Parents Demand Voice in Education System

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Charge Rising Test Scores Don’t Mean Rising Education

Demonstrators filled the street in front of the Tweed Building where the Department of Education and Mayor Bloomberg were the target of demands from parents to be a part of the education of their children and accusations that increasing test results do not necessarily mean an increase in knowledge.  Juan Torres of People Power told the crowd, “We are here today because Bloomberg, coming from Wall Street and the financial district, is bringing the same business mentality which has wrecked our country.  Bloomberg has taken the lying numbers from Wall Street and brought them to education.  We want democracy in our schools.  We want parents, teachers and students in control of the system.”
Issues raised included the so-called “Rubber Rooms”, desolate, detention-like facilities where teachers report daily at full pay while they await disposition of administrative charges, a process that may take years, and the proliferation of “No-Bid Contracts” that exist outside of a review process. (See Audit this page.)
Rally moderator Jitu Weusi,  a retired public school administrator and member of the New York Coalition for Neighborhood School Control, described the event as “An opening rally by a group that is fed up with mayoral dictatorship” in the schools.   “Students should have a voice in our schools”, agreed Youth Leader Sharesse Paradise.  “The fight for our education continues.  Our privilege to learn every day should not be stripped from us. We should not be robbed of the opportunity to be better than what we are.  Everybody here should fight for our education.  We are all responsible for what happens next.”
Longtime community activist Viola Plummer of the December 12th Coalition made plain the reason they were there. “This is a serious struggle and what is at stake are the lives of our children.”, she said.  “It is not a joke or passing idea that Bloomberg has.  It is a plan to take away the very essence of our being and that is the development of those young men and women who must replace us.  We must be as serious as those Wall Street bankers because it is a war.  If you don’t feel it in your gut, you don’t understand.”
Mr. Weusi introduced Bronx resident Diane Lowman, who has grandchildren in the system and is a member of Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence. “Bloomberg is manipulating the test scores and Joel Klein is unqualified to run the New York City school system” she charged and noting that Klein is an attorney with “no educational experience,” she added, “These are our children and we must be at the table when decisions are being made about our children.”
Another concern Mrs. Lowman spoke about was the racial makeup of school administrations.  “Our Latino teachers and administrators are being forced out of the building.  One of the things we fought for was people in the classrooms that looked like our children and loved our children. That doesn’t exist in most of our schools.   In one school after the other, the mayor has seen fit that our teachers leave.  We are committed to our communities to organize, because we will not survive if we don’t.”
Teacher Sam Coleman said that just because test scores were going up, it did not mean that kids were smarter.  “Test scores have gone up but that does not mean education.  It means LESS teaching is going on in the classrooms.  It means our children are spending hours practicing to take the tests so Bloomberg’s numbers can go up.  Test scores were 10 % better, but that doesn’t mean our children are 10% better at math.  It means that we’ve spent hours and hours teaching for the test.  And the tests have gotten easier this year.  The parents and the teachers have to get together to fight this.”
Assemblywoman Inez Barron said that New York City is the only city in the nation that does have parent representation on school issues.  Noting that she has spent 18 years in the classroom and 18 years in school administration, Assemblywoman Barron agreed that “Joel Klein is not qualified to be chancellor.”  And that in an effort to justify all of the efforts they put on testing and testing as evaluation, Assemblywoman Barron said Joel Klein  goes so far as to say “Creative thinking can’t happen if children can’t read.”  And this is who is in charge of the school system says the Assemblywoman.
Barron went on to say that there is a depth of talent that is “unappreciated and disrespected.”  “We are women and men who have been in the system who have been inspected and who have demonstrated an understanding of our children.” But their voices are “nowhere to be found in the Department of Education.”
Susan Crawford, a member of the NYC Parent Commission and founder of the Right to Lead Project said “the Educational Partnership Bill needs to pass.  Parents need to stop the privatization of the schools.  Every village and town has parents as part of the education system.  Why don’t we?”
According to Mr. Weusi, the group promised prolonged activities until “the Bloomberg dictatorship of public education is destroyed.”  He also said that the group demands the immediate firing of Chancellor Klein and that his replacement be “a qualified educator.”