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Winter’s Heavy Costs

Following the unprecedented second blizzard to hit Western New York in two months and with snowfall totals already 20 inches above average, Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, is calling for increased state aid...

Protecting Children Must Remain Priority for All

By SENATOR TIM KENNEDY

In September, Western New York was once again rocked by the tragic loss of a young child. Five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks suffered repeated, brutal beatings allegedly at the hands of his mother’s live-in boyfriend. Eain’s life was taken as a result of this senseless abuse.

As the father of three young children, I was deeply saddened by Eain’s death. Our entire community has mourned his loss, and I cannot imagine the immense pain that Eain’s family has endured. My thoughts and prayers remain with them.

Eain’s death is an intolerable and heartbreaking tragedy, and we must do all we can to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

Unfortunately, that is an all too common refrain. Clearly, the system is susceptible to improvement. We can do better. We must.

In Western New York alone, over the past several months, 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud, three-year-old Gage Seneca, one-year-old Austin Smith and now five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks were brutally beaten and killed allegedly by individuals entrusted with their care. The circumstances surrounding each of their deaths are different, but together, the loss of these children call into question whether or not our county and state are meeting their obligations to protect the safety and well-being of all children.

That’s why we called in the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and asked them to investigate the practices and procedures of Erie County Child Protective Services.

The state has completed the first part of its investigative review and has issued a critical report outlining areas in urgent need of improvement. OCFS is now working to complete the second-phase of the review. This process is ongoing, and we will keep the community informed as we learn more.

The first part of he state’s review shed light on gaps in the system and presented initial opportunities to reform child protective services. 

We have begun working to draft legislation that will help ensure all children are kept safe from harm. We want accountability, transparency and responsiveness within child protective services locally and throughout the state, and we are committed to pursuing legislative reform to ensure that happens as quickly as possible.

Child abuse has become a nationwide epidemic. It’s a problem that has touched every town, city and village – and not just in Erie County, but across the state and nation as well.

Across the country, about 700,000 children have been the victims of abuse or neglect in each of the last several years. One child abused or neglected is enough to spark outrage, but 700,000 children – that is absolutely unacceptable and utterly appalling. Each year, child abuse and neglect tragically claim far too many young lives. An estimated 1,570 children died from abuse and neglect in 2011, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Child abuse needs to end, and it needs to end now. In Western New York, we have a history of fighting hard to pass stronger laws to protect children and prevent child abuse. And the success we’ve had in reforming state law has been the result of the widespread community support that has fueled our efforts.

As a community, we worked relentlessly to get Jay-J’s Law finally passed into law this year. With the dedication of Jay-J’s family and an outpouring of help from the community, the bill received legislative approval and became law. It toughens penalties for repeat child abuse, and it ensures children, especially those who have become victims of child abuse, have enhanced protections against their violent abusers.

When Governor Cuomo signed this important bill into law, we knew our work was not done. We, as a community, need to remain diligent in our efforts to stop child abuse and neglect. Our state needs even stronger penalties against abusers, a more responsive system of child protective services and new initiatives to prevent child abuse before it happens.

Eain’s family has formed a group called Eain’s Echo, which will help raise awareness of child abuse and aims to ramp up prevention efforts. This past weekend, the family held the first-ever Eain’s Echo Child Abuse Awareness Walk. After suffering an unimaginable tragedy, they are channeling their immense grief into positive action to prevent other families from experiencing what they’ve endured. Amid all of their pain, they are working hard to inspire the community to help them prevent child abuse and neglect.

Let’s remain steadfast and resolute in our ongoing work to end child abuse, once and for all. Children in Western New York and across New York State are depending us.

This column was first published in the Cheektowaga Bee on October 24, 2013.

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Senator Kennedy Praises ‘Buffalo Billion’ Investment to Jumpstart Clean Technology Industry in WNY

After unveiling of Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub @ RiverBend, Kennedy applauds Governor Cuomo’s intelligent public investment that is spurring private investment and creating hundreds of new jobs.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate Economic Development Committee, praised the newly-announced “Buffalo Billion” investment to build the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub @ RiverBend. Kennedy says it will spark the development of a thriving clean technology industry in Western New York. Kennedy joined Governor Andrew Cuomo at his announcement today, and commended the Governor for his targeted public investment along the Buffalo River – which will spur substantial private investment and create hundreds of new jobs.

