YAFFED 3/25/19: Announces that the NY Times Calls for Oversight of Yeshivas

Hi there,

We’ve got big news: the New York Times is firmly behind students and Yaffed’s fight for yeshiva reform, recently editorializing in favor of the new state guidelines:

“For decades, the communities have largely been allowed to evade government oversight, thanks to politicians who have enjoyed their support as one of the state’s most powerful voting blocs. The price of that support has been largely paid by Orthodox children.”

But as the Times points out, the fight isn’t over.

Unfortunately, there are signs that all of these important efforts could be at risk. A group of private schools that included prominent members like the Brearley School on the Upper East Side sued the state’s Education Department this week, saying those rules infringe on their independence and ability to set their own curricula. Their concerns have no merit because the state’s guidelines would not interfere in any way with the high quality education offered in those schools.

Even more concerning is a push from lobbyists representing ultra-Orthodox and Catholic schools to include language in the state budget that could let them elude scrutiny from the State Education Department.

Sadly, we’re not surprised. The state’s previous decades of neglect have given Yeshivas free-reign to run roughshod over students. And they’re not backing down; maligning Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, unleashing lawsuits, and proposing legislation to further eschew regulation. As the Times points out, if they’re successful,

This would sell out yeshiva students — and those at other schools — who deserve the protections the state is supposed to provide.

Fortunately the Commissioner is determined to deliver for students by enforcing the guidelines. We’ll be watching the litigation closely and staying on top of efforts to manipulate state law, but we can’t do it alone.

Tell NYSAIS, the group that sued on behalf of elite private schools, to stop covering for failing Yeshivas.

Tell your elected official in the assembly and in the senate to oppose efforts to give Yeshivas and other non-public schools a pass, and to stand firmly behind the commissioner in her efforts to ensure that all children receive a basic education.

A4J Challenges Closing of Beth Israel Hospital in Downtown NYC

A4J commenced a lawsuit on behalf of the Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan and two residents of downtown Manhattan challenging the closing of units of Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital (“Beth Israel”).   The proceeding is brought pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) and Article 78 of the CPLR (alleging violations of the Certificate of Need process) to compel the N.Y. State Department of Health to reverse its decision to approve the partial closure of Beth Israel, to require the commencement of appropriate review under SEQRA and the N.Y. State Public Health Law, to enjoin Beth Israel from engaging in further action to close its hospital, and to compel the reopening of those portions of Beth Israel which have been closed.

Mount Sinai Medical Center merged with Continuum Health Partners in September of 2013, creating a large hospital network stretching across Manhattan. Through the merger, Beth Israel Medical Center (located at First Avenue and 16th Street in Lower Manhattan), Roosevelt Hospital on West 59th Street, St. Luke’s Hospital in Morningside Heights and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in the East Village all joined the Mount Sinai Health System. Mount Sinai officials touted the merger as having the potential to improve quality of care, but unions representing the hospital workers immediately voiced concerns about downsizing, closing or relocation of some services within the sprawling network.

Less than three years later, in May of 2016, the Mount Sinai system announced plans to close the 800-bed Mount Sinai Beth Israel (“MSBI”) Medical Center. Officials said the facility would be replaced with a new 70-bed Mount Sinai Downtown Beth Israel Hospital and emergency room and with a network of outpatient centers and doctors’ offices.  Mount Sinai officials insist that the new 70-bed hospital will be sufficient to serve the needs of Lower Manhattan residents. However, community residents and public officials representing them have voiced concerns. “The downsizing of Beth Israel hospital to a 70-bed medical/surgical center may be inadequate and will cause significant harm to health care services in Lower Manhattan,” the Village Independent Democrats stated in a resolution adopted in December 2017.

In the last decade, Lower Manhattan has witnessed a significant decrease in medical services, specifically hospital beds, specialty clinics and emergency centers attached to full service hospital. Residents had already been affected by the sudden closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2010. Needs assessments performed after that closure demonstrated that residents of Lower Manhattan were relying on Beth Israel for a significant portion of their care. In fact, Beth Israel’s inpatient admissions increased 16 percent after the closure of St. Vincent’s and its emergency room visits increased 12 percent, with Beth Israel absorbing over half of St. Vincent’s emergency room patients.

