Wash Your Hands

The well ran dry at my wife Claudie’s family cabin in rural Vermont this past Sunday. That meant we had no showers. No toilet. No dishwashing.  We drove to the state park in Plymouth to shower. (We paid the admission and hot water charges.) We drew water from the lake to make the toilet work. We bought paper dishes, and used drinking water to clean Read more…

We Can No Longer Pretend Schools Are Only About Schooling

By Robin Jacobowitz, Gerald Benjamin, and KT Tobin “Everything connects to everything,” Leonardo Da Vinci is said to have concluded from his life’s work. Nowhere is this lesson more evident than in K12 education this year. In the face of a pandemic, we closed our school buildings to protect the health of students and teachers, and were immediately confronted with the need to feed hungry Read more…

Ruling Paves Way for Massive Voting Rights Change to School Board Elections Across New York

On May 25 in White Plains, U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel ruled that the at-large system used for electing the nine members of the East Ramapo School Board denied the district’s Black and Latino voters effective choice in its elections, violating §2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). Under an at-large system every voter votes to fill each board position, allowing a disciplined majority to control all seats. A majority of the East Ramapo district’s voting population is Hasidic Jews. The School Board has long been dominated by members recruited and endorsed by the leaders of this religious community and elected at-large through the use of block voting.

Never Waste a Crisis

On April 11, 2020, with his school chancellor Richard Carranza standing beside him, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City’s schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year to limit the spread of coronavirus infection. Almost immediately thereafter, Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissed this announcement as “One opinion. There has been no decision on schools,” he said.  In ordinary times decisions about Read more…

Gerald Benjamin’s Message to Political Science Grads: Do Good Work

In a curious way, college professors are like major league starting pitchers. Our work is discontinuous. Over and over we start anew, each time with a chance of achieving perfection. Pitchers do this about thirty times a season. We do it six or so an academic year. As I think about it, the same goes for college students; ten starts a year, ten chances to excel.

COVID-19: Local Leaders Respond

The Benjamin Center recently asked 233 randomly selected New York State county, city, town, and village elected officials, representative of local elected leaders across the state, about how they and their communities are handling the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s what they told us. Key findings: COVID-19 has presented major challenges to all classes of localities 85 percent of local government leaders fear their community’s ability to Read more…

Why We Need to PAUSE Our School Budget Vote

On the second Tuesday in May, in ordinary times, voters across New York State (with the exception of those in the Conference of Big Five School Districts—Buffalo, Syracuse, NYC, Yonkers, Rochester) head to the polls to cast a ballot in favor of or against their local public school district budget. Also on that date, citizens vote for fellow community members to represent them on the Read more…

Grading on a Pandemic Curve

The fundamentals of school have been relatively stable over time; students board a yellow bus or walk to school each day, sit through classes with peers and teachers, participate in any number of extracurricular activities, and take the bus or walk home. But school is looking pretty different these days; distance learning, virtual proms, meals delivered to students. And another important school institution—the way students’ Read more…

Carol Roper, Community and Democracy

My friend Carol Roper died last week. She was 86. There’s a lot of death around these days. My generation is passing, and at an accelerated pace with the coronavirus taking its grim daily toll. I’ve known Carol for over 50 years; her death hit me particularly hard. Yet strangely, as I write this, I find that I do not know enough about many important Read more…

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