Widely respected education expert Pedro Noguera recently resigned from the SUNY Board of Trustees after serving as the chairman of the Board's committee on authorization of charter schools. In articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, Mr. Noguera cited his increasing concerns about oversight and quality of charter schools, and fear that charter schools are becoming part of a politically motivated unequal system of education in New York State. He particularly pointed out problems with co-locations, which he said were often "undermining rather than improving the public schools." The Wall Street Journal said that Mr. Noguera pointed to the co-location of the Success Academy in Cobble Hill as a case in which community opposition to the school has been ignored during the approval process. I am pictured above at the hearing with Ernest Logan, President of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, and Assemblyman Denny Farrell, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
As the Chair of the Aging Committee, the welfare of New York' seniors is of utmost concern. I was glad to hear in Governor Cuomo's State of the State Address that there have been no cuts to Title XX funds. Monies from Title XX are provided by the Federal government to fund local social services and in the past have been used by New York City to support more than 100 senior centers throughout the City. As I urged Governor Cuomo in a letter in November, 2011, it is also essential that localities retain the ability to apply this Federal funding in a flexible manner to meet gaps in funding. This flexibility has been retained this budget year, and now it is up to Mayor Bloomberg to spend the money to support our senior centers. I will continue to advocate with the Mayor and City Council to make sure our seniors continue to receive quality services and that our senior centers, which represent a life line to older New Yorkers, remain open.
I am proud to be a co-sponsor of Assembly Bill A.9148, which would increase the New York State minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 starting January 2013 and then would link the minimum wage to the rate of inflation beginning January 2014. In New York State, we have many full time workers who do not make enough money to survive. At $7.25 an hour, a full time worker makes around $13,000 a year, which in an era of rapidly rising costs for basic needs like housing, food, healthcare and childcare, is not sufficient - in fact it means these workers are considered poor by Federal government standards. New York State's minimum wage has increased only ten cents in the past five years and is one of the lowest minimum wages in our region of the country.
Though data from recent months has shown a small rate of growth in the national economy, New York State continues to struggle to regain its financial footing. In 2010 the largest rates of industry job growth were for retail sales employees, cashiers and food preparation workers - predominantly minimum wage jobs and industries which employ nearly 1 million workers in New York State. A rise in the minimum wage next year would put more than $2,200 directly in the pockets of the hard working New Yorkers who need it most and who spend the money, which will stimulate our State's economy.
In a victory for commuters and transportation advocates, the MTA has voted to add more buses to the B61 bus route during evening rush hours. This came after a tremendous effort by local residents and elected officials including my colleague City Councilman Brad Lander, who surveyed riders on the route and found buses were late more than 50% of the time, and were extremely overcrowded. The additional buses will be added in April. If you are a regular B61 rider, let my office know if you see better service on that route.
Local residents came out on a cold night in January to a Home Energy Conservation Forum organized by me and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Attendees heard National Grid, Con Edison, the Pratt Center for Community Development, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) give tips on making homes more energy efficient, reducing energy consumption and utility costs, environmentally friendly energy alternatives, and incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.
My office is accepting non-perishable food items and personal care products for victims of domestic violence and their children being served by the Family Justice Center, a program of the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. Examples include: canned food, dry pasta, juice boxes, peanut butter, baby food and formula, shampoo, tooth paste and brushes, and diapers. The drive will go through February 17th at 341 Smith Street.