“Buffalo is on an economic winning streak. Teamwork and hard work is leading to new work for Western New Yorkers,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “By investing in the growing industry of clean technology, New York State will help put Buffalo at the cutting edge of new discovery and set this region forward on a path toward sustained economic growth. Governor Cuomo is making a sharply intelligent investment here with the Buffalo billion initiative. The Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub will spur unprecedented private investment and create hundreds of new jobs here in Western New York. 

“For far too long, Albany had ignored Buffalo and Western New York, but over the last few years, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, that has changed – and in a big way. The economic revival of Buffalo and Western New York is now a priority for the state, and it’s because Governor Cuomo has led the way in directing new investment to our region. On behalf of a grateful Western New York, I say, ‘Thank you Governor Cuomo.’ Thank you for keeping your promise as you continue to deliver on the Buffalo Billion. Thank you for your confidence in the people of Western New York, and thank you for this substantial investment in Buffalo’s bright future.

“Western New York became a leader in clean energy production when we harnessed the power of Niagara Falls so many years ago. This Buffalo billion investment will help our state and region live up to our legacy of innovation, attract new industry and spur job creation.”

Governor Cuomo announced today the state will invest $225 million from the Buffalo billion to construct a new clean-energy campus at the RiverBend industrial site – which will create hundreds of new jobs. Two new companies based in California, Soraa and Silevo, are relocating to the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub and will create 850 new permanent jobs. The two companies are investing a collective $1.5 billion in this project. The project will also create at least 500 construction jobs. It’s expected the state investment will lead to several hundred additional jobs in the future, as new manufacturing companies are attracted to the state-of-the-art facilities.

The 90-acre RiverBend site is the former home of Republic Steel. New York State’s $225 million investment will build necessary infrastructure such as water, sewer, utility and roads, and it will finance the construction of 275,000 square feet of facilities for Soraa and Silevo. As additional manufacturing firms are attracted to the RiverBend site, new facilities will be built to accommodate their needs. 

Click here for more information from Governor Cuomo's office. 

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov

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Senator Kennedy Urges State Education Commissioner to Schedule Community Forum in Buffalo

State Education Commissioner canceled, then rescheduled a series of town-hall meetings across the state, but NYSED has not yet scheduled forum in Erie County. 

 Kennedy wants Commissioner to hold community forum in Buffalo to ensure area parents have the chance to learn more and ask questions about new Common Core standards. 

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, is urging New York State Education Commissioner John King to schedule a community forum in Buffalo to ensure local families have the opportunity to hear more and ask questions about the state’s new Common Core standards. Previously, Commissioner King canceled, then rescheduled a series of town-hall meetings across the state. King was expected to appear in Williamsville for an October 24 forum prior to the cancellations, but NYSED has not yet scheduled a new forum in Erie County.

Currently, the only forum scheduled in Western New York is planned for December 4 in Jamestown, an over hour-and-a-half drive from Buffalo. Also, according to their website, NYSED has not yet finalized a time or specific location for the Jamestown event.

“Western New York parents are disappointed and frustrated that no community forum has been scheduled in Erie County. They are eager to discuss their concerns and ask Commissioner King questions about the state’s implementation of Common Core standards,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “It’s hard to believe that NYSED would expect Buffalo families to drive over an hour and a half away on a school night to participate in a forum with the chief state official tasked with ensuring the quality of our schools. I urge the State Education Department to add a community forum in Buffalo to their schedule and ensure parents, educators and community leaders in Western New York are heard when it comes to the future of schools throughout the state.”

In Buffalo, parents have long expressed an interest in meeting with Commissioner King to share their children’s first-hand accounts of their educational experiences. Kennedy believes the State Education Department needs to follow through on their previously-planned meeting for Erie County to give area parents the chance to raise concerns with senior education officials about local schools.

In a letter sent Friday, Kennedy urged the NYSED Commissioner to reschedule a forum in Erie County, and to hold it inside the City of Buffalo.  He wrote, “It is imperative that you do not ignore the largest school district in Western New York in favor of an event that is about 70 miles – or more than an hour-and-a-half drive – away from Buffalo. Considering the high cost of travel and the large number of Buffalo families who rely on public transit, many parents will be forced to pass up their only opportunity to meet directly with you. I urge you to schedule a meeting in Buffalo and give families here the chance to attend one of your community forums.”

