What Matters for District 29

Education

2 Full Time College Access Counselors for every high school in NYC

A college education remains one of the few pathways to entering the middle class. The days are long gone when a high school education will get you a stable union job that can afford to raise a family or afford a mortgage. Automation and technical degrees are setting a new standard around the global community. Students are no longer competing with the best and brightest in this country, but with the best and brightest around the world. A college degree is not the ceiling in the workforce but the floor.

We must ensure that the next generation isn’t simply applying to college but graduating from college. To that end, I support the hiring of two full time College Access Counselors for every high school in the city that does not have them. These full-time counselors will ensure that the next graduating class has the attention they need in vital areas like:

  • Visiting college campuses & speaking with professors
  • Choosing a major in a highly sought-after field
  • Constructing a manageable course-load in their field of study
  • State & Federal tuition assistance requirements
  • Filling out FAFSA forms
  • The dangers of student loan debt

Queensborough Community College arial - Eliseo Labayen for New York City Council

According to the Center for an Urban Future, at CUNY nearly half of community college students are the first in their family to enroll in college. There is no frame of reference for these students. More often than not, university bureaucracies and non-tuition related costs end up pushing far too many students to attend part time, lose financial assistance, and ultimately drop out with little means of paying off their student loans.

College Access Counselors are our front line in the fight for college accessibility. We must stand behind them so that the next generation is equipped with the knowledge to confidently choose a university, a major, and a future career.

Lead checks in every school in the district

Lead testing in every NYC school In the summer of 2019, an investigation by WNYC and Gothamist led to the eventual discovery that dozens of schools across Queens tested positive for dangerously high levels of lead exposure. Many of these schools were one neighborhood away in places like Flushing and Corona. Children were being put at risk for anemia, damage to the nervous system, and brain damage.

My proposal is straightforward. I want to be absolutely sure that every school in the district has been thoroughly checked again to ensure the health and safety of our children. Independent experts need to be hired to see this done. With schools’ empty for the foreseeable future now is the time to act to provide for a safe learning environment upon their return. COVID-19 is enough to worry about, the threat of lead poisoning in 2021 is unacceptable.

Diversity 28

I do not support the Diversity 28 plan put forth by Mayor De Blasio and the Department of Education. Their plan will not achieve the long-term integration and diversity that they claim to seek in our schools. Forcing the children of Forest Hills, Rego Park, or Kew Gardens to attend school in Jamaica and vice versa will not foster good-will among parents, promote integration among communities, or improve on the level of education provided at underperforming schools. The current administration and their hired consultants have completely missed the mark in this case.

The key to long term integration and diversity is affordable and accessible housing. Every parent should have the choice of sending their child to a specific school by having the opportunity to live in that neighborhood as well. The key to providing a quality education in lower income neighborhoods is by investing in every school with quality educators and resources. Shuffling students from one community to another will not improve the level of education being provided. If elected, I pledge to stand with the families of our communities against Diversity 28.

Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt affects every age group, every race, and every economic background in this country. This onerous debt has no statutes of limitations and very limited bankruptcy protections. A borrower’s wages, tax returns, social security, and disability income can all be garnished without a court order. If found in default of your loan, penalties, fees, and interest can double or triple the original amount owed with no federal protections.

I want to partner City Hall with Albany to tackle this universal problem together. I support Albany in its pursuit to license federal loan servicers under state consumer law. I support working with Albany to create a state ombudsman office funded by licensing fees imposed on these federal debt collection companies. I also support limiting public aid to for-profit colleges found to engage in predatory student loan practices.

Federal legislators have consistently voted away federal protections for consumers in student loan debt since the 1990’s. The student loan industry currently holds 44 million Americans in debt of over 1.5 trillion dollars averaging about $34,000 of debt per borrower. Over 11 million Americans have defaulted on that debt and are now subject to the predatory collection practices enacted by Congress. When the federal government fails to protect everyday consumers, it falls to the state and city to defend its citizens. I pledge to meet this challenge and fight for everyday New Yorkers.

Expand CUNY ASAP to all CUNY full time community college students

Students in New York Graduating CUNY According to the Center for an Urban Future, “The biggest opportunity to move the needle on college success in New York lies with CUNY. More than 240,000 students are pursuing their associate’s or bachelor’s degrees at CUNY, the largest urban higher education system in the US. Six out of every ten NYC high school graduates entering college attend CUNY institutions. CUNY arguably provides NYC’s most reliable springboard to the middle class, and is far more effective in that role than colleges in most states.”

Meanwhile, CUNY ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) has proven to be one of the most effective higher education programs in the nation, nearly doubling the graduation rates of its participants. One element of CUNY ASAP’s success is its model of intensive counseling. Students who qualify for the program are given free monthly MetroCards on the condition that students actively meet and work with their ASAP counselors on their college career paths and plans. Simultaneously, students are geared towards programs known as guided pathways. These pathways provide structure and clarity towards picking a degree program and satisfying the required credits for their degree as efficiently as possible.

CUNY ASAP is currently being expanded to 25,000 students but that is still less than half of CUNY’s full time community college student body. If elected, I would strongly support expanding this highly successful program to all CUNY full time community college students.

Expand & Empower the Office of Postsecondary Readiness within the DOE

Office of Post Secondary Education - Eliseo Labayen for City Council 2021 If elected, I strongly support the expansion and empowerment of the Office of Postsecondary Readiness (OPSR). Within the Department of Education, the OPSR is responsible for the promotion of college accessibility for NYC; the largest school district in the country. However, the OPSR has nowhere near the staff or resources to adequately carry out that vital mission for NYC’s 400+ high schools. The office itself only has 25 staffers. NYC must support the much-needed mission of college accessibility and success; investing in the OPSR will help us accomplish that.