In addressing the Department of Health’s Certificate of Need (CON) review requirements, Mount Sinai officials have packaged the closing of hospital services at the existing Beth Israel facility into multiple narrowly-framed applications that have been deemed to meet the current CON qualifications for what is called “limited review” by DOH staff. This is instead of “full review,” which would be conducted at public meetings.  Mount Sinai has filed, received approval for and completed six separate limited review applications to decertify or close services at Beth Israel or to add services at its satellite locations.

See the plaintiffs’ Verified Amended Petition and Memorandum of Law below.

1st Amended verified petition-c

Memo of Law in Support of Amended Petition

WSHU 3/11/19: 9/11 Victims’ Fund Needs Permanent Funding

9/11 Victim Fund Needs Permanent Authorization, Say New York Lawmakers

Mar 11, 2019

A bipartisan group of congressional representatives from New York called for permanent funding of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was set up to help World Trade Center first responders and survivors seeking money for healthcare. A recent report says the program will soon be out of money.

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin of New York was one of the members who urged Congress to pass the Never Forget the Heroes Act.

“This is unacceptable. Regardless of party affiliation, regardless of which district or state you come from, it is imperative that this legislation is passed and sent to the president immediately to become law so we can ensure these victims deserve the compensation they deserve.”

Daily News 3/3/19: Jon Stewart Stands by Praise for Trump’s Handling of 9/11 Refunding

Jon Stewart sticks by praise for Trump administration’s Management of 9/11 Fund

Jon Stewart sticks by praise for Trump administration's handling of 9/11 fund
Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, with New York Sens. Chuck Schumer (far left) and Kirsten Gillibrand (left) in Washington on Feb. 25. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Jon Stewart, no fan of President Trump, on Sunday stuck by his praise for the Trump administration’s handling of the cash-strapped program that aids ill and dying 9/11 responders.

“The Trump Justice Department is doing a good job running the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund,” Stewart told the Daily News.

Read  more..

Power of Ten 3/4/19: Update on East Ramapo Monitor and Candidates

See below the March 4/19 Power of Ten Report on East Ramapo:

Power of Ten Update
In This Issue:
1. Call for Candidates
2. Monitoring the Monitors

1) Call for Candidates – March 14 Forum.

The school board and budget vote will take place on May 21. Strong East Ramapo will be working hard to get the vote out to pass the budget. Power of Ten will work to identify and assist candidates for the school board positions.

There are certainly many people in East Ramapo who are qualified to serve on the board.

The Center for Public Education says an effective school board member should:

    • inspire parents and other stakeholders to have confidence in the local public schools
    • enhance the mix of skills and backgrounds on the board and help represent the diversity of the community
    • have the commitment to do what is right for all children, even in the face of opposition

Does this sound like someone you know? Or maybe you might be interested yourself?

Those interested in being a candidate should fill in this google form.

We will hold a forum at 7:00 PM on Thursday, March 14 at the MLK Center, 110 Bethune Blvd in Spring Valley for the public to hear from all those who are interested in being candidates.

2) Monitoring the Monitors

We as a community expect a lot from our schools. A job this big requires a plan, and East Ramapo has a plan.

East Ramapo also has a monitor, because the school board has had its own agenda which was not the official plan. The monitors produce reports about the district. The latest report is titled “Continuing Progress“.

Any plan should have goals, and those goals should be measurable. The monitors report describes a plan with four “pillars”. Each pillar has multiple bullet points. The report does not include a checklist as to how well each item has been implemented. Some we already know – for example, full day kindergarten exists. But for the rest there is no “report” in the report. Has the curriculum been “aligned”? Are instructional practices culturally responsive? How many students are and are not participating in the integrated arts?

