.

As we noted earlier, the Regents turned against the Standards after Carl Heastie became the Speaker of the Assembly and appointed a majority to the Board. And he won the presidency after winning the endorsement of the state’s teachers’ union – which doesn’t want parents getting bad news about their children’s achievements.

The same union (and its powerful NYC Local) is all for Governor Kathy Hochul to win on Election Day. That should be reason enough for every New York parent to vote for Lee Zeldin instead.

Jamestown Post-Journal. September 10, 2022.

Editorial: The Rushdie Case and Other Similar Cases Should Prompt Changes in State Discovery Laws

There was no doubt that the New York pre-trial discovery rules were due to change in 2019.

New York once had some of the most restrictive discovery rules in the country, with prosecutors allowed to withhold information until days before a trial began. According to the Marshall Project, these “blindfold laws” unfairly disadvantage defendants by forcing them to either accept a plea bargain or prepare for trial without knowing all the evidence against them.

But, the 20-day discovery window may have been an overcorrection. Prosecutors argued they did not have enough staff to meet the shorter deadline to release evidence to the defence. They rightly noted that the increase in state funding to district attorneys’ offices as a result of the 2019 bail reform legislation pales in comparison to state funding of programs. Indigent Defense and other funds paid to public defense offices throughout the state.

That old news became new again this week, when the 20-day discovery window made headlines in the criminal case against the man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie. County District Attorney Jason Schmidt asked for more time to go through the 30,000 records or pieces of evidence in the case to prepare them for the defense. It’s hard to imagine how, with one of the highest workloads in the state already, Schmidt’s team will meet the deadline. A decision on Schmidt’s request from Judge David Foley is expected this week.

Meeting the 20-day discovery standard should be manageable in most cases. After all, many cases are plea bargained and in other cases there is not much evidence to hand over. But already-busy police departments and district attorneys find themselves in an impossible position in a case like this — muster all your resources to abide by state discovery rules to avoid a potential mistrial in detriment of possible neglect of public safety.

In our view, a simple legislative solution should be considered for cases involving thousands of pieces of evidence setting a timeline for gathering evidence and a trial date within a prescribed time frame from the final disclosure of evidence. The scales of justice must be the same for the victims and the accused of a crime. Adhering to the state’s 20-day discovery rule in cases like the one involving Rushdie’s alleged attacker, in our view, tips the scales of justice too much in one direction.

Citizen of Auburn. September 8, 2022.

Editorial: Our View: Don’t Let Overtime on the Farm Kill New York Farms

As New York State moves closer to changing the pay scale for agricultural workers, great care must be taken to ensure the effort doesn’t completely backfire.

The latest proposal on the table is that overtime will come into effect for workers at lower hours over a 10-year period, with the 60-hour overtime threshold rising today to 56 hours in 2024 and finally reaching 40 hours in 2032.

Proponents say the change is long overdue and that farmworkers have historically and unfairly been exploited.

Some farmers say they simply won’t be able to compete with outside competition and predict a wave of closures and relocations.

We support a pay rise, in principle, because something has to change, and phasing it in was a big part of the compromise that was tentatively worked out. But rather than writing the new pay policy in stone, we believe any changes should remain flexible so that corrections can be made along the way.

Agriculture advocates say even the 60-hour threshold caused some operators to reduce the hours they were offering workers, and the importance to the long-term health of the agriculture industry in Cayuga County and across the state should never be taken for granted.

As the limit of hours to achieve overtime is lowered, there should also be a mechanism where this rule is reviewed every year or two in case the most dire predictions of closing or leaving farms would occur.

The state, in partnership with the agriculture industry, should continue to work for pay scale equity on farms without locking itself into a system that could unwittingly destroy the industry as we know it. A long-term plan to lower the overtime threshold should be built with a pause button that can be used in an emergency.

Albany Times Union. September 15, 2022.

Editorial: A terrible deal for taxpayers

Why did the state pay so much for coronavirus testing from a major donor to Governor Kathy Hochul?

Fact #1: Digital Gadgets chief Charlie Tebele and his family members have donated nearly $300,000 to Governor Kathy Hochul’s campaign.

Fact #2: The Hochul administration signed two purchase orders to purchase $637 million worth of at-home coronavirus tests from Digital Gadgets, even though the distribution company’s price per test was significantly higher than charged by competitors.

What do you think of these two facts? Well, if the Hochul administration is to be believed, one has nothing to do with the other. The purchase, he says, was not influenced by campaign contributions.

“I didn’t know it was a company that backed me,” the governor, a Democrat, said in a July meeting with reporters. “I don’t keep any record of it. My team, they have no idea.

This is of course what politicians almost always say. But there are reasons to be skeptical of this claim – or to find it downright laughable.

As Times Union investigative reporter Chris Bragg reported, the state paid as much or more than consumers would pay at a retail store for testing Digital Gadgets, despite buying 52 million devices. ‘between them. What happened to getting a deal when you buy in bulk?

The administration justifies the purchase by saying Digital Gadgets, a New Jersey-based wholesaler of hoverboards and other electronics, was able to provide the tests when they were otherwise in short supply.

Yet, as Bill Hammond of the Empire Center for Public Policy wrote, the administration continued to pay for significant amounts of testing from Digital Gadgets after the omicron wave subsided, and with it the demand for testing. Meanwhile, the state didn’t try to stop orders before paying the full $637 million, even though it probably had the capacity to do so, and ended up buying more tests than needed. .

As we have said before in advocating for campaign finance reform, we believe that political contributions influence public policy decisions. If not, why would companies continue to be so generous? Are we to believe that Mr. Tebele and his family don’t have better uses for nearly $300,000?

But even if we accept Ms. Hochul’s claim, there is cause for concern about the state’s deal with Digital Gadgets. The company’s higher price for tests — at $12.25 per test, more than double what some other companies were charging — cost New York taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Cort Ruddy, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, declined to say whether the agency had negotiated with Digital Gadgets over the price.

The apparent waste is obscene, and it might have been avoided had Ms Hochul not issued an emergency disaster order last November suspending the normal bidding process, which includes oversight from the state comptroller’s office. The order gave his administration unchecked authority over the purchase of COVID-19 supplies.

In the same month of the order, Mr. Tebele and his wife together donated $50,000 to the Hochul campaign. In the months that followed, through May, they donated almost $90,000 more, maximizing what they could legally donate, and an array of other Tebele family members also donated large sums to Mrs. Hochul.

A coincidence? It would be naive at best to think so.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About Anne Wurtsbach

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