Concern over the impact of high-stakes testing has been growing across the region and state. In October, Kennedy teamed up with Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Senator George Maziarz to host the Summit for Smarter Schools at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo. About 2,500 people turned out to participate in the Summit – which brought together parents, community residents, education professionals and public officials to discuss needed reforms to ensure schools in Western New York and across the state are gearing children with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century global economy. The discussions largely focused on the use and impact of standardized testing in an effort to help de-emphasize the high stakes nature of these tests.

“Every day, I hear from parents and teachers about the damaging effects of high-pressure, high-stakes tests,” Kennedy said. “There’s no question that testing has its place, but we need to it right. Appropriate, reliable testing will help us ensure students are learning the skills they need to achieve academic success without over-testing and over-stressing young children. As a state, we need to pursue real solutions to the challenges our schools face.”

You can read Senator Kennedy's letter to Commissioner King below, or by clicking this link.

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

Full text of Senator Kennedy’s Letter to the NYSED Commissioner:

 

November 15, 2013

 

Dr. John B. King, Jr.
Commissioner of Education
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12234

 

Dear Commissioner King:

I write to request that you include an event in the City of Buffalo in your Community Forum Schedule. It has been brought to my attention that, currently, the only event scheduled in Western New York is set to take place in Jamestown on December 4. I certainly appreciate you traveling to as many regions, and holding as many forums, as possible, but it is imperative that you do not ignore the largest school district in Western New York in favor of an event that is about 70 miles – or more than an hour-and-a-half drive – away from Buffalo.

Considering the high cost of travel and the large number of Buffalo families who rely on public transit, many parents will be forced to pass up their only opportunity to meet directly with you. I urge you to schedule a meeting in Buffalo and give families here the chance to attend one of your community forums.

Buffalo Public Schools are in the midst of a crisis, and parents are rightfully concerned about major changes to their children’s education. While I am sure that an event held in Jamestown would inevitably draw a large contingent from the City of Buffalo, parents should not be forced to drive over an hour on a school night to hear from, and address, the senior-most education official in the state about an overhaul to their child’s curriculum. I am sure that Buffalo Public Schools would be happy to host you in any location in the city, and there are plenty of large auditoriums throughout the district.

In the City of Buffalo, 80 percent of schools are rated as “Consistently Low Performing.” This makes it even more important that you to come to Buffalo and explain the changes that we can expect in the coming months and years to our statewide education system. If, as we've been told, these changes are going to improve educational outcomes, then a struggling district like Buffalo ought to have been the first stop on your Community Forum tour. Again, I hope you will find a time and date to come to Buffalo to speak to parents about the Common Core changes coming to New York State. At the very least, you must hold an event closer than 70 miles away from Buffalo.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter, and I hope to see you soon in Buffalo. If you have any questions or if I can be of assistance, please feel free to contact me in my district office at 716.826.2683.

Sincerely,

 

Timothy M. Kennedy
New York State Senator, 63rd District

 

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Senator Kennedy Unveils New Bill to Help Veterans Secure SUNY Credit for Military Training

At Veterans Forum and Services Fair, Kennedy outlined the VETS Credits Act, which will make college more affordable for veterans and help them complete coursework faster. 

Kennedy: By giving credit where credit is due, New York State and its public university system can ease and accelerate veterans’ transition into civilian life.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, today unveiled new legislation that will help veterans get academic credit from the State University of New York (SUNY) for their military training. Kennedy announced the bill at his Veterans Forum and Services Fair – which he held Tuesday to help connect local veterans to the services and support they earned while serving our great nation.

Kennedy’s bill – titled the Veterans’ Education Through SUNY Credits Act or VETS Credits Act – requires SUNY to establish a statewide policy that will ensure military veterans receive college credit for relevant coursework from their military training.

“Student veterans often have other obligations while attending school, including full-time jobs and supporting their family. For many, the goal is to complete their degree as quickly as possible in order to expedite the transition from soldier to civilian,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “By giving credit where credit is due, New York State and its public university system can accelerate veterans’ transition into and increase their marketability in our competitive labor force. Once our VETS Credits Act is approved and signed into law, the state will continue its longstanding tradition of honoring our veterans and promoting the State of New York as a welcoming place for our heroes to call home.”

