LAURELS & DARTS- Opinion from the Editors: Friday, December 3

DART to PRE-K FOR ALL, which has not yet closed the wage gap for special education teachers at New York City’s privately-run preschools, despite their general education coworkers winning raises that put their pay on par with teacher salaries at the DOE. The program pays general education preschool teachers through city-funded contracts, while special education preschool teachers are mostly paid by the state, resulting in an average salary difference of about $30,000, according to advocates. Even before general education preschool teachers got a raise, the city had a shortfall of 300 teachers in special education pre-K classrooms, Chalkbeat reported. The nonprofit group Advocates for Children warns that a swift teacher exodus from special education programs could be just around the corner if the city doesn’t act fast to erase the disparity. 

LAUREL to the B44 SELECT BUS, which is now equipped with the MTA’s Automated Bus Lane Enforcement cameras and will begin issuing fines to drivers blocking the bus lane, supplementing the stationary cameras already along the route. The new cameras were installed in October, but the MTA permitted drivers a 60-day grace period without issuing fines. From Oct. 30 to December, the system caught 7,000 bus blockers, a considerable offense in a congested city where the busses plod along at an average speed of 8 m.p.h., making them the slowest in the country.

LAUREL to DAY FINES, a new measure proposed by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson that would base civil fines from the city on what the recipient is capable of paying. The “day fines” system is common in Europe, where many governments calculate fines as a percentage of a person’s daily income, rather than as a one-size-fits-all sum. The idea is to make the burden of a fine felt equally by people of all income levels, rather than a slap on the wrist for the wealthy and a financial catastrophe for the poor. “We are imposing fines without any consideration to what is financially significant to a person,” Insha Rahman of the Vera Institute of Justice told Gothamist/WNYC. The new system would be limited to non-criminal penalties, and would take effect by no later than Jan. 2021, if passed. 

DART to the SKY IS FALLING MENTALITY, a pessimistic worldview that dominates online where up-to-the-minute news developments are ravenously consumed and broader trends toward gradual improvement are lost in the noise. As we enter 2020, life in New York City is better by just about every measure than it has been at any other time over the past century. Crime remains at historic lows, despite a year-over-year, headline-grabbing uptick in 2019. New diagnoses of HIV, an illness that, at its peak 25 years ago, killed over 8,000 New Yorkers annually, are down 67 percent since 2001. Traffic fatalities, which seem to be a sudden epidemic if one only follows the headlines, have been declining for decades; they peaked in 1929, when 1,360 people were killed in traffic. That number for last year is 218, despite the city having far more cars on the road and far more people on its streets. Quality of life in New York City, if it can be judged by metrics like public health, workers’ rights, road safety, crime and education, has improved steadily since 1920. Progress is not a straight line, but the trend is unquestionably toward progress, and losing sight of that doesn’t make you a realist — it makes you cynical and prone to giving up.  

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