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unified voice-Parents sticking together

The Brooklyn Paper
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There’s a new group representing parents as politicians decide the future of the public school system.

More than 25 community organizations — including the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) Make the Road New York, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) — have joined forces to create the Campaign for Better Schools.

The new group is meant to unify parents’ voices as politicians prepare to redesign the school system.

“As a public school parent, I am intimately familiar with the frustrations of mayoral control,” said City Councilmember Bill de Blasio. “For the past several years we’ve been dealing with a complete information black hole when it comes to education. We can no longer let one man make all the decisions. In the months ahead, we must work with the state to create a system that has greater accountability, transparency, and community involvement.”

In January, state legislators will begin to review the effectiveness of a state law that granted Mayor Michael Bloomberg total control over the school system. Before that law sunsets in June, politicians will decide whether to renew it as is, modify it, or abolish it and create a new form of school governance.

Through the Campaign for Better Schools, Brooklyn community organizations want to ensure that politicians consider the concerns of parents, students and educators.

Mayoral control under the Bloomberg administration has left parents isolated and ignored by city Department of Education (DOE) officials, parents assert. Parents have long complained about the DOE’s penchant for making major decisions, such as closing large high schools, without seeking prior input from parents or Community Education Councils (CEC).

If mayoral control is renewed, parents say it should be modified to ensure that the mayor and DOE officials consider the opinions of the public.

“There need to be mechanisms in place that allow for parents to have meaningful input without having to bang down doors,” said Victoria Bousquet, a CEJ parent leader and mother of two children at Megar Evers Preparatory School in Crown Heights.

James Dandridge, president of District 18’s CEC in Canarsie and East Flatbush, has suggested that the city create an advisory board of parents from School Leadership Teams (SLT) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) to oversee the DOE.

“The mayor’s despotic rule of the schools must end,” said State Senator Kevin Parker. “The mayor has done nothing with his power but hold people out of the process instead of bringing them together. I personally will not be voting on anything that does not drastically change the way things are done in our school system.”

“No matter who you are, no one person should ever alone be responsible for all education decisions for 1.1 million schoolchil­dren,” Bousquet said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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