What Matters for District 29

Education

FACT: Almost 30% of New York City high school graduates aren't prepared for college.

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 schoolIn 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 2020 is unacceptable.

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, very limited bankruptcy protections, and can garnish wages, tax returns, social security, and disability income all 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.