The report does include a number of accomplishments which have benefited the students over the past three years. These include enhanced services for English language learners, restoration of some special education programs, repairs and improvements to buildings and grounds and restoration of the fund balance. These are areas in which the district had been in violation and has now made improvements to comply with laws and regulations.

While there is no doubt that added and improved programs are improving the lived experiences of the students, there’s still a need for objective measurements of academic achievement to ensure accountability of the district to the community. The monitors note that it’s difficult to assess progress over time due to changes in assessment methods, tests, and graduation requirements. Power of Ten has produced a short video reviewing the assessment measures which goes beyond the methods used by the monitors.

The monitors also reviewed “restorations” of positions which had been eliminated in past years. It is encouraging to know that there has been some increase in essential staff. According to the report, 185.5 out of 506.5 positions that were cut have been restored. There is some fuzzy math, as Music and Art positions are not listed in the cuts, but are counted as restored. The restorations are made possible by increases in state aid. As reported by Power of Ten, state aid increased by $14 million from 2014-2016.

There continues to be inadequate attention by the district and the monitors to the three most vulnerable groups of children. Students with interrupted formal education need wraparound services. There continues to be racial disparity in Pre-Kindergarten enrollment. The biggest non-public schools in the district continue to provide appallingly substandard education. There is no mention in the monitors report of the new state guidelines for non-public schools, how they will be implemented or paid for.

The final section of the report is mildly labelled “concerns”. These include failed budgets, impending financial collapse and massive cuts to essential programs. The monitors plan to address this catastrophe is for the Board and the Superintendent to “reach out to the community to explain how strong public schools can benefit everyone in the community.” This report is titled “Continuing Progress”, but the takeaway for those who read carefully is “Impending Catastrophe”.

There is no mention of the State of New York’s constitutional responsibility to the children. The monitor is the official representative of the State, which is the body that has a legal responsibility. The school board and superintendent’s responsibilities are derivative; their authority and responsibility are delegated to them from the state. Given that the current arrangement is providing so little protection for this vital community resource, it is absolutely necessary for our representatives in Albany to do something NOW, before the next budget fails and the “concerns” of the monitor become reality.

NY Times 2/28/19: With VCF Payments Slashed New Push to Refund

With Ground Zero Payments Slashed, a Push to Replenish a 9/11 Fund

Jon Stewart Asks Congress to Extend a 9/11 Fund

Mr. Stewart, the comedian and former talk show host, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, held a news conference Monday to call for a fund to be extended for the lifetime of those who were at ground zero.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

It has been more than 17 years since the World Trade Center collapsed in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, and since 2011, a rededicated fund has compensated emergency personnel and others who responded to the scene and have since gotten sick, as well as the families of the deceased.

But with medical claims on the rise, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is running out of money: Already, more than $5 billion of the $7.375 billion it was allotted in 2015 to give away over five years has been spent.

The fund’s special master announced in mid-February that it would be necessary to slash in half the payouts for those already waiting in line; new claimants could see payments cut by as much as 70 percent.

The severe reductions have sparked a renewed push in Congress to press for more money to replenish the depleted fund — resurrecting fears of another protracted battle with Senate Republicans, who nearly quashed the fund in 2011.

Read more..

NY Times 2/28/19: Give 9/11 Survivors the Funding They Deserve

Give Sept. 11 Survivors the Help They Deserve

A fund to aid the thousands sickened from the toxic dust of the World Trade Center attack is running out of money.


The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

CreditCreditFred R. Conrad for The New York Times

After terrorists brought down the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Terence Opiola, then an agent with the United States Customs Service, worked amid the debris for months, recovering body parts and other evidence to help identify victims.

In 2015, like many who had been at the site, he was told he had leukemia linked to his work there. Two years later, his illness forced him to retire at the age of 49 and he applied for benefits through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, created to help sick Sept. 11 emergency workers, civilian survivors and their families. Recently he learned that he and others might get only a small fraction of what was promised when the federal government set up the fund.

Read more..