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Apr 8

All women deserve access to all forms of contraception

By Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Women’s Issue Committee Chair Council Member Julissa Ferraras and Health Committee Chair Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo

Friday’s momentous decision by a federal judge to overturn the age restrictions on sale of Plan B (the morning after pill) is long overdue and a landmark for reproductive rights. In 2009, the FDA concluded that the medication was safe for all ages and should be available over the counter to all — that common sense decision was over ruled by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. We opposed restrictions on access then, and applaud removing them now. Women of all ages deserve access to all forms of pregnancy prevention, and countless studies show that women of all ages use them.

Emergency contraception (sold as Plan B and often called the morning after pill) is something that can be used in a variety of circumstances: when another method of birth control fails, when unprotected sex occurs, after a sexual assault. In 2003, the Council passed a package of legislation requiring that medical facilities carry EC, that hospitals provide it to victims of rape or sexual assault, and that pharmacies must disclose the availability of EC. Since then we’ve been consistently calling for EC to be available, over the counter for women under 18. It’s unrealistic to think that women under 18 aren’t having sex and don’t need access to EC. Requiring them to get a prescription only deters them from using it when needed, and creates more unintended pregnancy.

We must let go of the fallacy that availability of EC, or contraception, or abortion will make sex ‘consequence free’ for our young people. Providing education and medical options prevents teen pregnancies, it doesn’t create them. That is not opinion — it is scientific fact. Those facts are what should be guiding our policies — not politics, religion or fear.

On Friday, Judge Korman called Secretary Sebelius’ decision “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” Sebelius’ actions, he said, were “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.” We couldn’t agree more. We applaud this decision and the tenacious work of the Center for Reproductive Rights in bringing it to justice.

Building stronger schools for NYC

I spoke at the New School earlier this morning on “Stronger Schools for NYC”. The truth is, if we want to keep NYC a place of opportunity for middle class families, and if we want to make it a place where people can realize the American Dream, moving their family into the middle class, we need a public education system that prepares every student for the jobs of the 21st century.

To make this happen, I outlined a four-point strategy earlier today that will pave the way for a new century of opportunity. Number one – Best Practices, Better Schools. We identify the best parts of our system - the schools and teachers and principals that are making the biggest difference for our kids. And we use their best practices to lift everybody up and make the whole system stronger.

Number two – Learning 24/7. We make learning something that happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That means empowering parents to continue teaching at home, and better engaging families in all parts of the system. And it means extending learning time for our highest need students, and using creative scheduling to make the best use out of all the hours in our school day.

Number three - Community Schools. We make everything kids need available through one strategic, coordinated effort - from after school programs to health care to nutritious meals.

Number four – Innovate to Educate. We adopt a 21st century curriculum that focuses on the whole child, and recognizes that individual students have individual needs and talents. That means creating the most intensive literacy support program in the country. It also means reducing the amount of time we spend on test prep, so we can focus on skills that prepare students for 21st century careers.

Education has been a top priority for me and you can read my whole speech here.

Jan 8

Yellow Bus Service Strike

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As you may know, there is a possibility of a yellow school bus driver strike in New York City. While we are hopeful that New York City students are unaffected, if the strike occurs, it is essential that all students currently using yellow bus service have alternative transportation to and from school. 

Below is information that we have received from the DOE about what to do in the event of a bus driver strike.  Please contact your local school, 311 or the Office of Pupil Transportation at (718) 392-8855 for more information. 

MetroCards

  • All students who currently receive yellow bus service may receive a MetroCard. These MetroCards are being made available at your local school and should be requested through each school’s general office. 
  • Parents of pre-school and school-age children with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) requiring transportation from their home directly to their school as well as parents of general education children in grades K-2 may also request a MetroCard for the parent or guardian to act as the child’s escort to school. 

Transportation Reimbursement

  • The DOE is offering reimbursement for actual transportation costs (subject to DOE guidelines) for students in grades K-6 who receive yellow bus service from home or a school bus stop and live in areas where public transportation is not readily available.
  • Parents who drive their children to school will be reimbursed are a rate of 55 cents per mile. 
  • Parents who use a taxi or car service to transport their child to school will be reimbursed for the trip upon completion of reimbursement forms that includes a receipt for provided services. 
  • Requests for reimbursements should be made weekly on forms that will be made available on the DOE website and in each school’s general office. 

Home School

  • In the unfortunate event that students cannot get to school, the DOE will be posting materials online for every grade and core subject so that students can continue their learning at home during the strike.

Again, for additional information about what to do in the event of a bus driver strike, please call your school, 311 or the Office of Pupil Transportation at (718) 392-8855. 

And if you have any other questions or concerns regarding your child’s education, please don’t hesitate to contact Nick Rolf in Speaker Quinn’s office.  He can be reached by telephone at (212) 442-5765 or by email at nrolf@council.nyc.gov.  

Oct 3

Reading Incy Wincy Spider to incy wincy kindergartners at PS 111 in Long Island City, Queens.  