Currently, several local colleges and some SUNY institutions offer college credit for certain training, but there is no universal statewide policy for SUNY schools. Kennedy’s bill would change that.

Under the VETS Credits Act, the SUNY Board of Trustees will develop a policy requiring all schools within the SUNY and City University of New York (CUNY) systems – including colleges and community colleges – to award academic credit to student veterans for courses that were part of their military training or service. To receive academic credit, the military coursework must meet the standards of the American Council on Education or equivalent standards.

The American Council on Education, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, evaluates military transcripts from each branch of service and makes recommendations for appropriate academic credit. Veterans, throughout their military careers, receive valuable and translatable education that should be acknowledged at institutions of higher learning. Kennedy’s VETS Credits Act will ensure SUNY accepts military training and grants appropriate credit.

Western New York is home to multiple colleges that are regularly recognized as being military friendly. In fact, the Military Times recently ranked D’Youville College number one on their list of best colleges for vets. Kennedy says the VETS Credits Act will ensure SUNY’s veterans policies are brought up to meet the standards that have been set here at colleges in Western New York.

Meanwhile, New York State has fallen behind dozens of other states that have already passed legislation to require their university systems to accept military training for academic credit. At least 25 states – Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming – have already approved new laws directing their state university systems or boards of education to develop policies to grant credit for military service, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“The VETS Credits Act will make college more affordable and accessible for veterans,” Kennedy said. “It will make New York State a leader in supporting veterans and position SUNY as the premier public university system for veterans pursuing higher education.”

Senator Kenned speaks to constituents at his Veterans Forum.While outlining his legislative priorities to support veterans Tuesday, Kennedy also announced a new bill he’s proposing that will waive drivers’ license renewal fees for New York State’s veterans and seniors. Kennedy says this bill will provide well-deserved relief to New Yorkers who need – and deserve – it most and serve as an acknowledgment of our appreciation for veterans’ invaluable sacrifices and service.

At Senator Kennedy’s Veterans Forum and Services Fair, more than 200 local veterans gathered to meet with various service providers and connect with available resources on site. Over 20 agencies and organizations participated in the event, including Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition, Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY, Erie County Veterans Services, SPCA Paws & Patriots, Headway of NY, NYS Division of Veterans Affairs, CASH Coalition, Statler Center-Olmsted Center for Sight, Erie County Mental Health Association, local colleges’ veterans affairs offices and others.

“Western New York’s veterans worked hard and fought bravely to keep our nation and our state strong,” said Senator Kennedy. “We must always ensure they are able to fully access the support and services they earned and deserve. They’ve served us; now it’s our turn to serve them.”

Senator Kennedy with (from left) Tom Bennett of WNY Veterans Housing Coalition, Dan Frontera from ECC's Office of Veterans Affairs, and Roger Woodworth of the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY.

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

 

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Kennedy, Peoples-Stokes Announce Public Hearing on Child Protective Services

Public hearing, to be held November 14 at Buffalo City Hall, will examine the practices of Child Protective Services in Erie County and explore issues facing protective services across the state.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, both Democrats from Buffalo, today announced an important public hearing that will examine the practices of Child Protective Services in Erie County. At the public hearing November 14 at Buffalo City Hall, the state lawmakers aim to uncover any potential problems that currently exist within Child Protective Services and identify improvements that can be made to the system.

This public hearing follows the tragic death of five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks, who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s live-in boyfriend. In the days after the boy died, family members came forward with details of their numerous attempts to get Erie County Child Protective Services to intervene and stop the abuse Eain was suffering. Just last year, 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud was murdered by his stepfather after Erie County CPS conducted an investigation but did not taken any action to remove him from the home. In response to these child fatalities, state lawmakers have scheduled the public hearing to examine the practices of Child Protective Services in Erie County.

Following Eain’s death, the state quickly answered Kennedy’s call for an investigation into Child Protective Services and began reviewing local cases to ensure children were being kept safe and investigations were being conducted thoroughly. In light of the child fatalities that have rocked Erie County in recent years, Kennedy and Peoples-Stokes have been extremely vocal in their calls for – and aggressive in their pursuit of – reform of Child Protective Services in Erie County and across the state.

Peoples-Stokes and Kennedy are now working with the Assembly’s Committee on Children and Families and the Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigations – as well as the committees’ respective chairs Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi – to bring together expert testifiers who will shed light on apparent challenges and present potential solutions to improve child protective services.

