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May 16th, 2013
In recent months, New York suffered a black eye from the all-too-familiar one-two punch of public corruption.
We saw several New York politicians arrested, indicted, and/or convicted. Most of them are accused of illegally exchanging money in return for promising to provide improper influence.
These alleged transgressions have become far too common in New York State – 32 New York officials have been indicted, convicted or censured in the last seven years, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group.
So, what’s a concerned electorate to do?
Fortunately, some of BALCONY’s influential members have recently released reform proposals that have received considerable media attention.
Click HERE for details.
Top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Diabetes Director to Headline New York Diabetes Summit
May 14th, 2013
Dr. Ann Albright, Ph.D., RD, Director of the Division of Diabetes Translation, CDC
The Institute For Leadership (IFL) and the Business and Labor Coalition of New York (BALCONY) jointly announced that nationally recognized diabetes expert Dr. Ann Albright known for her work on models of care in community clinics and leading national type 2 diabetes prevention efforts will serve as the keynote speaker at the inaugural New York Diabetes Summit on May 16th.
Dr. Albright, Ph.D., RD, is director of the Division of Diabetes Translation for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The IFL/BALCONY Labor Fights Diabetes program works to reduce diabetes-related healthcare costs by helping unions and businesses implement type 2 diabetes prevention programs, including the CDC led National Diabetes Prevention Program, officials said.
“We are excited to announce that CDC and Dr. Albright are committed to helping put affordable and accessible type 2 diabetes prevention programs in place to reach high-risk populations where they live, work and worship,” said the Rev. Michel Faulkner, president of the IFL, which operates a statewide faith-based diabetes consortium.
Lou Gordon, director of the powerful New York State business and labor advocacy organization with more than 1,000 members, said: “We are honored that the CDC and Dr. Albright are engaging the American workforce in their efforts to prevent type 2 diabetes. We look forward to working together to find solutions to keep our members healthy while reducing employee medical costs.”
New York State spends $12.9 billion annually on diabetes-related costs with 1.3 million people living with the disease, according to state health statistics.
Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes and an estimated 79 million adults are pre-diabetic and don’t know it according to CDC statistics. Undiagnosed diabetes and diabetes that is not managed well can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.
In April, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) released a new study showing that national diagnosed diabetes costs have increased to $245 billion in 2012 from $174 billion in 2007 when the statistics were last examined.
The Institute For Leadership is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community-based organization founded in 2003 on the principle of creating leaders and building community capacity to address health, financial and social problems that affect high-risk communities. For more information, visit: www.institute4leadership.com.
BALCONY is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that seeks to find common ground between organized labor and business throughout New York State by playing a key role in important public policy debates.
May 9th, 2013
You are Invited to:
The New York Diabetes Symposium
Featuring Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Ann Albright
Director, Division of Diabetes Translation
Centers for Disease Control
Thursday, May 16, 2013 — 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Ballroom 4 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION: SYMPOSIUM
April 30th, 2013
BALCONY held its 2013 Golf Outing on Monday April 29th at the New York Country Club in Rockland Country. During the dinner reception, BALCONY honored UFT President Mike Mulgrew, former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson and Anita Kartalopoulos partner of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.
Finally after torrential rains and hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the event two times in October 2012, more than 80 golfers hit the links Monday on “naturally” a “drizzly” BALCONY golf outing.
And a good time was had by all!
April 29th, 2013
by Sean F. Reardon
Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.
What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.
One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.
To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.
In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.
The same pattern is evident in other, more tangible, measures of educational success, like college completion. In a study similar to mine, Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski, economists at the University of Michigan, found that the proportion of students from upper-income families who earn a bachelor’s degree has increased by 18 percentage points over a 20-year period, while the completion rate of poor students has grown by only 4 points.
In a more recent study, my graduate students and I found that 15 percent of high-income students from the high school class of 2004 enrolled in a highly selective college or university, while fewer than 5 percent of middle-income and 2 percent of low-income students did.
These widening disparities are not confined to academic outcomes: new research by the Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam and his colleagues shows that the rich-poor gaps in student participation in sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and church attendance have grown sharply as well.
In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?
We are still talking about this despite decades of clucking about the crisis in American education and wave after wave of school reform.Whatever we’ve been doing in our schools, it hasn’t reduced educational inequality between children from upper- and lower-income families.
Part of knowing what we should do about this is understanding how and why these educational disparities are growing. For the past few years, alongside other scholars, I have been digging into historical data to understand just that. The results of this research don’t always match received wisdom or playground folklore.
The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.
Before we can figure out what’s happening here, let’s dispel a few myths.
