New York City Department of Education Apology – Just Awaiting Mr. Cantor’s Signature


Well, I’m glad we got the FOIL request cleared up. Mr. Jacob of the NYC DoE sent along the data in question about 24 hours after receiving my FOIL e-mail:

Hi Matthew,
Attached are the scale scores by race and ethnicity that you requested.

Andrew Jacob
Office of Communications and Media Relations
NYC Department of Education
52 Chambers St. | New York, NY 10007
212-374-7840 |

Thanks again, Mr. Jacob – and to interested parties, that data is available for download. [And yes, as I type this, I'm wearing my new cape - it's dashing!] Eduwonkette has done some analysis already, too.

Mr. Cantor is a busy guy. So busy, in fact, that he wasn’t able to e-mail me himself or acknowledge the receipt of my FOIL request. Hours after my request – rather than fulfilling that request so the data could be made available, which consisted of hitting ‘reply’ and attaching a 30kb Excel spreadsheet – at 9.49pm he wrote on Eduwonkette’s site:

Hey, Eduwonkette, this is weird and untrue. You know we’ve been giving this out, yet you write:”Sadly, this is what it’s come to in New York City – the Department of Education is denying all of us access to data that rightfully belong in the public domain.”

The data does belong in the public domain, and we haven’t denied anyone access, including you. I find it distasteful that you sell your anonymity as martyrdom.

David Cantor
Press Secretary
NYC Dept of Education

Mr. Cantor, you denied Eduwonkette access and specifically cited her anonymity as justification. Please – less Truth Squad, more truth.

Since you’re so busy, I decided to write a letter of apology for you – all you’ve got to do is sign it.

Dear New Yorkers,

This last Sunday I denied a public information request inappropriately. When one is overcome with a bitter, “them vs. us” attitude on top of a penchant for political game-playing and a disinterest in public communication, surely you understand how these things happen. If not for that charming, good-looking scamp at Education for the Aughts, I’d have never seen the error of my ways.

Thanks to Mr. Tabor’s link to the state-funded Committee on Open Government website, I’ve learned a lot about New York State’s Freedom of Information Laws since Monday’s embarrassment. For example, I initially denied Eduwonkette’s request because she was an anonymous blogger. Now I realize that FOIL statutes are in place for the benefit of the public and its independent media. It hadn’t occurred to me that Eduwonkette, though anonymous, was clearly a representative of the media outlet Education Week, which is justification enough to honor her request. Though providing one’s identity makes the Department of Education feel better about fulfilling information requests in a timely fashion, that information just isn’t necessary for us to follow the law.

I understand as well as anybody – perhaps better than anybody – that New York’s FOIL statutes are laws without teeth. Hell, I can stonewall even the most earnest, legitimate request for 20 or 30 business days, and then giggle with sinister glee when their ยง89(4)(a) Appeal crosses my desk – all while being in full compliance with the Law! Don’t tell the Committee on Open Government, but here at the NYC Department of Education, FOIL stands for “Freedom of Information? LOLLLLL!”

But I have to warn you, New Yorkers: don’t get too comfortable with this little victory. Unless principled, independent/public media keep on us, we’ll stiff-arm you peons until the cows come home [You "folks" say that upstate, right? I've never been north of Westchester, so just checking].

So, in a word: Sorry. I blew it. I played the gatekeeping game instead of doing my job, and it won’t happen again [unless, of course, New Yorkers let me!].

I do have to thank those of you who were on my case, especially those who pointed out my skill with gameplaying. I’ve been wasting so much time on playing the blog comment game instead of doing my job that I realized I should probably switch careers anyway. I read in the NY Post that Jorge Posada is out for the season – so professional baseball, here I come! See, if I’m a baseball player, I can strike out 70% of the time and New Yorkers still might love me [and if I'm really good at my job, I'll end up meeting Mr. Tabor in Cooperstown!].

Humbly Yours,

[awaiting signature]

UPDATE at 10.20pm, July 30:

Sorry, DC – looks like the Yanks have already crushed your dream.

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  1. Now David Cantor Knows to Whom the Apology Goes at Education for the Aughts - American School Issues and Analysis - [...] New York City Department of Education Apology - Just Awaiting Mr. Cantor’s SignatureA New York State FOIL Request for ...

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