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…

Cancelled Regents Exams Present an Opportunity to Refocus on Quality and Equity

While many parents across New York State are home juggling their own remote work and making sure their kids are attending to their online instruction, there’s something those kids won’t have to do this spring: take Regents exams. These were cancelled by the NY State Education Department (SED) last week.  This is a shocking development, particularly for those of us who grew up taking the Read more…

The Coronavirus and a “New” State Legislative Process

It’s impossible to quarrel with the New York State Senate and Assembly amending their rules last month to allow remote, electronic attendance and voting at legislative sessions during the current murderous pandemic. In-person sessions certainly would have qualified in size and character as the kinds of large gatherings that have been banned to prevent the lethal spread of the coronavirus. Politics is a touchy, feely Read more…

In This Together, But…

Vice President Pence and other federal officials suggested on March 24 that it would be a good idea for people to self-quarantine for two weeks if they’ve recently left or passed through New York City. Three days later President Trump declared that he was thinking of quarantining parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Then he backed off when Cuomo, according to the New Read more…

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