“As NYS Child and Family Services is the regulatory authority charged with ensuring that the welfare of our children is protected, it is our responsibility to make sure that they are receiving the best care and services. There are far too many children dying at the hands of those who are supposed to be protecting them. It is time for us to look into how we can do better, so that the needs of voiceless can be heard,” stated Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

“The deaths of Eain Brooks and Abdifatah Mohamud are heartbreaking and intolerable tragedies. We must ensure the state and county take decisive actions to keep all children safe from harm and ensure no family ever again has to suffer the pain of losing a child to abuse,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “This public hearing will help us shed light on problems and challenges facing Child Protective Services in Erie County and across the state. It is the next step in our efforts to gather information and devise solutions that will ensure Child Protective Services is meeting its obligation to protect our children. In Eain’s case, Abdi's case and possibly others, the system failed. We cannot let it happen again. The system needs reform, and the next step is the public hearing.”

The public hearing on Erie County Child Protective Services will start at 10 a.m. on November 14 and be held in Council Chambers on the 13th Floor of Buffalo City Hall, 65 Niagara Square.

Individuals interested in testifying can contact Senator Kennedy’s office at 716-826-2683 or the office of Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes office at 716-897-9714 for further details. More information about how to register to testify is also accessible at http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Children/20131101/.

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes represents the New York State Assembly’s 141st District which covers a large portion of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Crystal-D-Peoples-Stokes.

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Senator Kennedy Urges Support for Stronger Workplace Protections for Interns

Federal Court Judge threw out an unpaid intern’s sexual harassment suit, after ruling unpaid interns are not covered by same workplace protections provided to paid employees. 

Senator Kennedy wants NY’s human rights laws reformed immediately to ensure all workers, including unpaid interns, are protected from sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

Students from colleges across WNY join Senator Kennedy to discuss need for workplace rights for unpaid interns.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Due to a loophole in New York State law, unpaid interns have no protection from sexual harassment, discrimination or retaliation in the workplace. At a roundtable discussion with local students at Buffalo State College, Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, called this gap in the law an “injustice” and vowed to pursue legislation to close this loophole and extend stronger workplace protections for unpaid interns.

Earlier this month, in the case of Lihuan Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television, a federal court judge ruled that New York human rights laws do not protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment.  The judge tossed out the sexual harassment lawsuit that Ms. Wang, an unpaid intern, had filed against a former employer, ruling that unpaid interns are not covered by the same workplace protections provided to paid employees. Essentially, the courts determined that since they are not paid, unpaid interns are not technically employees and are not shielded with the same legal safeguards.

Senator Kennedy wants New York State’s human rights laws reformed immediately to ensure all workers, including unpaid interns, are protected from sexual harassment, retaliation, discrimination and other violations. Kennedy is a cosponsor of new legislation (S.5951) that will strengthen workplace protections for unpaid interns and ensure they are not harassed or exploited by superiors or other paid employees.  

“Unpaid interns, like all workers, deserve protection from sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace,” said Senator Kennedy. “It is absolutely urgent that we close this intolerable loophole in the law and strengthen protections for unpaid interns before another individual suffers abuse or exploitation in their workplace. Nobody should be able to get away with sexually harassing a co-worker without punishment, but unfortunately current law fails to adequately protect interns. With our new legislation, we will ensure that all workers, including unpaid interns, are treated with the fairness and respect that they should already be able to expect.”

Students from colleges throughout Western New York joined Senator Kennedy at Buffalo State Wednesday to voice support for this long-needed legislation. In addition to Buffalo State, students who attend the University at Buffalo, Canisius College, SUNY Fredonia and Erie Community College rallied behind Senator Kennedy’s efforts to reform state law and extend labor protections to unpaid interns.

This alarming absence of basic rights for unpaid interns comes to light at a time when more students than ever are participating in internships during their college careers. Over 63 percent of Class of 2013 graduating seniors participated in an internship or cooperative education assignment while working on their bachelor’s degree, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). This is the highest participation rate since NACE began tracking this data with the Class of 2007. A 1992 Northwestern University study put the internship participation rate at 17 percent. There is no official count of the number of paid and unpaid internships across the state and nation, but experts say the prevalence of unpaid internships is exploding. Many estimate that at least half of all internships are unpaid. 

