Queens Lawmakers On The Move Aug. 24, 2018

Queens County City Council News

Avella Calls On Cuomo To Include Additional SHSAT Funding in State Budget

Sen. Tony Avella

State Senator Tony Avella (D-College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Fresh Meadows, Bellerose, Floral Park, Jamaica, Douglaston, Auburndale, Briarwood) called on Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday to include funding in next year’s state budget for Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) test prep.

The test prep program, also known as the DREAM Program is comprised of two initiatives, the DREAM-SHSI and the DREAM summer/fall intensive. In DREAM-SHSI, students are chosen based on both academic and family income requirements. In the summer/fall intensive, students are recruited based on the school district they attend. In the summer/fall intensive, students from lower-performing school districts are eligible.

Through the program, the Queens legislator is aiming to address the diversity issue that is plaguing New York City’s Specialized High Schools. Instead of abolishing the test, the Senator believes that educating children at the lower grades will provide them with the tools necessary to succeed in the later grades, thus setting them up to better succeed on the test. Avella is specifically asking for Cuomo to allocate 10 million to the test prep program.

In 2016, alongside Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), Avella led the fight for education that resulted in the Senate and Assembly allocating $2 million in state funding to assist students in underrepresented middle schools in passing the SHSAT.

“The end goal in including funding for the DREAM Program is to both save the test and increase diversity from lower-performing school districts. By allocating funds to test preparation, students will be better prepared for their future because they will have received the proper educational support earlier in their life,” said Avella.

Meeks Denounces Devos’ Proposal To Purchase Guns To Arm Teachers

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, JFK Airport) denounced Betsy DeVos’ Education Department’s consideration to allow states to purchase guns to arm teachers yesterday.

According to initial reports, the DOE is considering allowing states to spend federal funds on guns and gun training for school personnel through Every Student Succeeds Act funding.

The Trump administration began deliberating the move earlier this year after Texas and Oklahoma asked the Education Department if schools could buy weapons using federal funds known as Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, which are part of Title IV funding.

The recent shootings in Texas and Florida has brought a heightened sense of protection to education buildings. On May 18, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, walked into a Santa Fe High School with a .38 revolver tucked under a trench coat and opened fire on an unsuspecting Texas school campus. Pagourtzis shot and killed 10 people including 8 students and 2 teachers in the rampage. The shooting came just 3 months after the shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead.

“Not only is it unprecedented for the administration to allow the purchase of firearms using federal funds without Congressional approval, it is unconscionable to place dangerous weapons in the hands of teachers who are untrained and unwilling to take on such an unreasonable responsibility,” said Meeks.

“The Title IV funds targeted by DeVos are meant to promote a healthier school culture, with drug and bullying prevention programs and mental health treatment, specifically for our nation’s struggling schools. Ripping away these funds to arm teachers would violate the spirit of the law, and the sentiments of the tax-payers who funded it. As a nation, as parents, we should be angered that the DeVos’ Education Department is even considering such an absurd proposal, and that this administration continues to not take seriously real solutions to keep our students safe,” added Meeks.

Cuomo Calls On State Legislature To Close Double Jeopardy Loophole

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is calling on the State Legislature to close the double jeopardy loophole.

Earlier this week, alongside Public Advocate Letitia James, Cuomo called on the state Legislature to hold a special session to reform state law so that President Donald Trump’s associates can be held accountable for crimes they may have committed, even in the case they get a presidential pardon.

Currently, under New York’s Criminal Procedure Law, a federal conviction or guilty plea triggers “jeopardy,” meaning that a second prosecution for the same crime under state or local law would be unconstitutional “double jeopardy,” according to Politico. Trump has a history of pardoning his political allies including former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, with no particular legal justification.

“New York must have the ability to stand up against the abuse of power. I call on the State Legislature to amend current State law to close the double jeopardy loophole and ensure that these wrongdoers cannot escape justice — I will sign it into law the same day,” said Cuomo.

“A loophole in State law currently makes it impossible for New York to punish wrongdoers who receive a presidential pardon for federal crimes, no matter how suspicious or politically dubious the presidential pardon is. This loophole must be closed to ensure that these politically motivated, self-serving actions are not sanctioned under law,” added Cuomo.