FY 2013 Budget agreement restores vital child care services; avoid layoffs


Happy to have reached an agreement for an on-time budget that restores both child care and after school services at or above their FY 2012 levels, saving tens of thousands of slots and making services available to nearly 4,000 more children.

Highlights from my remarks:

A budget is a statement of values, a statement of priorities – and with this budget we have made clear that the children of New York City are without question our number one priority.

The importance of providing every child with a quality education is something every New Yorker can agree on.  It’s what we achieved last year, when we all successfully prevented thousands of teachers from being laid off. 

It’s what we stood up for earlier this year, when we negotiated a deal with the DOE to avoid a reduction in teachers through attrition, and keep class sizes from going up. 

And it’s what we’ve done with this budget agreement, working with the DOE and DC37 to prevent the layoff of 400 school aides.

And working with the Mayor, dozens of advocates and thousands of families, I’m incredibly proud that we have found a way to not only preserve child care in the five boroughs, but to make it a more effective part of our education system.

After facing a possible loss of more than 6,500 child care seats and 30,000 Out of School Time seats, we came together and restored funding to beyond last year’s levels – bringing the total number of child care seats to over 50,000 and the total number of OST seats to over 57,000.

And just as important, we’ve made key changes to the Early Learn NYC proposal – which will raise the academic standard of childcare, and age childcare down to include more infants and toddlers. 

We are saying that child care can and must be part of a lifetime of learning - one that continues through pre-K, through Kindergarten, and that finally leads to every child graduating high school ready for college.

That is our ultimate goal, and it begins with academic day care, and it begins with what we have built here today.

Now when the city first issued its Early Learn proposal several months ago, many parents, advocates, and providers rightly raised concerns about some of the changes it made to the chlildcare system.  And I am proud to say that through the leadership of our Finance Chair Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. and our General Welfare Chair Annabel Palma, working with Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and ACS Commissioner Ron Richter, we have addressed many of those concerns.

For example, there are childcare providers across the city that have been working in our communities for years – providers that know the specific needs of children in their neighborhoods, providers that have the institutional knowledge and experience to make the Early Learn system work for every family.

Instead of pushing them out, we’re going work together to lift them up, give them the resources to provide even higher quality academic instruction, and maintain them as a key part of the system.

And we’ve corrected a potential flaw in the way seats were going to be allocated, that would have left out pockets of low income families who live in economically integrated neighborhoods neighborhoods. 

Thanks to the changes we’ve made, seats will once again go to the families that need them, regardless of where they live.

Today’s budget agreement is a victory for working families at every income level.  As I mentioned, we’ve been able to restore funding for the Out of School Time program, which provides quality educational child care for middle class families and other families in every borough. 

And we were able to preserve funding for 100,000 students to attend after school programs, which benefits thousands of middle class families as well. 

All of these victories build on our longstanding commitment to early childhood education – expanding access to full day pre-Kindergarten and working to make Kindergarten mandatory for all five year olds in the five boroughs.

I again want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, Finance Chair Recchia, and all my colleagues in the City Council for once again coming together to pass a budget that is fiscally responsible while protecting New Yorkers in need, and keeping our city accessible to middle class families.

Our budget isn’t just a plan for how to spend taxpayer dollars.  It’s a statement about who we are as a city.  And this budget says we are a city where every child will be given the opportunity to learn.  A city that refuses to balance its books by hiking taxes.  A city that believes core services cannot be sacrificed even in tough economic times.

This budget was not without difficult choices.  But I believe every one of my colleagues, everyone in the Bloomberg Administration, and every New Yorker can be proud of what it accomplishes, and what it says about our great city.

Apr 2

Elevator technicians in NY need a license!

Tragically over the past few months we have seen three terrible elevator accidents in our city, killing two people in Midtown and leaving a teenager injured in the Bronx.

In December, advertising executive Suzanne Hart lost her life after she was killed when an elevator lurched upwards, trapping her between floors. Last week, an elevator plunged six stories injuring a 17-year-old passenger, and in a separate incident an elevator mechanic was fatally electrocuted while conducting maintenance inside a Manhattan building.

In our research in responses to these incidences we found a number of troubling things: elevator repair technicians in New York don’t have to have a license nor do they have to follow a national standard. That’s crazy when you think about what an enormous responsibility it is to repair elevators and the tragedies that can occur.

To rectify the situation, we’re planning (along with Council Housing and Buildings Committee Chair Erik Martin Dilan and Council Member James Vacca) to hold a hearing on April 16 to discuss legislation that will increase elevator safety in New York City.

To begin with, we will mandate all technicians in New York to undergo licensing before repairing any elevators. We will also add a national certificate requirement to local tech, so we’re really up to the highest standard.

Our second bill will require all residential building’s in New York to install additional safety devices in their elevators to protect against sudden acceleration.

These two things together — higher standards, and additional protections — will prevent some of the tragedies that we have seen recently.

We can’t make up the for lives we’ve lost, but it’s time we prevent these tragedies from happening again.

The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet on April 16th  in the 16th Floor Committee Room at 250 Broadway to discuss the legislation.