The Kennedy-cosponsored legislation will outlaw sexual harassment against unpaid interns, and it will prohibit retaliation against an intern who files a complaint or reports sexual harassment. The legislation will also make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to fire, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against an unpaid intern based on his or her age, race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, disability, domestic violence victim status or other factors. In addition, the bill will prevent employers from forcing interns to take a leave of absence if pregnant.

“In today’s economy, more and more students are turning to unpaid internships to gain valuable work experiences and get their careers started,” Kennedy added. “The state needs to ensure unpaid interns are protected from harassment and discrimination – just as we would if that student were in the classroom. A student who seeks an on-the-job learning experience and a stronger resume shouldn’t be left defenseless against exploitation in the workplace. This is an injustice that needs to be stopped.”

Only Oregon and Washington, D.C. have passed laws to provide workplace protections for unpaid interns. The New York State legislation that Senator Kennedy is cosponsoring mirrors Oregon’s statute.

Senator Kennedy with students from University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State, SUNY Fredonia, Canisius College and Erie Community College who participated in the roundtable discussion. 

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

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Senator Kennedy Urges State Education Commissioner

State Education Commissioner canceled series of town-hall meetings that were scheduled across the state, including one in WNY.

Kennedy wants Commissioner to follow through on the previously-promised meetings to ensure parents have the chance to learn more and ask questions.

Kennedy: Our children deserve a high-quality education, and local families deserve a say on how to improve our schools. 

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, is urging New York State Education Commissioner John King to reverse his decision to cancel a series of town-hall meetings that had been planned for communities across the state. Commissioner King was scheduled to appear at one such community forum in Western New York on October 24. Senator Kennedy wants the public forums put back on the schedule to ensure parents in Western New York and across the state have the opportunity to hear more and ask questions about the state’s new Common Core standards.

In Buffalo, parents have long expressed an interest in meeting with Commissioner King to share their children’s first-hand accounts of their educational experiences. Kennedy believes the State Education Department needs to follow through on their previously-planned meetings to give parents and community residents the chance to raise concerns with senior education officials about their local schools.     

“Our children deserve a high-quality education, and local families deserve a say on how to improve our schools,” Kennedy said. “Western New York parents are concerned about their children’s education, and they were eager to discuss those concerns and ask questions at the upcoming forum. It is extremely disappointing that the decision has been made to cancel the community meeting. I urge the State Education Department to reverse their decision and ensure parents, educators and community leaders are heard when it comes to the future of schools throughout the state.”   

Concern over the impact of high-stakes testing has been growing across the region and state. Earlier this month, Kennedy teamed up with Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Senator George Maziarz to host the Summit for Smarter Schools at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo. About 2,500 people turned out to participate in the Summit – which brought together parents, community residents, education professionals and public officials to discuss needed reforms to ensure schools in Western New York and across the state are gearing children with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century global economy. The discussions largely focused on the use and impact of standardized testing in an effort to help de-emphasize the high stakes nature of these tests.

“Every day, I hear from parents and teachers about the damaging effects of high-pressure, high-stakes tests,” Kennedy said. “Children are losing out on instructional time in all subjects, from science to foreign languages. There’s no question that testing has its place, but we need to it right. Appropriate, reliable testing will help us ensure students are learning the skills they need to achieve academic success without over-testing and over-stressing young children. As a state, we need to devise and pursue solutions to the challenges our schools face.”

In his letter, Kennedy urged the NYSED Commissioner to reverse the decision to cancel the previously-promised series of forums focusing on the new Common Core standards.  He wrote, “I hope you will once again agree to come to Western New York and other areas throughout the state to discuss the changes being implemented to our education system statewide and to hear the concerns and comments of local parents and families as they deal with these and other local educational issues. I believe it would be enormously beneficial for local parents to be able to discuss these issues with you in person.” 

You can read Senator Kennedy's letter in its entirety below, or view a copy of the letter at this link.

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

 

Full text of Senator Kennedy’s Letter to the NYSED Commissioner:

October 15, 2013

 

Dear Commissioner King:

I write to encourage you to reverse your decision to cancel the previously-planned series of public forums throughout the state focusing on the new Common Core standards.  I hope you will once again agree to come to Western New York and other areas throughout the state to discuss the changes being implemented to our education system statewide and to hear the concerns and comments of local parents and families as they deal with these and other local educational issues. I believe it would be enormously beneficial for local parents to be able to discuss these issues with you in person.

