Contacts: Shomwa Shamapande, 917-447-5752
Deycy Avitia, 310-500-7634
Legislators, parents, youth and community groups
speak out for greater Parental involvement in public schools
NEW YORK - More than 150 parents, several legislators, and youth rallied at the steps of city hall today to speaking out regarding the need for greater parental involvement and transparency for New York City’s system of mayoral control of public schools. The Campaign for Better Schools, a coalition of over two dozen major parent, youth and community organizations, called on the state legislature to renew mayoral control of the city’s schools with some key changes aimed at improving transparency, increasing public participation and creating meaningful checks and balances.
“When it comes to parent engagement, everyone agrees that our present system is broken,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director for the New York Immigration Coalition. “It’s time for comprehensive and innovative approaches to bringing parents and youth as partners in our schools. We urge the legislature to create an independent center for parent and student training as the first step toward opening the schoolhouse doors.”
The Campaign for Better Schools is proposing robust reforms on parent participation, including creating an independent outreach and training initiative for parents to be housed at the Public Advocate’s office; restoring the District Superintendent’s powers to oversee schools and help address parental concerns locally; and strengthening the role of local Community Education Councils in decisions affecting school closings, re-structuring and insertions of schools inside existing schools.
“We need meaningful checks and balances, real transparency regarding student achievement and greater participation by parents and students on decisions that affect educational policy,” remarked Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). “I have spoken to parents in my community and it is clear that we need changes to the system of mayoral control.”
“Parents shouldn’t have to protest or file lawsuits to have their voice heard on issues of school closings in their communities,” said Zakiyah Ansari, a resident of Brooklyn and a parent leader representing the Campaign for Better Schools. “Reorganizations and changes in the school system have left parents and students lost and confused about the system, where to go to obtain critical information, and the channels for resolving problems and voicing concerns. The ball is in the legislature's court and if they chose to ignore parents' voices and make no real reforms to our system of mayoral control then we will hold them accountable."
“The present system is not getting the job done. Locking parents and community groups out of key decisions has not helped to improve student achievement,” commented Pat Boone, a grandparent of public school children, President of NY ACORN and a member of the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice. “In 2007, the overall Regents graduation rate was an unacceptable 37 percent. And worse, only 28 percent of African American and 26 percent of Latino students achieved a Regents diploma in four years, compared with more than twice that percentage – 57 percent – of White students. Excluding parents from a meaningful role in their children’s education has not done anything to reduce the shameful achievement gap in NYC public schools.”
”Only 26 percent of English Language Learners graduate within four years and more than half drop out over the course of seven years. I saw this at my high school. Students who were learning English felt like they basically just have to figure stuff out for themselves,” commented Iris Martinez, a recent graduate of a New York City high school in Brooklyn and member of the Urban Youth Collaborative. “If students and their communities had a real role in decisions about schools, we could share our direct experiences, and help change things.”
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Campaign for Better Schools is a coalition of over two dozen major parent and community organizations: ACORN, Advocates for Children, Alliance for Quality Education, Center for Arts Education, Child Care, Inc., Chinese Progressive Association, Coalition for After-School Funding, Coalition for Asian American Children & Families, Cypress Hills Advocates for Educations, Education Voters of New York, El Centro de La Hospitalidad, Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project, Haitian Americans United for Progress, Highbridge Community Life Center, La Union (Fifth Avenue), Make the Road New York, Metropolitan Russia-American Parents Association, Mirabal Sisters and Community Center, Mothers on the Move (MOM), NAACP New York State Conference , New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, New York Civic Participation Project, New York Immigration Coalition, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, Queens Congregations United for Action, Urban Youth Collaborative