Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Message to Senators: just say no!

This letter went out this afternoon to the members of the NY State Senate.

Dear Senators:

On behalf of the Parent Commission, we urge you to vote no on the three chapter amendments on school governance; and no on the Padavan/Silver bill.

The original Huntley and Sampson bills recognized the need for checks and balances and a real partnership between parents and the mayor in school governance. The new Huntley and Dilan/Perkins amendments would require a vote by all parents in electing members of Community Education Councils, which is a step forward.

But the amendments contain none of our other recommendations to strengthen the parent voice: no independent parent organization, no commission of stakeholders, no greater authority for CECs or School Leadership Teams. They do not make the Chancellor and the DOE subject to city law, nor do they provide any significant checks and balances by creating a more independent Board of Education.

At the same time, all three amendments take two steps backwards by limiting elected CEC members to only two, two-year terms.

It’s hard enough to find parents willing to run for this office as it is. In our estimation, this provision would make it considerably more difficult, and would lead to excessive attrition and fewer experienced parents in these seats . The collective memory and the historical perspectives embodied in long-time parent leaders are critically important for CECs to function effectively. Stripping these parent leaders of the right to serve by introducing such restrictive term limits is detrimental to parental engagement in the education of their children. If the concern is to allow parent voices to be heard, then the solution is to strengthen the legal authority of the CECs -- which neither the amendments nor the Silver/Padavan bill would achieve.

Meanwhile, the Mayor is running for his third consecutive four-year term, and the Legislature has no term limits at all. It is hard to see any rationale for this provision, except to further weaken parent input and put parents even more at the mercy of the Mayor's unilateral decision-making .

We urge you to vote no on the three amendments and on the Silver/Padavan bill, to demonstrate your recognition that unlimited mayoral control is not the will of most of your constituents nor most public school parents.

In two recent polls, the Quinnipiac and the Marist, voters overwhelmingly said that the mayor should share power with an indendent board, and/or the City Council. Despite the hard work of many parents and some legislators, none of the proposed chapter amendments corrects the most fundamental flaws of the 2002 governance law, effectively continuing the status quo.

One man rule is not only contrary to our entire democratic system of checks and balances, but has led to unwise and destructive policies in our schools, including hundreds of millions of dollars wasted in no-bid contracts, more overcrowding, larger class sizes, a loss of art and music, and our schools becoming test-prep factories.

The current system of Mayoral control has been promoted by those who have no children in the public schools, and no personal stake in the future of our public school system. They do not have the interests of our children at heart.

Thank you for your continued efforts on our behalf, and for a system of school governance that would exemplify partnership rather than dictatorship -- and that would ensure a brighter future for our children and the system as a whole.

Vern Ballard, Ellen Bilofsky, Patricia Connelly, Susan Crawford, Lisa Donlan, John Englert, Rosa Flores, Leonie Haimson, Josh Karan, Benita Lovett-Rivera, Monica Major, Warren Miner, Carla Philip, Charmaine Philip, Ellen Raider, Tamara Rowe and Shino Tanikawa on behalf of the Parent Commission



Organizations which endorsed the recommendations of the Parent Commission:

Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence; Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats; Class Size Matters; Community Board 1 Manhattan; Community Board 3 Manhattan; Community Board 9 Manhattan; Community Board 12 the Bronx; Community Board 12 Manhattan; Community Education Council District 1; Community Education Council District 2; Community Education Council District 6 ; Community Education Council District 11; Community Education Council District 17; Community Education Council District 20; Community Education Council District 22; District 1 Presidents Council; District 2 Presidents Council; Ethical Action Committee of Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture; Human Rights Project of Urban Justice Center; Independent Commission on Public Education; New York Coalition for Neighborhood School Control ; Right to Read Project; Second Presbyterian Church (6 W. 96th St.); Stuyvesant High School Parent Association;
Time Out From Testing; 3 R's Coalition

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