I know that the problems facing our local schools, especially the Buffalo Public Schools, are not lost upon you. These are problems that you, and local families, deal with, and worry about, every single day.  Many of our Buffalo Public Schools have been labeled as Persistently Low Achieving schools, including two of our high schools: East and Lafayette High Schools.  While these are certainly issues that the public has brought up with both the Buffalo School Board and my office, it is also important that these concerns are brought up with you, our state’s senior-most education official.

In addition to all of this, the state’s continued implementation of the Common Core system has left many parents confused and concerned about their children’s education. It is my hope that further input by parents and community members will help to improve and ease this transition process. The Common Core system is a drastic change from the education system that many parents are familiar with. Hearing an explanation of it from their Education Commissioner would allow them to gain a greater understanding of what their children are learning.

Again, I believe that a meeting with parents and families in Western New York would be advantageous for all parties. It will give you an even greater understanding of the problems facing local schools, and it will arm parents with the knowledge they need to make decisions about their children’s education. I hope you will take this into account and reverse your decision to cancel your visit to Western New York. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me in my district office at 716.826.2683.

Sincerely,

 

Timothy M. Kennedy

New York State Senator, 63rd District

 

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State Answers Call for Investigation into Erie County Child Protective Services

Five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks was murdered last week on Buffalo’s West Side. Family members say they reported abuse to CPS on several occasions, but apparently no actions were taken after they determined the complaints were unfounded.

Kennedy called on the state Office of Children and Family Services to investigate Erie County CPS.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Last week, following the tragic death of five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks, Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, called on the state Office of Children and Family Services to investigate Erie County Child Protective Services and conduct a full-scale review of procedures put in place to protect children’s safety. Late Wednesday, OCFS Commissioner Gladys Carrión responded to Kennedy’s request and informed him that the state is launching an investigation to ensure Erie County has the proper protections in place to keep children safe.

“My heart goes out to Eain’s family. His death was an absolutely unthinkable tragedy. It’s intolerable here in Erie County or anywhere else in New York State,” Senator Kennedy said. “We must take action to prevent these circumstances from ever happening again.”

“I’m pleased the state is using its authority to thoroughly investigate Child Protective Services in Erie County and is now taking further steps to protect the safety of our children,” Kennedy added. “Protecting children and families must be our highest priority, and the state’s aggressive response to our call for a comprehensive investigation shows New York State is serious about keeping our children safe. These are important and long-needed actions to root out child abuse in Erie County and across the state. We must never rest until we can ensure each and every child in Western New York and New York State is kept safe from harm.”

Specifically, Commissioner Carrión said her office would be reviewing all open CPS cases, as well as reviewing the next 200 cases prior to them being closed to ensure Erie County has conducted a thorough investigation into each case.

“First we are conducting an immediate safety assessment on all open CPS cases to establish that the proper protections are in place to safeguard the children involved,” wrote Commissioner Carrión in her letter to Senator Kennedy. “In addition, we will be reviewing the next 200 cases prior to Erie County CPS making a determination that a case can be closed in order to assess whether the investigation was thoroughly conducted and that the conclusion is sound.”

Commissioner Carrión also informed Senator Kennedy that the state has suspended Erie County’s use of the Family Assessment Response (FAR), an alternative CPS response to traditional methods. The FAR model was found to be seriously flawed following the death of 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud in Buffalo.

OCFS will also be completing a fatality report, which is required by law, to address “issues including the cause of death of the child, child protective or other services provided to the child and his or her family and the actions taken by the local social services district since the death of the child was reported,” Carrión explained.

Kennedy is encouraging the state to make its findings public after they complete their investigation into Erie County CPS.

You can review Commissioner Carrión’s full response by clicking this link.

You can read Senator Kennedy's initial call for a comprehensive state investigation here: http://www.nysenate.gov/press-release/senator-kennedy-calls-comprehensive-state-investigation-death-eain-clayton-brooks-and-

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Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.

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Senator Kennedy Calls for Investigation

Senator Tim Kennedy, called on the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to investigate the tragic murder of five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks, who was beaten to death earlier this week at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend Matthew Kuzdzal on Buffalo’s West Side.