|credit: Epoch Times|
Last night there was a lively education debate sponsored by the CSA, the principals union, with all the Democratic mayoral candidates and Tom Allon, who is running as a Republican. I was busily tweeting throughout.
Except for a rather tiresome exchange as to who had the best public school alma mater, it was an interesting discussion, well moderated by Liz Willen of Hechinger and Pedro Noguera of NYU. ( In case you’re interested, Liu went to Bronx Science; Allon attended Stuyvesant; Bill Thompson graduated from Midwood HS; and Bill De Blasio’s son attends Brooklyn Tech. Chris Quinn said she wasn’t “smart enough” to go to Bronx Sci or Stuy but actually she grew up on Long Island.)
Each of the candidates had his or her high points:
· Bill de Blasio got the biggest applause of the evening; when he said that come January, Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy Charters will no longer “have the run of the place”; i.e. be running the school system in the city;
· Chris Quinn pointed out that there's no evidence that merit pay for teachers works;
· Tom Allon said we need an expanded capital plan and innovative ways to finance school construction to reduce overcrowding;
· John Liu pointed there was no evidence that the schools had improved under Bloomberg by our test scores on the national exams called the NAEPs;
· Bill Thompson said that the past ten years of damaging policies were the result of non-educators running the system, and that we need to focus on improving schools rather than closing them, as happned in the Chancellor’s district when he headed the Board of Education.
They all liked community schools and wrap-around services, as promoted by the UFT (though I'd like them to confront the reality that there is little or no room in most of our schools, which are already hugely overcrowded); they all said there was too much testing; they all promised to consult parents and teachers more; and most of them supported a moratorium on school closures and co-locations, all that is, except for Quinn and Allon, who said the implementation of these policies could be improved.
There was a general consensus that the obsession with small schools by this administration was misguided,; and most agreed that the networks aren’t working and we need our geographically based districts back. The only one who differed on that point was Quinn, who maintained that some principals liked their networks, and they should be able to keep them if they wanted to; though there didn’t seem to be many principals in the audience who agreed about this. It turned out (as I suspected) that she was talking about the New Visions network, which has been fierce in protecting its revenue and turf. Tom Allon and De Blasio also got into an argument about whether De Blasio’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for Universal preK would cause rich people to move out of the city (there’s no evidence for that, by the way.)
At one point, Liz Willen asked the question of a student at Wagner MS named Sophia: what would they do about the chronic problem of excessive class sizes? De Blasio said we would have to wait for the CFE money to come in. Liu said the city had enough money to solve this, if we made it a priority. The others didn’t think there was much hope and seemed stuck in the status quo; extremely disappointing considering smaller classes are the number one priority of parents and a constitutional requirement, according to the State’s highest court.