The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising — substantially in math and very slowly in reading — since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.
The widening income disparity in academic achievement is not a result of widening racial gaps in achievement, either. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades, trends that actually keep the yawning gap between higher- and lower-income students from getting even wider. If we look at the test scores of white students only, we find the same growing gap between high- and low-income children as we see in the population as a whole.
It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school. There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students — there certainly are — but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.
If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.
My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality. As you may have heard, the incomes of the rich have grown faster over the last 30 years than the incomes of the middle class and the poor. Money helps families provide cognitively stimulating experiences for their young children because it provides more stable home environments, more time for parents to read to their children, access to higher-quality child care and preschool and — in places like New York City, where 4-year-old children take tests to determine entry into gifted and talented programs — access to preschool test preparation tutors or the time to serve as tutors themselves.
But rising income inequality explains, at best, half of the increase in the rich-poor academic achievement gap. It’s not just that the rich have more money than they used to, it’s that they are using it differently. This is where things get really interesting.
High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich.
With a college degree insufficient to ensure a high-income job, or even a job as a barista, parents are now investing more time and money in their children’s cognitive development from the earliest ages. It may seem self-evident that parents with more resources are able to invest more — more of both money and of what Mr. Putnam calls “‘Goodnight Moon’ time” — in their children’s development. But even though middle-class and poor families are also increasing the time and money they invest in their children, they are not doing so as quickly or as deeply as the rich.
The economists Richard J. Murnane and Greg J. Duncan report that from 1972 to 2006 high-income families increased the amount they spent on enrichment activities for their children by 150 percent, while the spending of low-income families grew by 57 percent over the same time period. Likewise, the amount of time parents spend with their children has grown twice as fast since 1975 among college-educated parents as it has among less-educated parents. The economists Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, call this escalation of early childhood investment “the rug rat race,” a phrase that nicely captures the growing perception that early childhood experiences are central to winning a lifelong educational and economic competition.
It’s not clear what we should do about all this. Partly that’s because much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools and the behavior of the poor for trends that are really the result of deepening income inequality and the behavior of the rich.
We’re also slow to understand what’s happening, I think, because the nature of the problem — a growing educational gap between the rich and the middle class — is unfamiliar. After all, for much of the last 50 years our national conversation about educational inequality has focused almost exclusively on strategies for reducing inequalities between the educational successes of the poor and the middle class, and it has relied on programs aimed at the poor, like Head Start and Title I.
We’ve barely given a thought to what the rich were doing. With the exception of our continuing discussion about whether the rising costs of higher education are pricing the middle class out of college, we don’t have much practice talking about what economists call “upper-tail inequality” in education, much less success at reducing it.
Meanwhile, not only are the children of the rich doing better in school than even the children of the middle class, but the changing economy means that school success is increasingly necessary to future economic success, a worrisome mutual reinforcement of trends that is making our society more socially and economically immobile.
We need to start talking about this. Strangely, the rapid growth in the rich-poor educational gap provides a ray of hope: if the relationship between family income and educational success can change this rapidly, then it is not an immutable, inevitable pattern. What changed once can change again. Policy choices matter more than we have recently been taught to think.
So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children’s educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.
But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality,” but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.
This means finding ways of helping parents become better teachers themselves. This might include strategies to support working families so that they can read to their children more often.. It also means expanding programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership that have proved to be effective at helping single parents educate their children; but we also need to pay for research to develop new resources for single parents.
It might also mean greater business and government support for maternity and paternity leave and day care so that the middle class and the poor can get some of the educational benefits that the early academic intervention of the rich provides their children. Fundamentally, it means rethinking our still-persistent notion that educational problems should be solved by schools alone.
The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.
April 29th, 2013
by Erik Kriss
The Big Apple’s appetite for sweet drinks and fattening food is growing deadlier by the year.
A staggering 10.5 percent of New York City adults, or close to 650,000, have been diagnosed with diabetes — more than double the rate of the life-shortening disease a generation ago, officials said yesterday.
And another 230,000 residents are walking around without knowing they have it, according to the city’s Health Department.
Diabetes — which brings increased risk for a witch’s brew of ailments, including heart attack, stroke and kidney failure and boosts the odds of limb amputations — has become an epidemic, the officials warned.
Treating it cost $16.43 billion in New York last year, plus another $5.06 billion in lost productivity and indirect expenditures, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“It’s a major health crisis,” said state Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan).
Obesity, fueled by high-calorie foods and sugary drinks, is the major cause of the diabetes surge, officials said.
It’s the city’s rising rate of diabetes and obesity that prompted Mayor Bloomberg to try to ban the sale of super-sized sugary drinks before that effort was blocked in the courts.
The figures are grim: The Health Department said the most recent numbers for 2011 showed nearly 650,000 adult New Yorkers said they had the disease — an increase of about 200,000 since 2002.
The 10.5 percent figure was the first time the rate has hit double digits. It was just 4.2 percent from 1993 to 1995, and 9.3 percent in 2010.
“What’s most alarming is that more than 200,000 New Yorkers are walking around with this serious disease and don’t even know they’re at risk for blindness, amputations, or even worse — premature death,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “We must work to end this crisis.”
Gottfried added, “I think a large part of it is a food industry that has heavily promoted processed food with large amounts of fat and sugar, and that has dramatically changed our eating habits.”
Health Department figures show that Hispanics (14 percent), African-Americans (13.9 percent) and Asians (12.6 percent) were about twice as likely to be diabetic as whites (6.3 percent), and the disease is more prevalent in poorer neighborhoods.
New York’s diabetes rate is well above the national rate of 9.2 percent.
But that could change. The diabetes association said if the national trend continues, one out of every three Americans could have diabetes by 2050.
April 18th, 2013
By Alan Lubin, BALCONY Founder and Co-Chair
Shame. That’s what the razor-thin bloc of Senators who killed a very commonsense and bi-partisan attempt to strengthen our nation’s gun laws should be feeling right now.
The centerpiece of the Senate bill would have strengthened background check requirements for those trying to purchase guns—a simple policy that 90 percent of Americans support and that many believe is already law.
Through spin and smear efforts, the NRA was able to stoke fear in 90 percent of Republicans and a small number of Democrats, all of whom cowered in fear that the group’s misinformation campaign would hurt their re-election efforts.
I applaud President Barack Obama’s administration, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and their Senate colleagues who backed this measure. Unfortunately, politics interfered with what should have been an easy bill to pass.
The real losers today are the American people. Our children and our streets are not safe when a mentally ill person or someone with a criminal record can constitutionally walk into a gun show and purchase an assault weapon without a basic security measure like a background check.
This further exemplifies the iron-tight grip that special interests have on policy decisions, even when those issues are supported by a large majority of the electorate.
It truly is a shame. This decision should weigh heavily on the consciences of those who prevented reform. I only hope it doesn’t take more body counts to bring our lawmakers together on this issue.
April 18th, 2013
The Chief op-ed, by Arthur Cheliotes, President of CWA Local 1180 and founding member of BALCONY
Following the news that six New York politicians allegedly exchanged bribes to illegally place State Sen. Malcom Smith (D-Queens) on the New York City mayoral ballot, a number of good government groups convened to discuss how to eradicate dirty money in New York politics.
“As long as the first thing you need to do when you run for office is raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, we’re going to have a show-me-the-money culture,” said Karen Scharff, executive director of the good government group Citizen Action of New York. “We want transparency, disclosure, lower limits, better enforcement. … But without public financing you’re not going to change the culture.
As President of Local 1180 CWA and a founding member of BALCONY, I am joining over 100 civil rights, business, faith-based, grassroots community, good government, environmental and labor organizations to call on Albany to take the money out of politics.
Scharff’s statement reflects the reality that the dollars needed to get votes are as valuable as the votes. As a result, billionaires and corporations have greater influence over and access to political candidates and officials.
New York State needs to democratize its campaign finance system and give the average voter equality in the political arena. We can accomplish this in the following ways:
Give every registered voter an annual voucher or tax credit of $100 for political contributions to state and local candidates. Allow voters to take a tax deduction for the next $100 per year in contributions. Place a luxury tax on excessive political contributions above $200 per year at a progressively higher rate set by thresholds. For example, the luxury tax on contributions over $1,000 would be a $2,000 luxury tax. The luxury tax would then fund candidates who agree to follow campaign finance rules.
New York City’s public financing makes available to participating candidates a 6 to 1 matching fund, up to $175. Thus, a $100 donation is worth $600. The city’s law also bans corporate contributions and has stricter caps on spending and fundraising.
As a labor leader active in New York City politics and a former city council candidate, I have seen firsthand the successes and challenges of this policy. It prompts serious candidates to get involved in elections, and increases small donations.
Publicly financed campaigns in New York State will boost citizen participation, because voters will have funds they can spend on politics. Candidates will seek donations from average voters, which will build stronger ties between the candidate and constituents. It gives working New Yorkers equality in politics.
Together with a proposal by Bill Samuels of New Roosevelt to pay for a publicly financed campaign system with new casino revenue that Albany will soon be taking in, we can better achieve a government by and for the people.
Revenue from new casino licensing fees could help the state raise an annual $56 million, which will enable it to come up with the $224 million that is necessary to fund state election cycles every four years, according to the New Roosevelt Initiative.
In order to publicly fund the 2014 elections, the state should allocate $150 million to jumpstart a publicly financed campaign system. That money could be paid back with revenue from the new licensing fees. Remember, the allocation is 1/10 of a percent of the state budget
Support for this issue is growing in Albany. The legislature must move on this issue and Governor Cuomo must make good on his expressed commitment to campaign finance reform.
April 18th, 2013
New York Times Letter to the Editor by Arthur Cheliotes, President of CWA Local 1180 and founding member of BALCONY
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith’s alleged plot to bribe his way onto New York City’s mayoral ballot highlights how badly New York State needs campaign finance reform.
Albany must give small donors as much influence as big-money insiders. As president of Local 1180 of the Communications Workers of America and a member of the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, I urge Albany to democratize campaign finance laws in these ways:
¶Give voters a yearly $100 tax credit for contributions to state and local candidates, and allow a tax deduction for the next $100 a year in contributions.
¶Place a luxury tax on yearly contributions of more than $200 to help fund a public finance system.
¶Create a public finance system like New York City’s, which increases small donations and prompts candidates to be more attentive to voters.
Paralysis on the issue will perpetuate the sad reality described by City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III, who was also charged, that nothing in politics can be achieved without money.
April 17th, 2013
By Nick Moroni, BALCONY Communications Director, Policy Analyst
The Business and Labor Coalition of New York’s (BALCONY) April 16 informational breakfast was well-attended by leaders in the labor, public policy and business sectors.
Over 30 attendees came to hear BALCONY members, many of whom are top figures in the business and labor fields, discuss BALCONY’s strength and influence in the public policy arena.
The April 16 event was co-hosted by Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU); Arthur Cheliotes, President of Communications Workers of America Local 1180; and Alan Lubin, BALCONY Founder and former Executive Vice President of New York State United Teachers.
“It’s important, now more than ever, that unions join together, and BALCONY provides the resources for that,” Appelbaum said. He also complimented BALCONY for its advocacy on increasing New York State’s minimum wage, an issue Appelbaum and RWDSU strongly supported.
“Too often, politicians try to pit unions against small business, saying you can’t be pro-labor and pro-business. I don’t think that’s true. BALCONY works to bring both groups together,” Cheliotes said.
All of the major candidates for New York City Mayor were invited, but only Bill Thompson was able to attend. Echoing Cheliotes, Thompson said, “BALCONY provides a bridge between business and labor.”
Bill Samuels, of New Roosevelt, discussed the importance of pension reform at the public and private levels, a concept BALCONY supports.
“Small businesses should allow their employees to contribute to the state pension program; this will be mutually beneficial. We want all New York State workers to be able to retire comfortably,” Samuels said.
Lou Gordon, Director of BALCONY, added, “I spoke with New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli recently, and he mentioned that [Samuel’s] plan is definitely worth considering. That’s coming from New York State’s Comptroller.”
Bob Ledwith, President of The Concrete Alliance of Greater New York, discussed the importance of infrastructure investment, another key BALCONY initiative, for which BALCONY is planning a forthcoming event.
“Our bridges and roads are deteriorating; it’s vital that we invest in infrastructure, for our safety and to bolster job creation and economic development,” Ledwith said. Ledwith also lauded BALCONY for its work on the issue.
Reverend Michel Faulkner, President and CEO of the Institute For Leadership, described his organization’s partnership with BALCONY to form a joint diabetes prevention program, aimed at small businesses and unions.
“We’ve created a program that will place Life Coaches in workplaces and union groups, who will be able to teach practical and effective diabetes prevention skills,” Faulkner said. “BALCONY is helping us get our foot in the door with many unions and small businesses.”
Cynthia DiBartolo, CEO of Tigress Financial Partners and BALCONY executive board member, told a moving story about her life-altering experience as a cancer survivor. Her perseverance, she explained, catalyzed her decision to expand her work on Wall Street to various advocacy groups.
“I decided that I wanted to align myself with groups and positions that represent my ideals. I joined the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, The White House Business Council and BALCONY, which I’m most proud of,” DiBartolo said.
In the last year, BALCONY and its members have been key players in major public policy debates in New York State such as increasing the state’s minimum wage, preserving and strengthening collective bargaining, shaping the forthcoming New York State Health Exchange, and much more.